–Senior journalist was taken from outside wife’s school by armed personnel
–Journalist fraternity, human rights outfits, politicians slam kidnapping, call it attack on free press
ISLAMABAD: Senior journalist Matiullah Jan, who was allegedly abducted from the federal capital’s Sector G-6 earlier in the day was released late on Tuesday near Fateh Jang, a small town in Punjab, his family confirmed.
Jan, who was said to be in a stable condition, left for his home with his brother Shahid Akbar.
Jan, speaking to a private news channel after his return, said that he was blindfolded and taken to an unknown location by his abductors. He said that he was later released in Fateh Jang after being driven around the city.
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry expressed his delight at the news. “Welcome back,” he wrote on his official Twitter handle.
Earlier, Jan’s wife Kaneez Fatima had said that the journalist’s car was found parked outside a school in Sector G-6 of the capital with one of his mobile phones inside the vehicle. CCTV footages purportedly showing Jan’s alleged abduction surfaced on social media, which showed several armed men exiting at least three vehicles.
A First Information Report (FIR) of the senior journalist’s alleged abduction had been lodged at Aabpara Police Station by his brother.
Jan was due to appear in the Supreme Court (SC) this week after it took suo motu notice of an alleged contemptuous tweet by the journalist.
As the news of his disappearance drew attention of journalists and international rights bodies, a tweet was posted on Matiullah Jan’s account at 3:17pm — purportedly by his son — which read: “Matiullahjan, my father, has been abducted from the heart of the capital [Islamabad]. I demand he be found and the agencies behind it immediately be held responsible. God keep him safe.”
Federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz confirmed the journalist’s abduction during a post-cabinet meeting presser later in the evening. “This much is established that he [Jan] has been kidnapped,” said Faraz. “We will try to find out where he is and how he can be recovered. This is the responsibility of the government and it will fulfil it,” he added.
Meanwhile, officials from the Aabpara Police Station reached the site and said they were trying to acquire the CCTV footage. SHO Shaukat Mehmood said that the journalist’s wife has not yet filed an application to lodge a report on his disappearance.
Soon after, the chairperson of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights, PPP’s Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, tweeted that the Islamabad inspector general of police had been summoned to brief the committee with regards to Jan’s abduction.
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari tweeted around 5:30pm that she had been “just informed about [Jan’s] kidnapping”.
She said she had taken notice of the “very disturbing” development and spoken to the Islamabad inspector general who informed her that “they are looking into it”.
Terming Jan’s abduction as “unacceptable”, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said he too had spoken with the Islamabad police chief and instructed him to take “immediate action for retrieval and registration of FIR”.
Jan had tweeted a video of a journalist’s interview earlier in the day.
“This is for the attention of those who sit in the simulated air conditioned environment of rule of law in Pakistan and who think criticism on them is a bigger crime than the violation of the inviolable dignity of a human being,” he wrote on Twitter at 11:05 am this morning.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif termed Jan’s disappearance as “highly condemnable and [a] matter of deep concern”.
“The government’s campaign to muzzle the media & critical voices is simply shameful. If something happens to Matiullah, PM will be held responsible,” he tweeted.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a tweet said he was “extremely concerned” at the news of Jan’s abduction.
“The selected government must immediately [ensure] his safe return. This is not only an attack on media freedoms & democracy but on all of us. Today it is Matiullah, tomorrow it could be you or I,” he wrote.
Jan’s disappearance drew the attention of rights groups and other journalists, who termed the incident as yet another attempt to silence the press in the country. Shortly after the incident occurred, several hashtags about Jan’s alleged abduction started trending on Twitter.
In a statement, the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) condemned the “abduction like arrest” of the journalist.
“[Jan] has always been an upright and honest journalist, who always remained undeterred in calling a spade a spade,” said KUJ President Ashraf Khan, calling for his release from “illegal custody”.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demanded that the government “immediately ensure the safe recovery” of the journalist.
Amnesty International South Asia also called for authorities to “establish [Jan’s] whereabouts immediately”.
In a tweet, the international human rights organisation said it was “extremely concerned for the fate and well-being” of the journalist, who it said has been the subject of “physical attacks and harassment for his journalism”.
Press advocacy organisation Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was “deeply concerned” about Jan’s reported abduction. “He should be released and returned to his family at once,” it tweeted.
Freedom Network expressed “concern” at reports of Jan’s disappearance.