Attacks on the Press 2001: Pakistan

Working as a journalist in Pakistan has long been a tricky business, and the threats only intensified after September 11, when the military government repudiated the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and then Islamist militant groups at home in order to align itself with the United States in a global “war on terror.”

With the resulting external and internal pressures on the Pakistani government, officials were acutely sensitive about how their actions were being portrayed by the media. Some local journalists said the huge influx of foreign journalists afforded them some protection, because the intense international media scrutiny restrained the government from overt attempts to control the local press. However, other journalists told CPJ that they actually came under closer observation when working with foreign correspondents.

In June, less than two years after he seized power in a military coup, Gen. Pervez Musharraf promoted himself from “chief executive” to president, and hinted that he would remain the country’s head of state even after national elections scheduled for October 2002.

The unchecked power of the military government tended to encourage self-censorship in the Pakistani press. Even under democratic rule, journalists had complained of routine surveillance and harassment by state intelligence agencies, especially the feared Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which is controlled by the Pakistani army. The ISI operates with considerable independence, giving rise to speculation that its domestic and foreign policy agenda might not be entirely aligned with that of the Musharraf government.

In this environment, local journalists who were targeted tended to keep a low profile rather than risk further reprisals by calling attention to themselves. In March, Shakil Shaikh, chief reporter for the English-language daily The News, was abducted around midday by a group of five unidentified men riding in a jeep. His captors bound and blindfolded him, and then beat him for several hours, saying, “You write too much. Now you will not write anymore.”

Sources at The News said the precise motive for the attack was unclear, since Shaikh reported on a range of political and military issues. Afterward, Shaikh refused to discuss the incident, and never identified his assailants. Similarly, toward the end of September, a local reporter based in Peshawar, a city located along the border with Afghanistan, was abducted and detained incommunicado for nearly a month by military intelligence, according to CPJ sources. However, following his release, he asked colleagues not to publicize his case.

Local journalists were far more vulnerable to harassment than the foreign correspondents who came to Pakistan in droves following the September 11 attacks on the United States. The country’s location alongside Afghanistan, the first target of Washington’s “new war,” made Pakistan a natural destination for journalists. (Afghanistan itself was declared off-limits by the then-ruling Taliban militia, though large numbers of journalists did enter the country from Tajikistan with the help of opposition Northern Alliance forces.)

An initially lax visa policy that allowed citizens of most Western countries and other “friendly” nations to obtain 30-day tourist visas upon arrival was tightened by September 24. “After the incidents of September 11, we felt the need for a more stringent visa policy,” foreign office spokesman Riaz Ahmed Khan said, as reported by Pakistan’s daily Dawn. The article said that the visa policy “was being tightened primarily because an army of journalists had landed in Pakistan and more were expected.”

Though Western journalists did not experience significant processing delays, journalists from neighboring India complained that their visa applications languished indefinitely. The News reported that the government was “not issuing visas to Indian journalists, saying that they have nothing to report…except anti-Pakistan stories.” The unofficial ban on virtually all journalists of Indian origin remained in place despite international protests.

Even the handful of ethnic Indians who did manage to get visas to Pakistan were subject to intense scrutiny and arbitrary treatment. Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a U.S. citizen who works for The Washington Post, reported from Pakistan for a couple of months without serious incident. But when his visa came up for renewal toward the end of November, authorities simply delayed processing it. When the visa expired, officials ordered him out of the country, citing unspecified “security implications.” Philip Bennett, the Post‘s assistant managing editor for foreign news, protested the government’s action, calling it “unexplained and unjustified.”

Two British journalists were even more unceremoniously expelled, apparently because of their reporting on the activities of the ISI. Christina Lamb and Justin Sutcliffe, a reporter and photographer, respectively, for The Sunday Telegraph, were arrested at their hotel in the middle of the night, detained, and ultimately bundled off on the next flight to London without ever being told the reason for their deportation.

Foreign correspondents reporting along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan complained of restrictions on access to Afghan refugee camps and requirements that armed government security officers accompany them at all times. In Quetta, a Pakistani city close to a major border crossing en route to Taliban headquarters in Kandahar, Afghanistan, authorities so closely circumscribed the movements of foreign journalists that some reporters said they felt like “prisoners” in their luxury hotel. Local officials argued that the restrictions were necessary to cope with the mounting threat of violence from groups angered by the U.S.-led attacks on Afghanistan. On a few occasions, anti-American protesters threatened and harassed foreign correspondents in their midst.

