Armed men attempted to kidnap a Pakistani journalist early Wednesday on a busy road in Islamabad, but he managed to escape.
Taha Siddiqui, who works mostly with foreign media outlets France 24 and World Is One News (WION), has previously faced harassment and threats related to his work and suspects this was another attempt to silence him.
Enforced disappearances of journalists, activists, and others have been an ongoing problem in Pakistan. Human rights activists have often accused the intelligence agencies of Pakistan, particularly those linked to the country’s powerful military establishment, of being involved in such disappearances.
According to Siddiqui, who held a press conference about the incident, the assailants were well dressed and spoke fluent English. He said he was on his way to the airport in a taxi when armed men in two cars surrounded his taxi after forcing it to stop.
Two men got into the taxi, one taking over the driver's seat. But Siddiqui said he pushed the door open and jumped out into moving traffic.
Eventually he managed to get to a police station. The police later found the taxi, but all his belongings, including his passport and his laptop were missing.
Last year, the Federal Investigation Agency of Pakistan issued a notice to Siddiqui to appear before its counterterrorism wing, allegedly to explain his criticism of the military on social media.
He filed a petition in court that ordered the agency to stop harassing him, but the final decision is pending. Siddiqui told the press conference the FIA deputy director had said in court, “You know, and I know, where the pressure is coming from.”
Several social media activists have been kidnapped in the past year and later released after a public outcry. None of the perpetrators could be identified, while most of the activists were forced to flee the country after they were accused of blasphemy on social media. In Pakistan, such a charge could cost one’s life. Later, some of them said they were tortured. Pakistan’s military denied it had anything to do with the abductions.
Last month, peace activist Raza Khan, disappeared from his home in Lahore, his family and friends are still protesting for his recovery.
In 2017, three other journalists, Rana Tanveer, Matiullah Jan, and Ahmed Noorani were attacked by unknown assailants. Three years before that, two famous journalists, Hamid Mir and Raza Rumi, narrowly escaped assassination attempts, with Mir suffering six bullet wounds. None of those cases have been resolved, despite the formation of commissions to investigate some of them.
Amnesty International has condemned the attack on Siddiqui calling for an immediate and effective investigation by the authorities.
“Pakistani journalists like Taha Siddiqui have a right to carry out their work freely and without fear. Journalism is not a crime but attacking journalists is,” the Amnesty press release read.