Pakistani journalist critical of army abducted in Islamabad

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Men in plainclothes and uniforms of Pakistan’s anti-terrorism police on Tuesday abducted a senior journalist who has been a vocal critic of the powerful military, according to his family and the information minister.

“My husband was abducted this morning outside the school (in the capital Islamabad) where I work,” Kaneez Sughra, the wife of 51-year-old Matiullah Jan, told Reuters.

She said school security camera footage showed Jan, who had arrived to collect his wife from work, had been bundled into a car after being cornered by five vehicles - three of them unmarked, one with police markings and the other an ambulance.

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Sughra added that he had told her about threats from intelligence agencies after he survived two attacks by unidentified assailants in the past.

The military’s public relations wing did not respond to a request for comment on Jan’s reported abduction. Police declined official comment. A senior police officer who declined to be identified said, “We are following this through as per law.”

“It is clear that he has been abducted. It’s the government’s duty to trace him,” Information Minister Shibli Faraz told reporters in Islamabad.

“We are extremely concerned for the fate and wellbeing of Matiullah Jan,” London-based Amnesty International tweeted.

A file photo of Pakistani journalists hold placards during a protest against the attack on a journalist in Islamabad. (AFP)
A file photo of Pakistani journalists hold placards during a protest against the attack on a journalist in Islamabad. (AFP)

Jan, a former television anchor, told Reuters in an interview last year he was forced out of his job after criticizing army generals’ interference in politics. The army denies the accusations.

Jan is among thousands of journalists and media workers who were laid off during a security crackdown in the run-up to the 2018 general election. Opposition parties accused the army of tipping the scale in favor of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party in the election, a charge the military denies.

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Some journalists and bloggers critical of the government who were rounded up in 2018 blamed the army’s intelligence arm, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), for their detention.

Jan was facing a contempt of court case for a critical Twitter post about Supreme Court judges, and he was due to appear in court on Wednesday.

“My husband had told me that he could be arrested in the case, but we never expected a kidnapping,” Sughra said.

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