Access to the border itself was severely limited. One newspaper reported that this was in response to Taliban demands that foreign journalists be kept away from the border, in case they were really working as spies. On October 13, after the Taliban arrested two foreign journalists and their local assistants for crossing from Pakistan into Afghanistan without permission, Pakistan’s foreign office warned foreign journalists that the government would hold news organizations accountable for any employee who entered Afghanistan illegally.

“If someone goes inside Afghanistan without proper identification…we will also take action against the particular agency or network sponsoring that person,” said Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammad Khan, as reported by Agence France-Presse. “Advise your own colleagues not to be adventurous.”

Before the announcement, Pakistani authorities had already arrested two French television journalists and the three local reporters working with them, as well as a French magazine reporter in a separate incident, all for reporting in the tribal areas without permission.

Local journalists working in the tribal areas faced a different sort of threat from local administrators who wield absolute power over their domains under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), a legacy of British colonial rule. Officials often invoke the FCR to punish journalists for their reporting. Persons accused under the FCR are denied due process of law, including the right to counsel. FCR trials are held by a tribal council, known as a jirga, whose members are appointed by the political agent.

The jirga’s decisions cannot be appealed to the provincial High Court or the Supreme Court of Pakistan. In July, a reporter in North Waziristan Agency was threatened with arrest under the FCR after writing about clashes between two tribal groups.

Pakistani journalists are extremely vulnerable to pressure from religious parties. This became starkly apparent early in the year, when the Peshawar-based newspaper The Frontier Post came under fire for its inadvertent publication of a letter to the editor that included derogatory references to the Prophet Mohammed. Although senior management at the newspaper claimed the letter appeared by mistake and apologized for failing to stop its publication, district officials responded to complaints from local religious leaders by shutting down the paper and ordering the immediate arrest of seven staff members on charges of blasphemy.

On January 30, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside The Frontier Post‘s offices and set fire to the building housing the paper’s printing press. Despite the paper’s unequivocal public apology, religious groups continued to stage violent demonstrations, with some protesters calling for the journalists to be executed. Authorities did nothing to protect the staff of the newspaper.

In June, local authorities in the town of Abbotabad used the blasphemy law to shut down a newspaper that had published an article contesting the view of certain Muslim clerics that a beardless man cannot be a good Muslim.

Criticism of the blasphemy law itself was barely tolerated. In September, government Press Department officials censored an issue of Newsweek magazine that contained an article entitled “Talking is Dangerous.” The piece reported on the prosecution of Shaikh Mohammed Younus, a professor who had recently been sentenced to death for allegedly making blasphemous remarks about the Prophet Mohammed during his lectures.

By the end of the year, the military government was taking steps to curb the activities of religious militants, in response to the threat of war from India and under pressure from the United States. The crackdown seemed bound to provoke dangerous passions, as some of these groups had previously enjoyed close ties with the military establishment. Journalists feared that any serious instability would further threaten their already precarious freedoms.

January 29

The Frontier Post
Munawwar Mohsin, The Frontier Post
Imtiaz Hussain, The Frontier Post
Qazi Ghulam Sarwar, The Frontier Post
Aftab Ahmed, The Frontier Post
Mehmood Afridi, The Frontier Post
Javed Nazir, The Frontier Post
Kifayatullah, Maidan

On January 29, The Frontier Post published a letter to the editor entitled “Why Muslims Hate Jews,” which included derogatory references to the Prophet Muhammad.

Although senior management at the newspaper claimed the letter was inserted into the copy by mistake and apologized for failing to stop its publication, district officials responded to complaints from local religious leaders by shutting down the paper and ordering the immediate arrest of seven staff members on charges of blasphemy. In Pakistan, anyone accused of blasphemy is subject to immediate arrest without due process safeguards; those found guilty may be sentenced to death.

That evening, police sealed the offices and the printing press of The Frontier Post, and arrested Mohsin, sub-editor; Hussain, chief reporter; Sarwar, feature writer; and Ahmed, news editor, along with computer operator Wajihul Hassan. Police did not arrest the two others charged–Afridi, the paper’s managing editor, and Nazir, joint editor–since both went into hiding.

On January 30, The Frontier Post placed prominent advertisements on the front pages of the country’s major Urdu- and English-language dailies, noting that it “profoundly regrets the publication…of highly blasphemous material masquerading as a letter to the editor, and identifies with the injured feelings of the nation over the issue.” Afridi, the paper’s managing editor, urged the government to launch an immediate judicial inquiry into the circumstances of the letter’s publication.

