Missing Pak Journalist Fighting For Jailed Indian Engineer Rescued After Two Years
THE CITIZEN BUREAU
NEW DELHI: Zeenat Shahzadi, a journalist who went missing in Lahore in 2015, has been recovered by security forces, Pakistani officials said.
Shahzadi was allegedly kidnapped two years ago by unidentified men as she was on her way to work in an autorickshaw in a populated part of the city of Lahore. She was a journalist with Daily Nai Khaber and Metro News TV channel, and was looking into the an Indian engineer jailed in Peshawar on espionage charges named Hamid Ansari at the time. Shahzadi had filed an application with the Supreme Court’s Human Rights Cell on behalf of Fauzia Ansari, Hamid's mother. She also filed a habeas corpus petition in the Peshawar High Court.
The application was submitted and forwarded to the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances. Shahzadi’s efforts had compelled authorities to admit that Ansari was in their custody.
Reports then emerged that Ansari had been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on charges of espionage -- leading to protest from human rights campaigners. Some versions of Ansari’s story say that he was pursuing a Pakistani woman whom he had met on the internet, and had hence crossed over into the country from Afghanistan.
The case had received some media attention, and Shahzadi was pursuing it as a key story. In 2016, activist Hina Jillani told BBC Urdu that Shahzadi had told her family of the threats she was facing, including being forcibly taken away by security agencies", detained for four hours and questioned about Ansari.
The case once again gained attention after Shahzadi’s brother, Saddam Hussain, committed suicide in March that year. The family linked the suicide to the kidnapping. "Helping an Indian prisoner -- Hamid Ansari -- in Pakistan has cost us dearly. My sister is missing and my younger brother (Saddam) who was deeply attached to her hanged himself after losing hope to get reunited with her," Salman Latif, Shahzadi's other brother, had told PTI at the time. "My sister has not committed any crime in helping an Indian national," he said.
“Zeenat received threats from unknown persons who asked her not to pursue the case any more. We also asked her not to put her life at risk but she said she wanted to help Ansari out of humanity. When she spoke to Ansari's mother she literally cried along with her and vowed to help,” Latif said.
Pakistan's Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED) head, Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal confirmed that Shahzadi had been located and rescued. He said that non-state actors and “enemy agencies” had kidnapped Shahzadi, adding that tribal elders in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa played an important role in her recovery.
Two years on, Shahzadi’s rescue has again made headlines, with activists across borders welcoming the development. Pakistani activist Beena Sarwar took to Facebook to post, “Thrilled that the disappeared activist-journalist Zeenat Shehzadi is home safe. Justice Javed Iqbal, chairman National Accountability Bureau Pakistan who retains charge of the Commission of Enquiry into Enforced Disappearances for a few more months announced her recovery. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had been pleading her case before the commission of inquiry since her disappearance in 2015. I. A. Rehman says he has spoken to Zeenat’s mother who confirmed that Zeenat is back and is well.”