A Pakistani journalist, known for criticizing his country’s military establishment, said on Wednesday he narrowly escaped being kidnapped by armed men in an incident that occurred months after he complained of being harassed by the security services.
Taha Siddiqui, who reports for France 24 and is the head of the Pakistan office of the Indian television channel WION, said the attempted kidnapping took place while he was being driven by taxi to the airport that serves the capital, Islamabad, and the city of Rawalpindi.
“I was on my way to the airport today at 8:20 am, when 10-12 armed men stopped my taxi and tried to kidnap me by force, I managed to escape, and now with the police,” Siddiqui tweeted from a Twitter account. friend first thing in the morning.
“Seeking support in any way possible #StopEnforcedDisappearances,” he added in the same tweet.
Human rights groups have denounced the kidnappings of several social media activists over the past year as attempts to intimidate and silence critics of Pakistan’s security establishment.
Taha Siddiqui, a Pakistani journalist, was beaten and threatened, and only escaped by running through oncoming traffic. pic.twitter.com/odsasHDa85
— Asad Hashim (@AsadHashim) January 10, 2018
Last year, five Pakistani bloggers disappeared for several weeks before four of them were released. The four fled abroad and two later told the media that they were tortured by a state intelligence agency during his disappearance.
The military has strongly denied that they play a role in enforced disappearances, as civil government has done. In the past, militants also attacked journalists.
Siddiqui spoke to Reuters from a police station where he was presenting a report on the incident, and described how his taxi was stopped on the road when another vehicle swerved, and suddenly stopped in front of him.
About a dozen men armed with rifles and revolvers took him out of the cabin, beat him and “threatened to kill him.”
“They threw me in the back of the vehicle where I had been traveling, but the door on the other side was open,” Siddiqui said.
“I jumped and ran and I was able to get into a taxi that was nearby, whose driver knocked it down.”
When the taxi stopped, Siddiqui hid in a ditch for a while, he added.
Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists said that “the Federal Investigation Agency of Pakistan should stop harassing Taha Siddiqui,” referring to the civilian agency that last year began an offensive against online criticism of the powerful military.
Siddiqui filed a petition last year to prevent the agency from harassing him.
Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer working with Human Rights Watch, said Siddiqui’s attempted kidnapping was a worrisome development and added that “violence and the threat of it are not legitimate means to deal with dissenting voices” in the country.