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Press Under Fire!

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    Press Under Fire!

    Hussain Haqqani says he is being harassed by government
    WASHINGTON: Former ambassador to Sri Lanka and column writer Hussain Haqqani said here Tuesday that he had resigned as Chairman of a leading Pakistan consulting and public relations company after its management was harassed by officials in retaliation for his criticism of the government in his recent writings.

    Haqqani, who is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said he had sent his letter of resignation to the Securities and Exchange Commission. “I do not want my writings to affect the professional work of the employees of a small consulting company and I will not change my opinions to ensure that the company remains in business,” he said.

    During the last few days, the company’s Islamabad office was sealed by municipal authorities for “being located in a residential area.” Income-tax records of the company and its chairman were ordered to be reviewed though, Haqqani said, they had been filed and accepted by the tax authorities in the past. Two public sector clients of the company terminated their contracts without having hinted before that they were in any way dissatisfied with its performance. The actions were accompanied by numerous messages from officials indicating that the government was unhappy with Haqqani’s writings in Pakistani and international newspapers.

    “I know the workings of Pakistan’s bureaucracy too well to think that all these events are a coincidence,” said Haqqani, who served in the administrations of former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif and as Pakistan’s ambassador to Sri Lanka. “Senior information bureaucrats told me that I was crossing permissible limits in criticism of government policies and one of them went to the extent of saying that the government was reacting to my ‘anti-Pakistan’ writings,” Haqqani said.

    “I have written nothing against Pakistan ever and I am as patriotic as anyone in government service who is ordering the harassment. We just have different ideas of what is best for the country,” he said, adding that the Pakistani bureaucracy had a tradition of using “other means” to pressure a relatively free press.

    He recalled his kidnapping and arrest in 1999 by the then government of Nawaz Sharif, which imprisoned him for three months on the pretext of investigating misuse of authority while Haqqani was in office. The charges were thrown out by the court. Pakistani newspapers have had their tax returns re-examined and journalists have been victimised on other grounds while the government insists that it maintains a free press, pointed out Haqqani.

    “I am lucky that the editor of my newspaper allows me to write freely in my column but someone in authority felt that I would be vulnerable to pressures on my consulting and PR business. I have resigned from the company to save it from pressure as well as to free myself from any tie that can be used to silence me,” Haqqani declared.

    He said those in government who disagreed with his views should try to make their counter-arguments in the best manner possible instead of using pressure tactics that have stood discredited under regime after regime. —Khalid Hasan

    How can a man die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the Temple of his Gods?

    Oh yeah. I hear this . I hear that

    Aren't these reporters free to criticize Govt.?

    Was it easy to do that from 88-99?

    [This message has been edited by Pakistani Tiger (edited August 01, 2002).]


      Army thugs beat journalists doing their job. After failure of Taliban, this is ISI's new job. istan_press_intimidation_1
      Pakistani journalists complain of harassment, intimidation by military regime
      Wed Jul 31, 5:22 AM ET
      By ZARAR KHAN, Associated Press Writer

      KARACHI, Pakistan - Newspaper editor Muzaffar Ejaz once was known by colleagues for his strong nerves and opinions. But after he disappeared for a few hours last week, he came back shaken and close-mouthed.

      Ejaz won't talk publicly about what happened to him in those nighttime hours. But associates at his newspaper, Jasarat (Courage), say he was abducted, handcuffed, covered with a hood and hauled to an unknown location by men angry over a story his paper had published about Pakistan's top intelligence agency.

      His ordeal was the latest incident of harassment — in some cases, beatings — in what journalists and advocacy groups call a campaign of intimidation by Pakistan's often-shadowy power structures.

      While the murder-kidnapping of American reporter Daniel Pearl this year drew world attention to the dangers for foreign media in Pakistan, the perils for the country's own journalists have attracted less notice — partly because the journalists themselves are wary of bringing more trouble upon themselves.

      "We are taking up the matter at the highest level but not publicizing it," said Mahmoodul Aziz, secretary-general of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors.

      The president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 bloodless coup, has pledged full press freedom. But Abdul Hameed Chhapra, chairman of the All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Confederation, says the government is allowing law-enforcement and secret service agencies to act with impunity.

      "They have become so bold now that they have started intimidating the national press," he said.

      The head of Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, a journalists' rights group, has also complained to the government.

      "The secret services have no business at all interfering in the relationship between the state and the media," Robert Menard wrote in a letter to Pakistan's information minister.

      The government appears to give a cold shoulder to the complaints. "We will look into it," was Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider's curt answer when asked about the issue last week.

      Among the journalists who advocates say have been harassed is Shakil Shaikh of the English-language daily newspaper The News. In March, five men abducted and beat him after his article criticizing the performance of an army general.

      Even the wrong question can bring harsh retaliation, critics say.

      Faraz Hashmi, a reporter for the daily Dawn, was badly beaten on an Islamabad street after a news conference with Musharraf, in which Hashmi asked whether the country as a whole, or just its generals, would benefit from aid coming in after Musharraf's decision to side with the United States in the anti-terrorism campaign. (Mush himself ordered this beating.)

      Another journalist, Masood Malik, was removed from his reporter position at the Urdu-language Nawa-i-Waqt newspaper in July 2001 within hours of asking Musharraf at a news conference whether a summit with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would have been more successful if Pakistan had been represented by a politician rather than a military leader.

      The newspaper said the question was not in line with its policy, but Malik and critics say the government put pressure on the newspaper to fire him.

      Jasarat on July 16 reported that Lt. Gen. Ehtesham Zamir Jaffery, deputy director of InterService Intelligence, the country's top secret-service agency, had been given the task of trying to unify various Muslim League factions ahead of this fall's parliamentary elections and that he had failed to do so.

      That day, according to Reporters Without Borders and Pakistani journalists, Ejaz was interrogated by an ISI officer about where he got the information. Ejaz refused to say, but offered to run an article detailing the army's version of the issue; the ISI officer refused.

      Eight days later, at about 10:30 p.m., Ejaz was seized, placed in a hood and handcuffs and taken away, others say. According to the accounts, he returned home about 4 a.m.

      Ejaz won't say what happened in those hours. It's not clear whether he was hurt during the abduction.

      In a similar case, Ghulam Hasnain, a Karachi-based journalist working for the American weekly magazine Time and the Pakistani magazine Newsline, disappeared on Jan. 22. He returned home in the early morning of Jan. 24.

      Like Ejaz, Hasnain refused to say what happened to him, but his wife said at the time that he was severely shaken. Colleagues speculated that he was kidnapped by security agencies because of an article on Daoud Ibrahim, an Indian underworld figure.

      It is clear from this article who is running Pakistan. These traitor jahil ISI are a curse on humanity. Have they not ruined enough lives with their jihadi madmen, that they now beat journalists doing their job. Army's only accomplishment since 1947 is conquering it's own people and territory. After all the Pakistani people, have done for the army by giving it most of the budget, Army time and again stabs the people in the back. May Allah's wrath come on this anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan traitor and greedy Army.

      [This message has been edited by Maula Baksh (edited August 02, 2002).]