Despite the paper’s unequivocal public apology, religious groups continued to stage violent demonstrations, with some protesters calling for the journalists to be executed. On January 30, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside The Frontier Post‘s offices and set fire to the building housing the paper’s printing press. The fire caused extensive property damage. Local journalists told CPJ that police stationed outside the building did not act swiftly to stop the destruction, and charged that some officers even aided the arsonists.

On January 31, at approximately 6:30 p.m., police raided the offices of the Urdu-language daily Maidan, the sister publication of The Frontier Post. Police detained about six people from the newspaper, including the news editor, Kifayatullah (who, like some Pakistanis, uses only one name). Local journalists told CPJ that the group was briefly taken in for interrogation, as police were trying to determine the whereabouts of Afridi.

At the direction of the federal government, authorities in North West Frontier Province established a one-man tribunal to investigate the circumstances in which the offending letter had been published. On February 15, as this inquiry was ongoing, Hussain, Sarwar, and Hassan were released on bail.

On March 9, Justice Qaim Jan Khan submitted a report to the provincial government summarizing his findings. Though the judge found that the letter was published due to “negligence” and not to any malicious intent, the government ultimately decided to proceed with its prosecution of the journalists on blasphemy charges.

On March 13, Ahmed was released on bail.

The Frontier Post was forced to suspend publication until June 26, when it was relaunched from the eastern city of Lahore.

At the end of 2001, the blasphemy case was ongoing, although Munawwar Mohsin was the only Frontier Post journalist still in prison. Mohsin admitted responsibility for publishing the letter, which he said he had not read carefully. He told The New York Times that he “could never think of abusing our Holy Prophet,” but confessed that, having only recently completed a drug rehabilitation program, his mind may have been slightly addled.

CPJ sent a letter to Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf on January 31, noting that in light of the prompt public apology offered by The Frontier Post, punitive action against the journalists was unwarranted and would only contribute to a hostile atmosphere for the press.

March 28

Shakil Shaikh, The News

Shaikh, chief reporter for the national English-language daily The News, was abducted around midday by a group of five unidentified men riding in a jeep. After cutting off Shaikh’s car on the Kashmir Highway, less than a mile from the main commercial center of Islamabad, the men forced Shaikh into their jeep and drove him to a deserted area on the outskirts of the city.

Shaikh, blindfolded and with his hands bound by rope, was then beaten for more than three hours. The assailants kicked Shaikh, stomped on his body, and struck him on the head with the butt of an AK-47.

“You write too much. Now you will not write anymore,” Shaikh’s assailants said repeatedly as they beat him. They also threatened to harm his parents, wife, and children.

After several hours, the men abandoned Shaikh and drove off. He eventually managed to untie himself and found that his car had been left for him nearby. Shaikh drove back to his home in Islamabad and was then taken by ambulance to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment.

Colleagues who saw him that evening said that he suffered from severe emotional trauma in addition to his physical injuries.

Sources at The News said the precise motive for the attack was unclear, since Shaikh reported on a wide range of political and military issues. The journalist told colleagues he could not identify his captors.

On March 29, CPJ wrote a letter to Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf urging him to ensure that the men who brutalized Shaikh were brought to justice. There was no progress in the case by year’s end.

June 3

Jamil Yousaf, free-lancer
Mohammed Shahid Chaudhry, Mohasib
Raja Mohammed Haroon, Mohasib
Shakil Ahmed Tahirkheli, Mohasib
Mohammed Zaman Khan, Mohasib

On June 3, police in Abbottabad registered a case against Yousaf and two editors at the Urdu-language daily Mohasib, charging them with blasphemy under sections 295-A and 295-C of the Penal Code. Section 295-C carries a mandatory death penalty, according to a Federal Shariat Court decision of October 1990.

The charges arose from a May 29 Mohasib article titled “The Beard and Islam,” by Yousaf, a well-known poet and author. The article contested the view of certain Muslim clerics that a beardless man cannot be a good Muslim. The piece also criticized the exploitation of religious faith for personal gain.

After local religious leaders protested against Yousaf’s article, police went to the office of Mohasib on the afternoon of June 3 and began questioning Chaudhry, the newspaper’s managing editor, and Haroon, a sub-editor. The two men were taken into custody on the pretext that they needed protection from religious extremists, according to a CPJ source.

When Chaudhry and Haroon said they would prefer to meet with religious leaders to explain their position, police said such a meeting could be held at the police station.

