PAKISTAN: A newspaper terminates its editor after threats from fundamentalists

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-056-2012 : The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that an editor of a daily newspaper was terminated from his job after threats of the filing of a blasphemy case against him. Threats of blasphemy cases were also made against the publisher, editor and editor of the editorial page by Muslim fundamentalists. After his sudden termination and threats of further action by the fundamentalist organizations the editor was left with no one to turn to and suffered a heart attack. For one month now he has been bedridden and cannot leave the safety of this house because of the threats.

The editor in question has tried to contact journalist bodies but has not received any response because of the involvement of religious extremists in his case.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Mr. Zameer Aafaqi, the editor of the editorial page and magazine editor of daily Takmeel-e-Pakistan, which is published simultaneously from three different cities of Pakistan, had written an editorial note on the Eid Milad-un-Nabi (the birthday of the last prophet of Islam-PBUH) and paid tribute to him (PUBH) in the daily editorial on 5 February 2012. The editorial note on the Eid Milad-un-Nabi was written after two other editorial notes; one was on the poor performance of the government in not solving the issues of the people and the second one was on banned religious organizations and their open activities. This act infuriated a group of Muslim fundamentalist organization; Tahafuz-e-Namoos-e-Rislat Mahaz (TNRM).

On 6 February the TNRM declared through a press release that by putting the editorial note on prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on third number in the editorial, the newspaper had committed blasphemy and announced that on the 10 February, Friday, the TNRM will observe a ‘protest day’ throughout the country against the act of Blasphemy of the newspaper. In the press release it is also said that the TNRM has consulted some religious leaders inside and outside Pakistan who have given their consent to observe a protest day. It was also announced that a case of blasphemy would be filed against the newspaper. Please find the copy of the press release of TNRM here.

On the next day, the publisher (owner) of the newspaper succumbed before the TNRM, apologized and issued a clarification in which it stated that the newspaper will take action against the responsible persons. On the same day Mr. Aafaqi was told that he has been retrenched from the job and he was not allowed to come to the office or use the name of the newspaper. Aafaqi asked about the illegal way of retrenchment but he was told that the newspaper cannot face the actions from Muslim extremist groups and it would be better for him to keep himself quiet and not challenge their actions, otherwise it would be harmful for him, the newspaper and the staff.

Aafaqi was shocked at finding himself out on the street. In the coming days he was worried about possible attacks on his life and was searching for a job. On 22 February he suffered a heart attack and was admitted to a hospital where he remained for many days incurring a huge financial burden.

The administration of Lahore, capital of Punjab province, and the police were very well aware of the threats from the TNRM and protest day against the newspaper but they ignored the calls from the fundamentalists. The administration knows that the Punjab provincial government has been providing patronage to the Muslim fundamentalists, sectarian organizations and banned militant groups.

Mr. Zameer Aafaqi is now bedridden, cannot leave his house for fear of assault or worse and his children also remain in distress and fear because of the threats.

Name of victim:

Mr. Zameer Aafaqi, editor, editorial and magazine editor of Daily Takmeel-e-Pakistan, Lahore, Punjab province

Alleged perpetrators:

1. Mr. Mufti Mukhtar Ahmad Naeemi Qadri, spokeperson,Tahafuz-e-Namoos-e-Rislat Mahaz (TNRM)

2. Tahafuz-e-Namoos-e-Rislat Mahaz (TNRM), Jamia Naeema, Garhi Shahi, Lahore, Punjab province

3. Mr. Syed Asif Hashmi, publisher and chief editor, Daily Takmeel-e-Pakistan, Lahore, Punjab province

Date of incident: 5 February 2012

Place of incident: Lahore, Punjab province

– – – – – – – –

Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

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