US newsman allowed to take sensitive video tapes
ISLAMABAD- The government allowed an American citizen to leave the country with video films of the entry and exit points of a prison, raising apprehensions among law enforcement agencies about the security of the jail and its inmates.
When contacted, Information Secretary Anwar Mehmood said: ” Thomas Mead Jennings was carrying seven video cassettes, one of which had scenes which raised security concerns.”
In reply to a question, Federal Information Minister Nisar Memon said the particular individual had sought permission for another purpose, but did something else. “We have made a note of the likely breach of security, which could occur, and if any incident takes place we certainly know who are the persons to hold responsible.”
Some video taps, sources said, had scenes of the entry and exit points of the Karachi jail, whereas others pertained to the referendum rallies addressed by President Musharraf. However, on the intervention of the higher authorities, the American citizen, who claimed to be a freelance newsmen, was allowed to leave the country along with the video cassettes, sources said.
“We allowed him to go to uphold the principle of freedom of the Press, although it was not right to make such a movie,” the minister said and added that the officials concerned had visited Karachi to see the movie, and noted the breach of security which could occur as a result of it.
The American journalist would have been in trouble for filming such places in his own country, the minister said.
Mr Jennings was detained by the customs authorities at Karachi airport last week, the sources said, adding that the information minister was informed about it by the ministry.
At an official meeting held here, concerns were voiced over the filming of such sensitive places and suspicious role of a journalist of Indian origin, Asra Nomani, in the case.
Last week, Asra Nomani had made a number of calls from Paris to some officials of the information ministry for securing the release of the video tapes made by Jennings, the sources said.
Earlier, Asra Nomani had made media headlines when Wall Street Journal Reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped, as before the kidnapping, Pearl was staying with her in Karachi. ” She was denied a visa by the press counsellor. It is not known how she had managed to reach Pakistan,” said an official letter sent from the Pakistani officials in New York to the government.
Referring to the Indian connection in the US newsman case, the official correspondence said: “May I inform you that Asra Nomani, the American passport holder – Indian Muslim woman who accompanied Daniel Pearl- had applied for Pakistan visa on Sep 19, 2001, on the ground that she wanted to visit Pakistan, her ancestor’s birth place. She was also married to a Pakistani, but the marriage broke after three months.”
The letter gave her residential addresses in India and New York with a note that the information might be of help in the investigations in the Pearl case.
Asra Nomani, in her hand written application for visa after detailing her journalistic background, had pleaded: ” My name comes from the 17th Surah of the Quran that tells of the mystical journey the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) took to the seven heavens, bringing back from him revelations. Allow me this journey, and I promise I will allow voices to reveal that will be good for the cause of humanity.”
The mystery of how Asra Nomani managed to get a visa, despite initial refusals by the Pakistani authorities and her role in getting the seven movies confiscated by the customs authorities released is a cause of concern, one of the participants of the official media meeting told sources.