Matiullah Jan, a pakistani journalist, who was allegedly abducted from Islamabad, was released late Tuesday. The abductors, after 12 hours had left him near Fateh Jang, where he was received by his brother and a friend. He was abducted in Islamabad by unidentified persons.
A video purported to be of the kidnapping sparked an outcry on social media. For which many pointed fingers at the Pakistani secret services. The event has sparked a debate on press freedom in the country. Which experts say have received a setback under the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Senior journalist Matiullah Jan is known for his criticism of the country’s powerful institutions including the military and judicial establishment. It is widely seen as being behind the country’s mounting “enforced disappearances”.
Jan’s apparent abduction came a day before he was set to appear before Pakistan’s top court. Where he was facing contempt proceedings over a tweet many saw as critical of Pakistan’s judges and military
Who is Matiullah Jan?
Matiullah Jan is a freelancer who has worked for numerous local and foreign media organisations in the country. The journalist has been critical of the Pakistani government, security establishment and Judiciary. He currently runs his own YouTube channel called ‘MJtv’.
In 2018, Jan was removed from Waqt Television, where he worked as an anchor. It was reportedly due to pressure from security agencies. In 2017, a brick was hurled at his car while he was driving near Islamabad.
Jan was noticed for his spirited reporting of Supreme Court proceedings against Justice Faiz Isa. Justice Isa, Supreme Court judge, is known for pronouncing strong judgments against Pakistan’s military establishment.
Abduction and release
On Tuesday morning, Jan had gone to drop off his wife to her workplace– a school in Islamabad’s Sector G-6. There, he was forcibly removed from his car and thrashed by persons in uniform as well as plainclothes. In the CCTV footage, Jan is also seen flinging his cellphone away, only to be brought back by a man. He was then taken to an undisclosed location, the report said.
After Jan’s abduction, a tweet from his account, apparently by his son which stated: “Matiullahjan, my father, has been abducted from the heart of the capital Islamabad. I demand he be found and the agencies behind it immediately be held responsible. God keep him safe”.
Resultant of which, Islamabad High Court sent notices to top Pakistani officials to appear in court the next day. The court asked them to explain what had happened, with or without Jan. The court’s Chief Justice called it “a test case for police and the federal government”. And said that the state was “responsible for whatever happened”.
Pakistan’s Information Minister Shibli Faraz expressed concern, as did Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, who called the abduction “very disturbing”. Mazari said that she had spoken to the police chief of Islamabad.
Later that day, Jan was released unharmed outside Islamabad, and could reach his family after being helped by local residents. Upon his return, Jan tweeted, “I am back home safe and sound. God has been kind to me and my family. I am grateful to friends, the national and international journalist community, political parties, social media and rights activists, lawyers bodies, the judiciary for their quick response which made it possible.”
Next day he told to media that his abduction was directly related to the contempt case against him.
What is the court case about?
Mr Jan was to appear at the Supreme Court on Wednesday in connection with a contempt case. He was one of the prominent voices in a recent SC verdict against one of the court’s judges, Justice Faiz-Isa..
Justice Isa is known for some strong judgements indicting the military establishment for causing. Or, failing to prevent, some major incidents such as the 2016 Quetta hospital massacre. Or, the 2017 Faizabad sit-in by a cleric that brought life in federal capital to a standstill for several weeks.
Justice Isa is tipped to become the chief justice of the country in 2023. He faces charges of failing to declare his family’s assets in the UK and elsewhere. The charges are seen by many as an attempt by military to prevent him from reaching the top judicial office. The apex court quashed the case in June this year.
Matiullah Jan covered the issue on his YouTube channel, and also tweeted about it. Last week, the Supreme Court took suo moto cognizance of his tweet. Stating that it was critical of the judiciary, and initiated contempt proceedings against him.