KARACHI, July 25: The editor of Urdu daily Jasarat, who went missing on Wednesday night, has complained of threat to his life and harassment by the Inter-Service Intelligence and other agencies in their bid to gag the press.
According to a Jasarat report, Muzaffar Ejaz, the editor, left office for home at around 11pm on Wednesday, but did not reach home. He was ‘abducted’ and subsequently set free by his ‘captors’ late in the night. He reached home around 4am on Thursday.
Earlier on Wednesday, the editor had written a letter to the president of All Pakistan Newspapers Society, narrating his ordeal before being abducted. In the latter, he said that on July 16 he had received a phone call in his office from a person who identified himself as Col Amjad of the ISI. He wanted to meet the editor to discuss certain ideas and issues. The colonel was told that he was welcome to the newspaper office, but he said that since there were other members of the cell and some other newspapermen had also been invited, it would be better if Mr Ejaz visited him at his place.
According to Mr Ejaz, on July 17 at 6.30pm, Col Amjad sent a vehicle to the Jasarat office. The editor informed his colleagues and left. He was taken to a house in the Defence Housing Authority where he met a person who identified himself as Col Zaki and discussed with him matters relating to the profession and Jasarat for half an hour. After the conversation a copy of the July 16 issue of the newspaper was put before the editor which carried a news item in which it was stated that Col Ehtesham Zamir had been relieved of the responsibility of uniting the various factions of Muslim League.
According to Mr Ejaz, Col Zaki wanted to know the name of the reporter, source of the news and objectives of those who had given the news. The editor replied that it was not possible. First, his “host” asked him to get this information on telephone but then agreed that the editor could let them know about that from his office.
Mr Ejaz’s offer of publishing a contradiction was not acceptable to Col Zaki. When the editor refused to oblige, Col Zaki said he knew of “many other ways to find out”. Mr Ejaz replied “you may surely have the means but we don’t even tell the source to the court. We are prepared to publish the contradiction with the same display”. Col Zaki advised Mr Ejaz to return to his office and let him know after consulting his colleagues.
As soon as the editor reached his office, he received a phone call from someone who wanted to know if he had reached the office “safely”.
When Mr Ejaz asked for his identity, the caller said he was Ahmad. When the editor inquired whether he was Col Ahmad Zaki, he was told that it was Mr Ahmed who had asked him to let him know the name of the reporter. Mr Ejaz told him that he had consulted his chief editor who had advised not to yield to the demand. The caller got angry and insisted that he should be given the name of the reporter by the next day.
Later at night, Naveed Iqbal of the Press Information Department rang up to say that he wanted to send a contradiction. The matter was received through fax and was accordingly published.
On July 19, Col Zaki (Mr Ahmad) again called, insisting on knowing the name of the reporter. He was told that it was impossible and a complaint was lodged why the editor was given a false pretext for the meeting.
On July 21, Mr Ejaz went to a relative’s house in DHA. On return, he felt that motorbike riders were on his tail. He rang up his friends to inform them of the situation. Among them were Ashfaq Gondal of SADA news and Zarrar Khan of the AP. They reached the spot and recognized one of the followers as he was everyday seen outside the Karachi Press Club gate.
On July 24 at 11am, Col Amjad rang up Mr Ejaz, insisting that he should see him in his office because he wanted to clarify that those who were following him were not his men but someone else was involved.
According to Mr Ejaz, Col Amjad told him that he wanted to clarify his position because in this city kidnappings and murders were common and if “anything” happened his men could be blamed.
Mr Ejaz has requested the APNS that the matter be taken up at the highest level.