Syed Mohammed Askari, a senior reporter for Daily Jang, has gone missing in Karachi after he was picked up — allegedly by police and men in plain clothes — in the early hours of Sunday, his wife said.
A complaint submitted by Shazia Askari — the journalist’s wife — stated that her husband was returning from an event late at night when he was “abducted” from near the Qayyumabad Interchange.
Providing further details, she said the men were clad in police and civil clothes. “They took Askari without providing any reason,” the application, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com added.
Shazi further requested the police for her husband’s immediate release.
A first information report of the incident is yet to be registered.
Earlier, Daily Jang News Editor Ali Kamran told Dawn.com that Askari was returning home along with another person after attending a marriage ceremony in the Mehmoodabad area, when his car was intercepted by a police van and another white vehicle near Baloch Colony at around 12:15am.
Kamran said that the teenager accompanying Askari was not taken away but his mobile phone was. The teenager then narrated the entire incident to Kamran, who then contacted top police officials, the editor recalled.
Kamran added that Askari had introduced himself to the unidentified men but the “policemen allegedly misbehaved with him, pushed him to the ground and then forcibly took him away”.
Stating that the police visited the spot, Kamran said he was with the reporter’s family at their home, who were unaware why Askari had been taken away by the police.
Meanwhile, Korangi Industrial Area Station House Officer (SHO) Humayun Ahmed Khan told Dawn.com that he visited the site of the incident at around 1:30am after he received a call from the Daily Jang editor.
He further said that the case falls within the jurisdiction of the Baloch Colony police station and not his as the incident took place there.
Another senior police official, who wished to remain anonymous, said he would not give an “official comment right now but just trying to track him.”
Questioned about the matter during a press conference in Karachi, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said he had discussed the incident with the additional inspector general of police and Jang’s administration.
“[We] are searching and as soon as a clue is found, it will be informed where [the journalist] is and who picked him up.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also condemned the “abduction” and demanded his immediate release.
“That journalists continue to be abducted in this manner, without charge, calls into question not only the state’s commitment to democracy but also its capacity to brook criticism and opposition,” it said.
Separately, the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) issued a press release condemning Askari’s “abduction by uniformed men”.
The statement, issued by KUJ General Secretary Aajiz Jamali, stated that it was “extremely concerning that armed men publicly kidnap journalists [while] the administration and the government remain silent spectators”.
Quoting the statements of KUJ President Ejaz Ahmed, Vice-President Nasir Sharif, Jamali, Joint Secretary Talha Hashmi and all members of the executive council, the press release said they have demanded the Sindh government to recover Askari without any delay and the incident be investigated.
“Action should be taken against the officials of government forces involved as there are reports that Syed Mohammed Askari has been picked up by men in uniform,” the press release said.
It also reiterated its demand to Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Inspector General Ghulam Nabi Memon to recover Askari.
Meanwhile, senior journalist Mazhar Abbas also voiced his concern on the “yet another journalist […] kidnapped”.
“No wonder why Pakistan [is] among the five most dangerous countries for reporting in the world,” he remarked.
Geo News Managing Director Azhar Abbas also strongly condemned the “abduction of senior reporter Mohd Askari by police and security agencies”.
Arab News Journalist Naimat Khan quoted the president of the Education Reporters Association as saying that Askari had been “kidnapped by uniformed and plain-clothed men from Qayyumabad”.
He urged Memon to direct the police to “ensure the earliest possible recovery of Askari”.