At around 8 p.m., a group of religious leaders arrived at the Cantonment Police Station, where the journalists were being held. However, instead of resolving the dispute, one of the men filed a First Information Report with police, accusing Yousaf and the Mohasib journalists of committing blasphemy. That night, police sealed the offices of Mohasib.

Chaudhry and Haroon were detained overnight at the station. The next morning, June 4, police arrested Mohasib news editor Tahirkheli at his home. All three journalists were remanded to police custody for two days and then transferred to Abbottabad District Jail.

Mohasib editor Zaman Khan was arrested on the night of June 8, despite having obtained pre-emptive bail from a judge in the neighboring district of Haripur.

Police also issued an arrest warrant for Yousaf, who went into hiding.

On June 14, CPJ sent a letter to Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf (who declared himself president on June 20), calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all four journalists.

As international pressure mounted to free the journalists, federal and provincial authorities took action. The Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs and the North West Frontier Province Law Department each issued statements arguing that the Mohasib article contained nothing that could be considered blasphemous.

In early July, following the provincial law department’s review of the case, the inspector general of police in North West Frontier Province sent a notice to the senior superintendent of police in Abbottabad, urging local authorities to drop the case registered against Mohasib and to release the jailed editors.

However, Abbottabad officials refused, citing pressure from religious groups.

On July 18, a Sessions Court judge in Abbottabad ordered the release of the journalists on bail. The government later withdrew the case.

July 24

Hayat Ullah, Ausaf

Hayat Ullah, a correspondent for the Urdu-language daily Ausaf in Mirali, North Waziristan Agency, went into hiding after North Waziristan authorities ordered his arrest for reporting on clashes between local tribal groups.

According to Hayat Ullah, officials began attempting to curb his reporting in December 2000, after he published an article about an attack on the office of the North Waziristan political agent. (In Federally Administered Tribal Areas such as North Waziristan Agency, the political agent is the chief federal administrator in the territory.)

At that time, Political Agent Mohammad Mushtaq Jadoon summoned Hayat Ullah to his office and complained that the report had exposed the weakness of the local administration. Jadoon warned the journalist never to publish such stories. He also ordered him to apologize and to submit all future articles for approval by the local administration before sending them on to Ausaf.

In June 2001, without consulting Jadoon, Hayat Ullah began reporting on persistent clashes between two tribal groups in the area. He told CPJ that Jadoon’s assistant threatened him with arrest on July 5. On July 24, after he reported on Jadoon’s criticisms of local tribal elders, he received a telephone call from another official notifying him that his arrest was imminent. On July 26, Hayat Ullah fled his home in Mirali.

Hayat Ullah told CPJ that local authorities issued an arrest warrant under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), a legacy of British colonial rule that grants virtually unchecked powers to government administrators in tribal areas. Parties accused under the FCR are denied due process of law, including the right to counsel and the right to an appeal.

The journalist told CPJ that his family members and colleagues were under extreme pressure to reveal his whereabouts. On July 26, police detained Hayat Ullah’s relative Abbas Khan and told him he would be released only after Hayat Ullah turned himself in to authorities. Khan, a tribal elder and schoolteacher, was released on August 2 after a public protest led by local teachers’ unions. Police also sealed the Ausaf office in Mirali and a newspaper distribution center in Speenwam that Hayat Ullah runs.

On August 7, CPJ wrote a letter to President Pervez Musharraf expressing outrage at the persecution of Hayat Ullah. Local sources said that local authorities then backed down in the face of international attention to Hayat Ullah’s case. The journalist was able to resume his work without further harassment.

September 1


Pakistani censors ruled that the current issue of Newsweek magazine could only circulate in the country if the local distributor agreed to cut out an article by Zahid Hussain, a Newsweek correspondent in Islamabad.

The censored article, titled “Talking Is Dangerous,” was about the prosecution of Shaikh Mohammed Younus, a professor who had recently been sentenced to death under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws. The prosecution claimed that Younus had insulted the Prophet Mohammad.

Customs officials blocked distribution of the magazine and then referred the matter to the government’s Press Information Department. On September 1, press department officials ordered Newsweek‘s local distributor, Liberty Books, to remove the article before circulating copies of the magazine, according to international wire reports.

Local journalists said that Newsweek, which normally begins circulating on Tuesdays, did not appear until Sunday, September 2, after the article had been ripped out.

On September 4, CPJ issued a statement condemning Pakistani authorities’ decision to censor the article.

