November 30, 1998
His Excellency Muhammad Nawaz Sharif
Prime Minister's Secretariat
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply disturbed by two police raids on the homes of journalists within days of each other last week.
At around 1:45 a.m. on November 26, police raided the home of Idrees Bakhtiar, chief reporter of the monthly Herald magazine and Karachi correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Officers from Karachi's Crime Investigation Agency (CIA), Saddar branch, forced open the door to Mr. Bakhtiar's home, and about a dozen armed police entered-some ransacking the house, others questioning the journalist and his family members at gunpoint. Police have said they were looking for a suspect in the October murder of Hakim Said, a prominent philanthropist and former governor of Sindh Province whose assassination became a flashpoint for those concerned about the ongoing political violence plaguing Karachi.
Police left the house after 45 minutes, only to return a short while later to take Mr. Bakhtiar's 28-year-old son, Moonis, to an armored personnel carrier parked outside, where he was again interrogated. At the threat of intervention by the deputy inspector general of police, officers finally released Moonis Bakhtiar and left the residence.
Around 2:30 a.m. on November 28, a group of CIA officers, also from the Saddar branch, forced their way into the home of Naseer Ahmad Saleemi, deputy editor of the Urdu-language weekly Zindagi magazine. Police searched Mr. Saleemi's home, and questioned the journalist and his family members regarding the 1994 murder of a newspaper editor. They took Mr. Saleemi's brother, Bashir Ahmad Saleemi, into custody at the CIA's Saddar office, where he was detained until Karachi's deputy inspector general of police ordered his release.
As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ is concerned by the signal sent to Pakistan's journalistic community by these twin attacks. The president of the Karachi Union of Journalists, Mazahar Abbas, has noted that the Bakhtiar case highlights the fact that journalists in Karachi are vulnerable to "threats from both police and terrorists," and the BBC sent an official letter of complaint to the Interior Ministry, pointing out that the attack on their correspondent inspires a "fear of further intimidation and harassment."
CPJ is especially concerned that, with the November 21 imposition of a state of emergency in Sindh Province and Thursday's announcement by the federal government that Pakistan's armed forces will now have the power to investigate "appropriate cases" of terrorism, journalists have little protection against official harassment.
We believe that during this time of civil and political unrest in Pakistan, the role of the press is vital in restoring public confidence and encouraging constructive political dialogue. CPJ therefore urges your government to pursue a vigorous investigation into the police actions against both Idrees Bakhtiar and Naseer Ahmad Saleemi, and to assure the journalistic community that your government will not tolerate such abuses of power. We are encouraged that the governor of Sindh Province has directed Karachi's deputy inspector general of police to begin an inquiry into the Bakhtiar raid, and respectfully ask that you ensure a similar probe is conducted in Mr. Saleemi's case. We request that the results of these investigations be made public.
We appreciate your attention to these matters, and await your response.
Ann K. Cooper
Join CPJ in Protesting Attacks on the Press in Pakistan