Torture of Umar Cheema: Judicial commission records statements -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Torture of Umar Cheema: Judicial commission records statements

By Ahmad Noorani

ISLAMABAD: The Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has asked the Judicial Commission, probing torture on The News reporter Umar Cheema, to officially write to its Director General, Counter Terrorism, if the commission wants to summon responsible ISI officials to interrogate, secretary of the commission stated during commissionÂ’s Wednesday hearing.

The development took place after almost all the witnesses appeared before the commission point their finger towards the elite intelligence agency, ISI, as prime suspect in the incident of abduction and worst torture and humiliation of The News senior journalist Umar Cheema.

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani set up the judicial commission and after so many witnesses’ statements, secretary of the commission, Agha Ali Abbas, contacted the ISI and was asked to officially write to the agency’s DG Counter Terrorism. Agha made the statement before the commission on Wednesday.

As the Judicial Inquiry Commission conducts proceedings in order to determine who abducted and tortured Umar Cheema, an investigative journalist of The News, as many as six journalists recorded their statements about their ordeals at the hands of intelligence agencies.

The Punjab Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah, who was tortured and humiliated in the same manner as Cheema, would also record his statement and produce evidences before the Commission about his attackers.

Majority of the journalists appeared before the Commission were victimized allegedly by the ISI and gave the evidences available with them. It is also learnt that the police officers investigating Cheema’s case would also be summoned.

Those journalists recorded statements included Hamid Mir, a senior anchor of Geo TV; Kamran Shafi, noted opinion writer of daily Dawn; Shakeel Turabi, editor of a news agency (SANA); Sarmad Manzoor, chief coordinator of South Asia Free Media Association; and Azaz Syed, an investigative reporter of Dawn TV.

Shakeel Anjum, a senior journalist of The News, will record his statement next week. Umar Cheema and Ansar Abbasi, editor investigation of The News, were the first recording their statements as the Commission was set up for fact-finding with respect to the torture on Cheema and threats issued to Ansar Abbasi by the same attackers.

Cheema, in his statement, said he took a considerable time in determining the alleged involvement of a particular intelligence agency in attack on him. He said the following four factors helped him in pointing fingers towards the said agency: information gathered from different sources about the culprits; his experience of dealing with that particular agency; the perception as well as history of that agency. He also gave the name of those agency officers who either met or contacted him during this year for ‘brotherly advice’.

Ansar Abbasi said he was not so optimistic that the culprits would be apprehended, given the half-hearted measures of the government. He suggested that the head of particular intelligence agency should be directed to investigate into the matter and determine who were the culprits, regardless they belong to his agency or from outside the agency.

Hamid Mir, in his statement, narrated how he suffered at the hand of intelligence agencies over the period. Not only he but his family and children were also harassed. Mir gave examples of two journalists–Hadayatullah Khan from tribal area and Musa Khankhel from Swat. Incidentally, both of them shared with him life threats from the intelligence agencies and their fear turned true as they were killed later on. He said he had also learned about a likely attack on some journalists of The News, short before Cheema was attacked. “I had passed this information to the resident editor of The News. A day after, I learned it was Cheema as he was abducted and tortured,” Mir said. He said he had previously warned Cheema of the possible consequence of his bold reporting, and it finally happened.

Kamran Shafi shared with the Commission his ordeals as his house was attacked in the midnight and sent threatening messages. He said keeping in view what happened to Cheema, his suspicion goes towards that particular agency.

Sarmad Manzoor started with how he together his family is being harassed and messages being sent carrying a note of advice for them to become ‘true Pakistanis’.

Shakeel Turabi told the commission how he first suffered himself when harassed and tortured by intelligence agencies. Now his 18-year old son, who was abducted in January 2010, has still been missing despite sou moto notice taken by the Supreme Court. He said initially an intelligence agency confirmed him through police having taken his son in custody but later it backed out. He said his family has been passing through traumatic stress since the abduction of his son, but the authorities have failed in his recovery.

Azaz Syed shared with the Commission how his house was attacked twice, and he was thrashed in yet another incident. He said the intelligence officers, who approached Cheema, had also been contacting him for ‘brotherly advice’.
Source: The News