I have been watching the news on WION, that their journalist Taha Siddiqui was attacked while travelling to the airport, by a group of 10-12 armed men, speaking in clipped English. Is there something newsy in this?
Being an avid Pak watcher, to my mind, none at all.
Let us see how & why the Pakistan establishment is so malevolent to the media and more so to Indians.
Pakistan was born in a hail of gunfire and extreme hatred. This set the trend for its animus relations with India, which have only deteriorated with each passing year. Four watersheds in the tumultuous Indo-Pak relationships have been the 1947 invasion of Kashmir, the 1965 conflict, the 1971 war and the Kargil fiasco. In each encounter with India, Pak has come out the worst, increasing its bitterness towards India.
As far as the Pakistan media is concerned, it perhaps is the only organisation that is revealing the true state of affairs in the country, and putting their military on the mat.
I vividly recall an incident at Bogra (East Pakistan) on 17 December 1971, where I witnessed the surrender of Pak troops; the Pakistani Colonel was in tears at the humiliation suffered by his military. Rather than introspect and see that this defeat was of their own making, they blamed India for splitting their country. “Be prepared”, the Colonel warned, “we will avenge this humiliation. India will pay the penalty for this treachery in the years ahead”.
Another incident which is etched in my memory happened in 1993 during my tenure as Defence Attache with our Embassy in Riyadh. At a social function where many Pakistani military officers were present, I casually remarked, “there is no difference between our cultures – we have the same dresses, the same eating habits, and acquired the same training prior to independence”. The vitriolic and vehement rejoinder by a Brigadier was, “there is nothing common – we come from a different and militarily superior race, we profess an entirely different religious group, and culturally we are as different as tea & milk."
Who attacked Taha? It could be any of the numerous agencies that work for the Pak establishment, but most likely the FSB (Filed Security Bureau) – this latter agency is notorious for intimidating foreigners, and certainly the Indians. Even visitors with a valid visa are regularly tailed and sometimes picked up, and jailed. Journalists, both local & foreign, are fair game, and one may recall at least four instances in 2017 alone, where Human Right activists and journalists have vanished.
Then there was the case of the senior GEO TV journalist who was waylaid, and narrowly escaped being killed. Actually, the Pak State and the Military-ISI combine have given some sort of unspoken license to any agency be it the FSB, FIU (Field Intelligence Unit), the Police, and even average citizens to taunt and humiliate Indians, since the state is powerless to confront the Indian state. This is the coward’s way of taking revenge. These ‘deep state’ elements are now all powerful.
First, there was the famous case of the American-Israeli journalist, Daniel Pearl, who was abducted in Karachi and later beheaded. Then in Lahore in January 2011, Raymond Allen Davis, a former United States Army soldier, and contractor with the Central Intelligence Agency was confronted by unidentified armed men in a busy market area. Davis fired, killing his assailants but was caught and jailed despite his professed diplomatic immunity. Davis was charged by Pakistani authorities with double murder and the illegal possession of a firearm. Because of American influence, Davis, managed to escape punishment for killing the two certainly Pak Government agents. Judges acquitted him on all charges and Davis immediately departed Pakistan.
Several years earlier an Indian diplomat, Rajesh Mittal, was roughed up by unidentified people, leading to a deadlock in Indo-Pak relationships. Then there was a case of an Indian diplomat and his wife being subjected to a high-speed car chase by Pakistani ‘deep state’ goons – a chase during which the diplomat's car was struck, repeatedly, from by behind. This blatant disregard of international provisions and norms of decent behavior, by euphemistically called ‘unidentified men”, is nothing but action by Pak government agents, supported and abetted by the ISI’s ‘deep state’ system.
All this is happening despite the threat of ‘quid pro quo’ retaliation that the Indian state could resort to. The only persons with whom these ‘deep state’ actors do not mess with are the Defence officers posted in the Indian Embassy in Islamabad – even the ISI realises that this ‘red line’ must never be crossed, lest their officials in the Pak High Commission New Delhi, are paid back in the same coin.
We have to wait and see how sternly the Indian government views Taha Siddiqui’s case – yet another protest lodged with the Pak Foreign Office will be meaningless, as have been hundreds of others. The Indian government too needs to step in – coming as it does on the heels of the humiliating treatment meted out to Kulbushan Yadav’s family.
Taha Siddiqui episode clearly demonstrates the impunity with which these agencies are operating. Our soft approach will only embolden them further. An attack on India’s Fifth Estate is a virtual attack on the state itself.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL).