ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on Thursday that he would write to the director general (DG) Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) about acts of violence against journalists.

The PPP chief was chairing a meeting of the committee to discuss attacks on journalists and to deliberate the Protection of Journalists and Media Professional Bill.

“The content of the letter is something between the DG ISI and me,” he said.

According to an announcement from the chairman of the standing committee, journalists Hamid Mir, Absar Alam, Maneza Jahangir, Asma Shirazi and Asad Toor and others were specially invited to the meeting.

They complained that their attackers were still at large despite clear and sufficient evidence available with the police.

The committee observed that the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) was sitting on completion of its reports relating to the recent attacks on journalists even though it had all the CCTV footages, fingerprints and data.

Upon insistence from members of the committee, the PPP chief directed senior officials from the Ministry of Interior to instruct Nadra to expedite its reports to assist the capital police find individuals who attacked journalists.

Based on responses from senior officials of the police, the committee observed that the delay in bringing the culprits to justice was being caused by “sluggish” Nadra.

The television anchors and journalists informed the committee that all of them were facing treason cases in various courts.

Absar Alam said the police had CCTV footage of the attacker who shot him during an evening walk in Ramazan but were unable to trace the gunman and his handler.

Asma Shirazi alleged that violence against journalists had been taken to a new extreme to silence them.

“No media house will take me on air and no newspaper will print my articles. Twitter is the only platform left for me to write,” Absar Alam said.

Hamid Mir complained that none of the culprits who had tried to harm him had ever been found and brought to trial since the first attempt on his life in 2012 when a bomb was planted to his car.

“Now my talk-show has been taken off air without any orders in black and white from Pemra or courts,” he said.

Asad Toor, who was beaten by three men, complained that the police had CCTV footage and fingerprints of the individuals who attacked him but had failed to come to a conclusion.

His lawyer Iman Mazari said: “I am the daughter of a sitting minister, and I am being threatened to drop the case.”

In their response, DIG operations capital police Afzaal Ahmed Kausar and SSP investigations Ataur Rehman said CCTV footages and fingerprints in all the cases had been sent to Nadra.

The chairman of the committee observed: “The fact that all these incidents happened in the federal capital is condemnable. It’s a violation of basic human rights. It is shocking that a lawyer who is also the daughter of a sitting minister is being threatened.”

He formed a subcommittee that would approach journalists to deliberate and strengthen the Protection of Journalists and Media Professional Bill.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2021

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