Kidnapped Pakistani journalist and govt. critic freed by abductors

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A prominent Pakistani journalist, known to have been a vocal critic of the powerful military and government, was released late Tuesday hours after he was abducted, his family said.

Matiullah Jan was picked up by at least 10 men in broad daylight outside a women’s college on Tuesday, soon after he arrived to pick up his wife from a school where she was teaching.

He was surrounded by a number of vehicles, including some with police markings and one ambulance according to Jan’s brother Shahid Akbar Abbasi.

Abbasi indicated he thought the country’s intelligence and security agencies were behind the kidnapping. “I believe those who are wielding power, they are the people who took him,” he said.

But on Tuesday night Abbasi said his brother had been released.

“I have talked to Matiullah Jan, he is safe, all right and on his way home,” Abbasi said, adding it was too soon to know what had happened to Jan.

An Islamabad police spokesman said officers had begun gathering information in the case.

The military’s media department did not respond to requests for comment.

In a tweet earlier, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan demanded “the government immediately ensure the safe recovery of journalist Matiullah Jan”.

In 2018 the military labelled Jan “anti-state” for his criticism of the judiciary and army. Jan has called a crackdown on the country’s media outlets “a systematic attempt by the military and its intelligence agency to assert control with a facade of a democratically elected government”.

Human rights groups and some journalists have been sharp critics of the military and Imran Khan’s government for what they say is a heavy-handed crackdown on free speech and independent journalism.

Media houses and TV news channels have been warned against covering events critical of the military, particularly the activities of a Pashtun rights group known as the Pashtun Tahafuz (Protection) Movement, which accuses the military of abuses in the tribal regions.

Protesters have been arrested and columnists who supported their right to protest have had their columns pulled from publication.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, the owner of the Jang Group, one of Pakistan’s largest media houses, and a strident critic of the government, is in custody charged under the auspices of the National Accountability Bureau, which investigates charges of corruption.

Human rights groups have questioned whether the allegations are politically motivated.

Jan was active on social media and had recently been charged with contempt of court for a tweet critical of the judiciary. He was to appear in court within the next week. (Source: The Guardian)

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