Pakistan

Appeal to the international community to provide shelter to two journalists who are facing death threats from militant religious groups

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The Asian Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned about the safety of two investigative journalists who are facing death threats from militant religious groups for making an exclusive video clip. The content of the video revealed the illegal captivity of 50 persons who were held in chains and trained in terrorist activities. We therefore wish to bring this matter to your urgent attention as per case of 13th December, 2011 in which the two journalists Mr. Ghulamuddin, Senior producer and Mohammad Aatif Khan, associate producer working for SAMAA TV News, Karachi, the capital of Sindh aired their video. The video further disclosed that the persons were being held against their will at an unregistered Islamic seminary known as Daru-ul-Uloom Zakaria Kndholi which is located at the outskirts of Karachi. This seminary (Madressa) is run by a cleric, Mufti Dawood.

After the video was broadcast it was picked up and re-aired at every television channel. When that happened different fundamentalists groups sent their workers to attack the SAMAA TV channel and demanded that they hand over the two producers for making the video which led to the police raiding the seminary and exposing their illegal activities. This included training and harbouring militants.

This illegal detention center was being operated under the guise of a rehabilitation centre for the heroin addict where people aged between 4 to 50 years were detained. They were tortured and punished for not obeying orders as they were unwilling to become suicide bombers or terrorists. It was learned that some were given armed training and sent to Afghanistan for the holy war against the US forces.

Each and every scene captured by the journalists through their cameras depicted a sheer violation of human rights. With this breaking news the concerned authorities and the media was jolted and this finally resulted in the subsequent crackdown by the police to rescue the victims.

By highlighting this issue there is no doubt that these two journalists were successful in saving the lives of these 50 persons. The question is now: who will take responsibility to provide security and protection to the Journalists and their families. Their lives are in danger and they are receiving constant death threats from powerful religious groups who are demanding that they be surrendered. Even the TV channel where they used to work is unsafe as the attitude of the management towards the safety of these two men is now indifferent. Calls by the two men to the administration and provincial police for their security have been ignored and no action has been taken by the police and the government to assist them.

Large numbers of unknown callers threatened the newsroom staff to drop the story. However, the management of the organization paid no heed. Members of the extremist groups succeeded in obtaining the profiles, residential addresses, contact numbers and office times of the two journalists. In the first attempt, a suspected group intercepted Ghulamuddin's Brother-in-Law outside Ghulamuddin's residence and demanded that he produce Ghulamuddin before them. Whenever he and his family tried to visit the house they were attacked. Ghulamuddin's parents are also receiving threats by mysterious persons roaming around their community.

The network of extremist groups is very strong and it is no exaggeration to say that they are more powerful than the security agencies, including the Pakistan Army whose General Head Quarter (GHQ) was attacked by these groups. It is these same militant groups who were responsible for the assassinations of the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer and the Federal Minister for Religious Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti both in 2011.

On January 5, 2012, Mr Mohammad Aatif Khan went to his Gulshan-e-Iqbal residence in Karachi after several weeks in hiding to collect his luggage. He was followed by a group of militants carrying guns, iron rods and batons. They kept beating the main gate of his residence for over an hour but fortunately he remained safe. In the meantime his father and mother are being harassed and it is quite evident to anyone familiar with the situation that members of the defunct organization are intent upon taking revenge.

The latest development in the case is that Mr.Gulamuddin, who is hiding with his wife Tasleem Bano and Hayyan Shah Alisher (six month old infant) and Mohammad Aatif khan with his wife Sajjal Atif Khan have both left their homes as the militants attacked their houses and threatened their parents, siblings and neighbours at gunpoint to disclose their whereabouts or else face the same fate planned for the producers. They are also receiving death threats through SMS and phone calls due to which they have stopped using them. They are not even allowed to go to the police station and file a report against the culprits. Their movements are being monitored all the times. Please see our Urgent Appeal; http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-001-2012

During the last twelve months more than 17 cases have been reported in which journalists were killed just because they wanted to expose what is actually happening within the State. The journalists community have paid the highest price and are still they paying it. Among these 17 journalist five were killed in bomb blast, seven were killed in targeted killings and five were abducted by the State intelligence agencies and killed in custody. One remains missing after abduction.

