NO half-hearted police measures or words of consolation from the highest offices in the land will suffice in the aftermath of the brutal treatment meted out to journalist Umar Cheema of The News . This paper's stand is clear: the government and its intelligence agencies will be considered guilty until they can prove their innocence. Yes, Mr Cheema wrote pieces that were highly critical of the government, and in particular the presidency. Was it for that reason that he was kidnapped, stripped naked and filmed, hung upside down, had his hair and moustache shaved and beaten relentlessly for hours on end? The Intelligence Bureau answers to the government and it is not outside the realm of possibility that it may have been deployed to humiliate, torture and silence a vociferous critic. That said, the involvement of the police, the FIA or the intelligence wings of the security apparatus cannot be ruled out.
But Mr Cheema was brave. Despite all he had suffered, he chose to go public with his grievances. His torture was a message to not just an individual but the entire journalistic community in Pakistan that a certain type of criticism will no longer be tolerated. The government must probe this incident with honesty of purpose, which is a bit of an ask, and come clean with its findings. Journalists have been killed in Pakistan before. This time though a media person was abducted, subjected to physical pain and then released to send a message to writers at large. In the past the results of such investigations have never been made public and that same mistake must not be repeated this time round. We hope that the journalistic fraternity will shun all personal grievances and stand united in this fight for freedom of expression.