Beyond Balakot: How the Pakistan army can make journalists who question simply vanish

Soumyadipta Banerjee
Soumyadipta BanerjeeMar 18, 2019 | 13:21

Beyond Balakot: How the Pakistan army can make journalists who question simply vanish

The Pakistani army bosses the civilian government like a patriarch in a conservative society.

It's a well-known fact that journalists in Pakistan speak overwhelmingly in support of their army. Some go out of their way to impress the army — and sound comical instead.

Let me reveal it to you that not all of them do it because they love the Pakistani army.

Some of them might be doing it because they are scared of their own army.


Sounds unbelievable? 

Sitting here in India, it is very difficult to imagine the kind of stress that Pakistani journalists go through on a daily basis if they dare criticise their own army (or the deep state, for that matter). 

The Pakistan army has its eyes on journalists who don't pander to it. (Photo: Reuters)

Over the decades, some of the worst crimes have reportedly been committed by the Pakistani army on its own journalists, just to silence them. The kinds of crimes that are committed on reputed journalists in Pakistan by the Pakistani army will horrify you. 

Consider the case of Taha Siddiqui, former Pakistan Bureau Chief of Wion News, an Indian news television channel. 

On January 10, 2018, Taha was on his way to his office in Rawalpindi when he was waylaid by a truck and a van. About 12 men, armed with AK-47 rifles, emerged from the van and asked the taxi to stop. As soon as the taxi stopped, they dragged Taha out and started hitting him. While he was thrown to the ground and chaos ensued, Taha saw an opportunity — he got up and ran towards the other side of the highway, where he hailed another cab. The moment the cab driver realised that Taha was being chased by armed men, he stopped the car after a hundred yards and asked him to leave his vehicle. 


Desperate to save his life, Taha jumped into a ditch, crawled through mud and thorny mangrove bushes to reach another highway on the other side of the large ditch. He stayed low until a compassionate man agreed to drive him to Islamabad.

Here's Taha's abduction getting reported on his channel.

The incident became a worldwide sensation and all fingers were immediately pointed at the Pakistani army.

Do you know why the Pakistani army was after Taha Siddiqui?

Well, he specialised in beats that were a nightmare for the army — forced disappearances, the state of minorities and human rights violations. His searing news reports reportedly made the Pakistani army feel uncomfortable about him.  

Taha — along with his five-year-old son and wife — have now exiled themselves in Paris, where he still lives in fear of the Pakistani deep state catching up with him. 

Taha was lucky though.

Gul Bukhari wasn't. 

Gul was a known critic of the Pakistani army and allegedly on the radar of the deep state for a long time for her critical views about the Pakistani army.

On June 6, 2018, in an identical kidnapping and criminal action plan, Gul's car was waylaid on a highway in Lahore and she was forcibly bundled into another car. She was freed several hours later. We don't even know what happened to Gul in those nightmarish hours.


Taha and Gul are in august company — every year, there are reports of prominent journalists getting kidnapped and tortured. Some of them have returned home, some are in exile and no one knows the whereabouts of some others.

The names of the journalists who have been attacked apparently by the Pakistani army are many; in 2017, Ahmad Noorani was gravely wounded, Hamid Mir survived an attempt on his life in 2014, in the same year, Raza Rumi narrowly escaped bullets from automatic rifles which pierced his driver's heart. In 2011, investigative journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad was found dead under mysterious circumstances.

These are just the big cases which made headlines in Pakistan.

There are hundreds of other cases each year where relatively unknown local journalists are hurt, kidnapped, threatened and attacked because they dare to criticise the army. Apart from the journalists, cases of activists getting kidnapped and not returning home for as many as seven months have also been reported. There are hundreds of such cases, some have been reported and some remain unacknowledged by the police. Things have come to such a point that the people of Pakistan are no more surprised at such news of the extra-judicial outreach of the Pakistani army.  

The profiles of all the journalists and activists who had murder attempts made on them, or were kidnapped, were the same — they were all staunch critics of the Pakistani army, they were under threat for a long time — and above all, they were fearless.

The way the Pakistan army reportedly organises these attacks is eerily similar. First, the journalists will be politely told to restrain themselves — then a few threatening calls and abduction threats are made and finally, murder. 

It is apparently also the case that the Pakistan army maintains a big unit of criminals who kidnap, kill, threaten and browbeat journalists and activists. This criminal unit of the Pakistani army operates openly without any fear, without any challenge and with complete impunity. 

This continued and unabated spate of crimes is showing results. 

According to Taha, close to 90% of journalists self-censor themselves when they are writing about the Pak deep state — out of pure and unbridled fear.

Here is a documentary film by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which documented how these journalists live in fear if they dare to criticise the military. The 15-minute docu-film about the criminal acts of the Pakistani army is sure to send a chill down your spine.

Apart from committing crimes on journalists, the Pakistani army has also heavily weighed down on media houses which were not toeing their dictated line of action. They have earlier restricted the circulation of Pakistani newspaper Dawn and blacked out TV news channel Geo after they were apparently too critical of the army and its reported human rights violations. 

While talking about the professionalism of the Pakistani army, we must remember this sinister side of their armed forces, which operates with the professionalism of an entrenched crime syndicate. The only difference between a crime syndicate and the Pak army is that in Pakistan, their army is the law. 

Not only they have hijacked the popular mandate from the civilian government many times, the Pakistani army bosses the civilian government about like a patriarch in a conservative society. 

This criminal role of the Pakistani army is never discussed in the mainstream media, but ask any Pakistani journalist and they will tell you that they can foretell which journalists will be kidnapped this year. Any journalist who will persistently criticise the army will be silenced in this way.

Now that you have seen another face of the Pakistan army, what would you call them?

Are they an army which has sworn to protect the people of Pakistan?

Or, are they an agency which has unleashed a reign of terror on its own citizens?

It's important to know the real face of the Pakistani army. Before we believe the Pakistani army's claim that they are a professional force, we should see the above evidence. 

Tell me, is it really a matter of surprise to you that these same uniformed men are also harbouring terrorists in their own backyards?

Last updated: March 18, 2019 | 13:22
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