Taha Siddiqui narrowly escaped an abduction attempt last year. Living in Paris in self-imposed exile, he now fears assassination if he returns to Pakistan.
New Delhi: Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui who fled the country last year after narrowly escaping an abduction attempt by unidentified armed men now fears that he will be assassinated if he returns to his country.
Speaking to ThePrint, Siddiqui, the journalist and activist who lives with his wife and son in Paris in a self-imposed exile, said that “journalists are being silenced by repressive regimes like that in Pakistan”.
In a piece he wrote for The Washington Post Tuesday, Siddiqui revealed that US intelligence officials informed him about an assassination attempt against him if he returned to Pakistan.
He has been asked to refrain from visiting any Pakistan embassies across the world and even avoid going to “Pakistani-friendly countries”.
Asked about why he wrote the piece and if he feared he’ll end up in a situation similar to slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Siddiqui said, “I’m afraid. But it is not just about me anymore. This is about how journalists are being silenced by repressive regimes like that in Pakistan.
“I am just one of the many who live in such constant threats and we need to highlight this more, given that it seems (Saudi Arabia Crown Prince) Mohammed Bin Salman, who is behind the murder of Khashoggi, may just get away with it and others may feel emboldened to do the same, following his path,” he added.
Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi regime, was killed in Istanbul on 2 October 2018. The Central Intelligence Agency of the US believes that Salman oversaw the 15-member hit team that awaited Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where he was killed.
Threat from Pakistani Army
Siddiqui, who has often criticised the Pakistan military and accused it of playing a role in silencing journalists in the country, told ThePrint that the army has threatened him directly for many years.
He said the men who tried to abduct him in January last year were shouting phrases such as “What do you think of yourself?”
“It’s not just the ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence). It is the Pakistan Army, which is known to abduct, torture and kill those who challenge it,” said Siddiqui.
Asked if he would return to Pakistan, Siddqui said he won’t. He mentioned the fact that the current spokesperson of the Pakistani Army’ Asif Ghafoor had “publicly tweeted inviting me back home”.
Siddiqui asserted now that he has the US intelligence report, he knows that the Pakistani Army was “setting a trap” for him.
“So I’m better off abroad from where I will continue to raise the voice for those Pakistanis who cannot do the same back home,” he added.
Work at the moment
Currently working on a book on Pakistan, Siddiqui said that despite taking up several freelancing projects, “things are difficult” monetarily.
After founding a digital platform called Safe Newsrooms, Siddiqui now plans to launch a crowd-funding initiative this year to support him in managing the agency and sustain himself.
Siddiqui has also started work in consultancy, and began teaching journalism this month at Paris’s Sciences Po, a leading university in France.