Pakistan journalist and critic of military narrowly escapes abduction

A Pakistani journalist who ranks among the foremost critics of the country’s powerful military establishment on Wednesday made a dramatic escape after several armed men attempted to kidnap him on a busy motorway. 

Taha Siddiqui, who reports for World Is One News and for France 24, for which he won France’s equivalent of the Pulitzer in 2014, the Albert Londres Prix award, told a press conference in Islamabad that he suspected security services of ordering his abduction – an allegation few dare make inside Pakistan.  

Wearing a blood-flecked shirt and muddy trousers, Mr Siddiqui said that although he had “no proof” of the involvement of the intelligence agencies, he believed that the incident mirrored others. In recent months, dozens of lesser-known critics of the military have been abducted without trace, with Pakistan’s army facing accusations that it is seeking to crush dissent within the civilian government and civil society. 

“When they were trying to take me away,” Mr Siddiqui said, “I wanted them to shoot me, because I don’t want to be a missing person. I would rather be shot dead … for people to see what they do.” 

At around 8am on Wednesday morning, Mr Siddiqui was travelling to Islamabad airport when a car pulled out in front of his taxi and slammed on the brakes. After a small crash, around “10 or 12” men wearing plain-clothes and carrying AK-47s surrounded his vehicle, he said. 

Siddiqui was left with a torn and bloodied shirtCredit:
Source: AFP

Dragged onto the road, he began to scream for help – only stopping when one of the assailants threatened to shoot him in the leg. Forced back into the taxi, Mr Siddiqui then made a break for it, scrambling across the backseat to an unlocked passenger door, and fleeing into oncoming traffic. 

Mr Siddiqui told journalists at the National Press Club that he expects little to result from the police report he subsequently filed. Apparently, he said, the cameras on the crucial part of the motorway were not functioning at the time of the incident, nor the plates of the car correctly registered. When he asked a police official to keep him abreast of developments in the case, “he just laughed".

In May 2017, Mr Siddiqui was summoned by the counter-terrorism wing of the civilian government, and accused of maligning the military. Despite the newly evident risks to his life, Mr Siddiqui said on Wednesday he will not go into hiding. “I am here,” he said, his left eye puffed from a blow. “I am staying put.”

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The military have long denied having anything to do with enforced disappearances. Pakistan’s interior minister Ahsan Iqbal said he had taken notice of the claims.

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