PAKISTAN - Two journalists and members of their families face death threats from religious militant groups

Published on Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dear Minister for Human Rights of Pakistan,

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding death threats to the two investigative journalists and the producers of a private television channel who are hiding and are being chased by fundamentalist religious groups for unearthing an illegal detention center where 50 persons were kept in chains and were trained for Jihad (holy war) in the neighbouring countries.

I am informed that Mr. Ghulamuddin, senior producer and Mohammad Aatif Khan, associate producer news, SAMAA TV aired an exclusive report on December 13, 2011 on captivity of innocent students held in chains at a seminary which jolted the media and concerned authorities. The subsequent crackdown by police led to the rescue of over fifty shackled persons from a basement and also the recovery of dozens of children from a separate room. The illegal and private detention center was running under the name of "Rehabilitation center for Heroin addicts" where the people from the age of 4 to 50 years were detained in chains and were punished for not following the orders of the detention center staff. The guards of the detention center claimed that they were running an Islamic seminary (Madressa). Both the producers made the video through their hidden camera which was aired in the evening of the same day and generated a heated debate not only in Pakistan but all over the world.

I am shocked to learn that the illegal detention center in the name of an Islamic seminary was located close proximity of a police station at Gadap town and operated under the name of Dawood at Dar-ul-Uloom Zakria Kandholi. It was run by a cleric, Mufti Dawood, the principal, and was located on the outskirts of Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. The video shows how detained persons were kept in heavy chains. They were complaining that they were beaten daily and were not given proper the food whereas their parents were paying huge amount as monthly fees. Some students were provided with armed training and some were sent for holy war to Afghanistan against the US forces.

As the video was aired at SAMAA TV more than 100 persons from Jihadi (Islamic warrior) groups attacked the station demanding that both journalists be handed over to them. They remained for many hours and, as is typical where religious extremism is concerned, the police and local administration did not come to rescue the employees of the channels.

In desperation, the management of the TV channel asked both the producers not to come to the station and remain in hiding. The channel authorities had contacted the administration and provincial police for their safety but to date no action has been taken by the police and provincial government to assist.

Both of the journalists have also left their homes as the militants attacked and picketed their houses and threatened their parents and siblings at gunpoint to hand them over otherwise they would face the punishment what the punishment had been designed for the producers. Both the journalists cannot go even to police station or any court to lodge the police report against the militants as their movements are monitored by the workers of militant groups. They were receiving death threats through SMS at their cell phones, now they cannot use their cell phones. Ghulamuddin is hiding with his wife Tasleem Bano and Hayyan Shah Alisher (six months infant) whereas Mohammad Aatif Khan and his wife are also facing imminent threats.

I am shocked to know that the Sindh government and police have dropped the efforts to arrest the main perpetrator, Mufti Dawood who was running the illegal detention center. The perpetrator remains Karachi and is continuing his nefarious designs. He ordered the abduction and killing of both the journalists and told his disciples that their death would serve the sacred cause of holy war against the US agents.

It is very disappointing for me to learn that instead of providing protection to the journalists for disclosing the inhuman treatment of children and illiterate people in the name of religion and recruitment for suicide bombers the Sindh administration and police have dropped the investigation into the case and left the journalists at the mercy of the militant Muslim fundamentalists.

Therefore, I urge you to provide protection to Mr. Ghulamuddin, senior producer and Mohammad Aatif Khan, associate producer news, of SAMAA TV, Karachi and their family members from the Muslim fundamentalists. I also urge that the police officials of Gasap town be prosecuted for providing protection to the perpetrators and for failing to carry out a proper investigation of the running of an illegal detention center and torture cells.

I hope you will take personal interest to provide protection to both the journalists.

Yours sincerely, William Nicholas Gomes William's Desk

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