Pakistan, where disappearance and torture of people is not uncommon, a prominent journalist was tortured and humiliated after abduction by unidentified men from the capital, Islamabad, on Saturday, September 4. Umar Cheema, a reporter with The News International in Islamabad and the 2008 Daniel Pearl Fellow at The New York Times, was picked up by some unknown men in police uniforms.
"I was held in illegal captivity for 6 hours during which I was continuously tortured and humiliated in nude. They stripped me out of my clothes, hanged me upside down and shaved off my head and moustaches," the senior reporter of the country's leading English daily recounted. "You are filing anti-government stories. What is your agenda? You are working for a lobby which favored martial law," Cheema quoted the abductors as saying.
There are many speculations about Umar Cheema's abductors. Was it the unpopular government of President Asif Ali Zardari which is unable to help millions of people uprooted by the floods or any one of the several intelligence agencies such as Inter-Services Intelligence the most powerful spy agency controlled by the Army - or the Directorate of Intelligence Bureau (IB) a civilian spy agency?
A review of Cheema's recently published stories may provide some insight.
Cheema's last piece, on August 20, was about how some big businessmen would not
be attending a meeting called by President Zardari to raise funds for flood
relief. On July 8, he reported on the opposition parties' resolve to back the
judiciary in any stand-off with the government. On July 2, he reported that
some Turkish guides hired for Zardari's visit to Turkey
had not been paid and had gone to court against the Pakistan embassy. On June 19, he
reported about Law Minister Babar Awan chartering a Pakistan Air Force plane to
bribe bar associations in southern Punjab. On
May 16, he wrote a story claiming that General Musharraf's right-hand man Tariq
Aziz had become Zardari's close adviser. And on May 12, he reported about how Interior
Minister Rehman Malik's past was being whitewashed and the record of cases
against him was disappearing.
On the other hand, the army may not be happy with many of Cheema's stories. On August 5, a sensitive story about how the army is using up to 400 personnel of the Rawalpindi police to guard the army chief's house and the routes to it. On July 8, a story about the mishandling by intelligence agencies of high profile terror attacks such as that on Lt Gen Mushtaq Baig and ISI buses, which led to the acquittal of the accused. On July 7, a story detailing the Punjab government's condemnation of the army and its intelligence agencies for not cooperating in terror attacks investigations. On June 9, a story about how one of the commandos court-martialed for disobedience during the Lal Masjid operation was seeking Nawaz Sharif's help. On June 8, a story about how the two court-martialed commandos had not been provided the court-martial proceedings and had approached the Supreme Court for justice. On May 26, a report about the quiet arrests of an army major and his brother after the Faisal Shehzad incident in New York.