For further information on the killings of journalists please see: http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-184-2011/

The latest such killing is that of the prominent journalist, Mukarram Khan Aatif of the Voice of America's Pushto program and bureau chief of Dunya News, a television channel. He was killed by the Pakistani Taliban on January 17, in Shabqadar, Khyber Pakhtoonkha province. Moreover two prominent journalists have been threatened by the state intelligence agency and religious militant groups.

In conclusion, it is a pity that the State remains a silent spectator and the real perpetrators are free to move around and engaged in performing such illegal acts. It is even more disappointing that the police and the Sindh Government have made no effort to arrest the real culprits and put them behind bars. The AHRC believes that they are powerful groups backed by influential persons connected to the authorities. The journalist's community is facing a tough time whilst discharging their professional duties. In the existing situation the AHRC calls upon the international community to provide shelter and protection outside Pakistan to these two journalists and their families.

The following links provide further information:

'Where is the state?' asks Pakistani journalist under threat http://www.cpj.org/blog/2011/12/where-is-the-state-asks-pakistani-journa...

Pakistan - Threatened journalists condemn growing insecurity for the media http://www.trust.org/trustmedia/news/pakistan--threatened-journalists-co...

PAKISTAN: Two journalists and members of their families face death threats from religious militant groups http://mukto-mona.com/wordpress/?p=1199

http://www.pakistanpressfoundation.org/press/47669

Threatened journalists condemn growing insecurity for the media http://en.rsf.org/pakistan-pakistani-journalists-condemn-02-01-2012,4161...

Please also find the links about the actions on the video made by the two journalists who are in serious kind of threats;

Action on SAMAA’s news: Police rescue 45 chained kids http://www.samaa.tv/newsdetail.aspx?ID=40089 Chained in Madrasah: Police get remand of Qari Usman http://www.samaa.tv/newsdetail.aspx?ID=40154 Broken shackles: Malik, Qaim move IG for probe report http://www.samaa.tv/newsdetail.aspx?ID=40093 Torturing seminary was not registered: Ebad
http://www.samaa.tv/newsdetail.aspx?ID=40249ad Karachi police rescue students chained in seminary http://unitednews.com.pk/en/top-stories/19311-karachi-police-rescue-stud... 45 students chained up in seminary, recovered http://tribune.com.pk/story/305802/at-least-40-shackled-people-rescued-f... Pakistan: Karachi police free chained students http://dominicavibes.dm/news/pakistan-karachi-police-free-chained-studen... Pakistan: Karachi police free chained students http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16157177 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16169617 Torture chamber found under Karachi madrassa http://my.telegraph.co.uk/thereturnofgl/grumpylarry/5670/torture-chamber... Chained and in tears: Children found in basement as police raid Islamic school thought to be a 'Taliban training centre' http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2073562/Torture-school-Children-... Pakistan police rescue 45 students chained in Madrassa http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-12-13/pakistan/30511107... Over 50 ‘chained’ boys rescued from Pak seminary http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/article2712273.ece Chained and beaten, Pakistani children rescued in raid on school http://www.smh.com.au/world/chained-and-beaten-pakistani-children-rescue... Chained boys freed in Karachi raid http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=17&art_id=117969&si... Police raid in Pakistan finds chained students at religious school http://edition.cnn.com/2011/12/13/world/asia/pakistan-students-chained/i... 45 chained students rescued from Karachi madrassa http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/12/over-40-\%E2\%80\%98chained-taliban\%E2\%80\%99-rescued-in-karachi/ 45 chained children rescued from Karachi Seminary http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/45-chained-children-rescued-from-karac...

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Asian Human Rights Commission
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984