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Another journalist attacked

Ambreen Fatima, a journalist who works for the news agency Nawa-i-Waqt, was recently attacked by an unknown man while travelling with her children in an automobile in Central Lahore’s Ghaziabad area.

Fatima – who is also the wife of Fact Focus’s investigative journalist and co-founder, Ahmad Noorani – is said to have left home with her children when a man pounded the windscreen of her automobile with a metallic instrument, hurling death threats. Luckily for Fatima, the windscreen remained intact, and she and her children remained physically unharmed.

The incident’s first information report, registered at the Ghaziabad police station, describes the assault in Ambreen Fatima’s words: “When we reached an adjoining street, an unidentified person raced towards the car and struck the vehicle’s windscreen three to four times with an iron object with the intention to cause me harm,” she said. The journalist further added that she did not have enmity with anyone, which brings the spotlight onto her husband.

It is generally believed that the attack was brought on by Ahmad Noorani’s recent investigative report on Saqib Nisar, in which he retells the contents of audio said to belong to the former Chief Justice of Pakistan. In the audio, the former Law Secretary can be heard ordering the imprisonment of Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, in 2018, in accordance with the army’s desires to bring Imran Khan into power.

The journalist, himself, however, does not believe that the dots connect. “Many media persons and friends are connecting an incident of attack in Lahore with me and my recent story about Justice Saqib Nisar audio. This is incorrect,” he said.

“I have stated many times and I reiterate that a high-powered judicial commission should probe all allegations against Saqib Nisar,” he concluded.

It is important to note that Noorani has a history of being the target of attacks and threats. In 2017, while he reported for Jang Group, he was severely beaten by a group of men, who wore iron knuckles and carried knives and chains. Later, in 2020, he, along with fellow journalist Gul Bukhari, received death threats on social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter after reporting on the financial assets of Army General Asim Saleem Bajwa, a report termed by ARY news as ‘fake news’. The Missouri based journalist has also been termed ‘at at risk’ by Alfred Friendly Press Partners, however, despite threats and attacks, the investigative journalist has vowed to continue his watchdog reporting of Pakistan, acknowledging the risks involved with it: “Doing all this is not without cost. Every choice has its price.”

Despite him repeatedly being at the receiving end of verbal and physical abuse, the latest attack has been the first on his family, and has received widespread condemnation from all corners.

Lamenting ‘fascist underhand tactics’, journalist Asma Shirazi said: “There are the news of an attack on Ahmad Noorani’s wife in Lahore. These fascist underhand tactics are not going to deter any journalist from writing the truth nor force them to bow down.”

PMLN President, Shehbaz Sharif also strongly condemned the attack, adding that “there should be a thorough investigation of the incident at the highest level, and the elements involved in the attack should be punished according to the law.”

“In these times, darkest and the worst for journalism, underhand tactics like taking down [television] programs and newspaper columns have become common which are damaging the international reputation of Pakistan,” the former Chief Minister of Punjab continued, concluding with: “Attacks cannot stop or harass those who desire the truth.”

The attack also drew attention from one of the many estranged academics of Pakistan, Ammar Ali Jan, who is no stranger to state opposition. The academic and activist, who, himself, has previously been arrested for taking part in protests and associating himself with acts close to the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, commented: “Targeting family members to settle political disputes are signs of a gangster state. People across the political spectrum must unanimously condemn this barbarity and demand accountability.”

Despite most commenters’ preference for hinting at the state and/or the establishment’s involvement in the unfortunate incident, it is too early and premature to confirm their allegations as the truth.

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