September 1

Asadullah, free-lancer
KILLED (motive unconfirmed)

Asadullah, an occasional contributor to the news agency Kashmir Press International (KPI), was shot dead on the streets of Karachi by unidentified gunmen. KPI is run by the Jamaat-i-Islami, a conservative religious party. Local journalists said Asadullah was also an active member of the party, and that members of a rival political party may have killed him. The motive behind the shooting was unclear at year’s end.

October 5

Olivier Ravanello, LCI
Jérôme Marcantetti, LCI
Rifatullah Orakzai, Khyber Mail
Muhammad Iqbal Afridi, Al-Akhbar
Syed Karim, free-lancer

Authorities in Khyber Agency arrested Ravanello, a reporter for the French television channel LCI; Marcantetti, a cameraman and producer for LCI; Orakzai, a reporter for the Peshawar-based English-language newspaper Khyber Mail; Afridi, a district correspondent based in Bara, Khyber Agency, who contributes to the national Urdu-language daily Al-Akhbar; and Karim, a local free-lance journalist.

The French journalists were released without charge on October 8 after officials from the French embassy intervened. The other journalists remained in jail on the authority of the political agent of Khyber Agency, Dr. Fida Wazir.

Political agents exercise virtually unchecked power in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which include Khyber Agency, and have routinely used their authority to punish journalists for their reporting.

On October 10, CPJ sent a letter to the governor of North West Frontier Province, Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah, asking him to intervene with local authorities to secure the journalists’ immediate and unconditional release.

Orakzai, Afridi, and Karim were released on October 18, according to local journalists.

October 8

Susan Taylor Martin, St. Petersburg Times
Jamie Francis, St. Petersburg Times

Martin, a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, and Francis, a photographer for the paper, were threatened and harassed by Pakistanis angered by the recent U.S.-led bombing campaign against neighboring Afghanistan. The two were reporting in Sakot, a town in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province.

At around 11 a.m., Martin and Francis arrived in Sakot by car, along with a Pakistani guide and driver. When they encountered a large crowd of anti-American demonstrators, Francis got out of the car to take photographs. Several police officers rushed toward the journalists and advised them to leave the area immediately.

Their guide led the journalists to a nearby building, which turned out to be a mosque housing a madrassa, or Islamic school. Francis started taking pictures through a window of the demonstrators outside, and Martin began interviewing the men gathering around them.

In an account of the incident that she wrote for the St. Petersburg Times, Martin said the group began getting larger and angrier, with masses of demonstrators coming up from the street and blocking the stairs to the exit.

One man she interviewed said, “I request you to leave this place. People are emotional and may do you some harm.” Another shouted “Get out!” repeatedly in Martin’s face. Someone else started ominously quizzing the pair about where they were from and for what media outlets they worked.

Several armed police officers eventually pushed their way into the crowd and ushered Martin, Francis, and their guide out of the mosque, advising them to run to safety. The police took them to the office of the chief constable of Malakand Agency, in North West Frontier Province, who said, half-joking, “For you, the situation was dangerous because any person with white skin we think is Bush.”

Martin credited police with “rescuing us from the mob and perhaps saving our lives.”

CPJ published an alert about the incident on October 10.

October 8

Aziz Zemouri, Figaro Magazine

Zemouri, a reporter for the French weekly Figaro Magazine, was detained by Pakistani authorities in North Waziristan Agency when Afghan officials turned him over at the border.

Zemouri told CPJ that he had entered Afghanistan on October 8 but was turned back by the Taliban at the first checkpoint over the border.

After one night at a military camp in North Waziristan Agency, local authorities sent Zemouri to Peshawar. Traveling without an escort, Zemouri tried again to cross the Afghan border. He was caught by Pakistani police as he boarded a bus.

Zemouri was held under police guard for two nights in Miranshah, North Waziristan Agency, before being escorted to Peshawar, where he was jailed.

When he refused to be handcuffed to his jail cell bars, guards hit him. He was not allowed access to a lawyer or translator while members of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency interrogated him.

Zemouri believes he was detained for crossing into a tribal area near the Afghan border without a permit.

Zemouri was not charged with any crime and was released on October 16. He returned to France on October 20.

October 25

Aditya Sinha, Hindustan Times
Indian journalists

Pakistani security officials ordered Sinha, a reporter for the Indian daily Hindustan Times, to leave Pakistan immediately.

Sinha had been reporting from Peshawar for more than a month and had obtained a 15-day visa extension from the Interior Ministry the previous week.

