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Journalist abducted for four hours

(PPF/IFEX) - Muhammad Rafique Balouch, a reporter for the Urdu-language daily "Ummat" and the vice president of the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ), was abducted by four unidentified people in plain clothes on March 21, 2011 in Karachi, the southern port city and capital of Sindh province.

Balouch told Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that on March 21, at 8:30 a.m. he was heading to the Sindh High Court (SHC) to attend a hearing of the 7th Wage Board Award. (The Wage Board is a committee formed by the government of Pakistan for the purpose of fixing the rates of wages for journalists in the country.) Four unidentified men in a car intercepted him. Three of them came out of the car and asked him to identify himself. They inquired where he was going and when he said he was on his way to the SHC, they forcibly put him in their car, blindfolded him and drove away.

After a 20-minute drive they took him to an unknown building and asked questions on the Wage Board award movement and about KUJ President Siraj Ahmed and General Secretary Hassan Abbas. The abductors said they had information that Balouch planned to throw a shoe at the face of the SHC Chief Justice during the hearing, and that they were deputed to remove Balouch from the scene.

After four hours, the abductors again put him in the car. They freed him in the city centre after warning him not to tell anyone about this incident. Balouch was kept blindfolded during the entire ordeal.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has condemned the kidnapping and harassment of Balouch, and has sought an independent inquiry into the matter. The PFUJ said that it is very unfortunate that journalists were being maltreated and humiliated on a flimsy pretext. The PFUJ urged the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Chief Justice Sindh High Court Justice Mushir Alam and Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah to take action against those responsible for the kidnapping of journalists.

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