ISLAMABAD – Men wearing police uniforms beat a Pakistani journalist working for the British Guardian newspaper, five days after he published an account of abduction and torture by suspected Pakistani intelligence agents, the daily said.
The reported attack comes three weeks after another Pakistani reporter, Saleem Shahzad, was beaten to death after disappearing from Islamabad -- an incident that was widely blamed on Pakistan's most powerful intelligence agency and reignited fears of journalist intimidation.
The Inter-Services Intelligence agency denied any involvement in Shahzad's death. But journalists routinely complain about harassment by Pakistan's security services. They also face danger from the country's many Islamist militant groups.
The Guardian said in an article published Sunday that Waqar Kiani, a 32-year-old journalist who works for the paper, was stopped by men in police uniforms Saturday night as he drove through Islamabad and was ordered to get out of his car. The men beat him with fists, wooden batons and a rubber whip.
"They said 'You want to be a hero? We'll make you a hero,"' said Kiani, according to the newspaper. "Then they said: 'We're going to make an example of you."'
Last Monday, the Guardian revealed that Kiani was abducted from Islamabad in July 2008, blindfolded and taken to a safe house where interrogators beat him and burned him with cigarettes. They released him 15 hours later and warned him they would rape his wife if he told anyone, said the newspaper.
Kiani had been working on a story about the illegal detention and torture of Islamist militants by Pakistani intelligence agents, said the Guardian. His research led him to an office of the Intelligence Bureau, the main civilian spy agency, it said.
Although his abductors did not identify themselves, they displayed detailed knowledge of Kiani's bank account, movements and contacts with Guardian journalists, leading him to conclude they worked for the government, the newspaper said.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has ordered an investigation, said the Guardian.
The daily said that Kiani was released from the hospital Saturday night after being treated for injuries to his chest and back sustained in the most recent beating.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Pakistan was the deadliest country for journalists in 2010, with at least eight media workers killed in the line of duty.