Before putting him on the first available flight out of the country, a security official told Sinha, who holds a U.S. passport, “You are a U.S. national, but on the inside you are an Indian,” according to Sinha’s account published in the October 27 edition of the Hindustan Times.

Pakistani officials admitted privately that Indian journalists would generally not be allowed into the country, according to CPJ sources. As early as September 25, the Pakistani daily The News reported that the “Pakistan government is not issuing visas to Indian journalists, saying that they have nothing to report from here except anti-Pakistan stories.”

This restrictive policy seriously impeded the Indian press, as well as international media companies including the BBC, which has a large South Asia bureau based in New Delhi.

Indian journalists, as well as journalists of Indian origin holding citizenship from Western countries, told CPJ that visa applications submitted in mid-September seemed to languish indefinitely in the Pakistani bureaucracy. Meanwhile, non-Indian journalists typically received visas within days, if not hours, of submitting their applications.

On October 29, CPJ sent a letter to President Pervez Musharraf, urging him to ensure that journalists would not be barred from Pakistan on the basis of their nationality or ethnic background.

November 9

Christina Lamb, The Sunday Telegraph
Justin Sutcliffe, The Sunday Telegraph

At around 2:30 a.m., five male police officers in plain clothes and two policewomen forced their way into Lamb’s hotel room in Quetta and ordered The Sunday Telegraph correspondent to accompany them. The officers refused to say which agency they were from, though Lamb suspected they were members of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).

When Lamb refused to leave, an officer finally showed her a faxed copy of a letter from the Interior Ministry ordering her expulsion and that of Sunday Telegraph photographer Sutcliffe on the grounds that the pair had been “acting in a manner prejudicial to the external affairs and national security of Pakistan.”

After arresting Sutcliffe, the officers led him and Lamb outside the Serena Hotel and ordered the journalists into separate vehicles. Sutcliffe and Lamb refused to split up and were eventually taken together to a building adjacent to the Quetta railway station, where they were detained overnight. In an account of the incident published later in The Sunday Telegraph, Lamb wrote that she “wondered if anyone would ever hear of us again.”

The next day, armed guards took the two journalists to the Quetta airport and put them on a flight to Islamabad. Fortunately, they were met at the airport by a member of the British Parliament, Paul Marsden, who was at the end of a fact-finding mission to Afghan refugee camps. Marsden had learned that morning of the pair’s arrest and spent hours trying to find them. Lamb later wrote that their treatment improved markedly after Marsden came on the scene.

In Islamabad, the journalists were taken to the immigration director’s office and allowed to meet a British consular official. The assistant director of immigration denied any knowledge of the reasons behind the deportation order. Despite repeated requests, the journalists were never permitted to speak to a government official who could explain their treatment. That night, officers took Lamb and Sutcliffe to the international airport, where they were to board an early morning flight to London.

At the airport, “our 19 guards were reduced to six,” Lamb wrote, but she described being treated roughly nonetheless.

Lamb claimed that she and Sutcliffe were expelled for investigating alleged ISI involvement in supplying arms to the Taliban militia in Afghanistan.

British foreign secretary Jack Straw raised the issue of the journalists’ expulsion with his Pakistani counterpart, Abdul Sattar. Straw conveyed the British government’s “concern” that the journalists were never informed of the charges against them and never given the opportunity to defend themselves.

Lamb was expelled from Pakistan once before, in September 1989, after writing about an alleged army plot to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

December 8

Robert Fisk, The Independent
Justin Huggler, The Independent

Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the London daily Independent, was severely beaten by Afghan refugees in the village of Kila Abdullah in western Pakistan.

Fisk, his Independent colleague Huggler, driver Amanullah, and translator Fayyaz Ahmed were driving past Kila Abdullah, near the Afghan border, when their car broke down. A large crowd gathered around the car and started throwing stones and hitting Huggler and Fisk. As the two reporters tried to board a bus, Fisk was dragged off, beaten, and kicked by about 60 men. The assailants were mostly Afghan refugees, according to Fisk.

In a December 10 report in The Independent, Fisk wrote that, “Pebbles and small stones began to bounce off my head and shoulders…. My head was suddenly struck by stones on both sides at the same time….Then a fist punched me in the face, splintering my glasses on my nose, another hand grabbed at the spare pair of spectacles round my neck and ripped the leather container from the cord.”

Fisk was rescued when a man escorted him away from the skirmish and into a police van. The police brought him to a Red Cross and Red Crescent convoy, where he received medical treatment. Huggler was not harmed.