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A TT to my head & a press pass in my Pocket

This article was published on Karachi Metroblogs here, I republish it on my own blog so as to preserve this article for my own blog

20070514_31.jpgFor those who did not have a glance at today’s Daily Times, Urooj Zia (UZi) our fellow Karachi Metroblogger has written an article titled ‘A TT to my head and a press pass in my pocket‘ which appeared on the front page of the Karachi section of Daily Times today.

We at KMB have been speculating, accusing and counter-accusing trying to figure out who is responsible for the tragic incident but honestly all these blog posts and discussions pale when one hears of the hair-raising stories from people who were ‘there’ during the massacre. It was sadly a day when the Police & Rangers were found lounging on the side streets as they were ordered to hand over the entire city to the ‘ghundas’ till 4 o’clock in the evening. It was shocking that our administration which is responsible to protect human lives could be so ruthless to allow this to happen while they look on in amusement. Quite literally the more one looks at the entire chain of events I become even more determined to call it a State Sponsored Massacre

Continue to read Urooj Zia’s experience of the events which unfolded on May 12th while she was on press duty

A gun-toting political activist placed a TT pistol’s barrel between my eyes Saturday afternoon when I refused to tell him where I had come from or where I was going.

I was at one of the party “check posts” that had been set up all over the city. Roads had been blocked, forcing people to walk. I had to walk from Kashmir Road to the Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum, because I had been assigned to report on events there.

On the way, I was stopped by one of the “post-keepers.” My press card was tucked away in my pocket, and for men who stopped me, I appeared to be an ordinary citizen walking alone on the road, devoid of any party flags, badges or banners. Questions were asked. But when I didn’t answer the TT pistol came out. It was at that point that I decided it was a good time to use the immunity that a press card is supposed to provide. “I’m a journalist,” I said, but was asked to prove it. Only after my press card was thoroughly scrutinized was I allowed to go ahead.

All of this happened while a police mobile until stood by, with policemen leaning against it, watching the entire scene, looking thoroughly bored. The policemen laughed if they were asked for help. A friend and I were trapped in a street near Guru Mandir. We could hear shots being fired from the direction of Business Recorder House, and had to get out to the Quaid’s mausoleum. All of a sudden we heard shots from all around us. Unless we wanted to be caught in what might escalate into a crossfire in the next couple of minutes, the only option left was to climb walls and jump into one of the surrounding houses (this was a residential area).

A police mobile came along, however, and we stopped it to ask the policemen for directions. “Take any street at all. Most of them lead to the mausoleum,” we were told. When reminded that we knew that most of the surrounding streets eventually led to the mausoleum, and that, we had asked them for the “safest” route out, one of the policemen said: “You can get killed whichever route you go on. Take your pick.” All of the men in the police mobile apparently found this funny enough to break into laughter.

While Aaj TV was under attack, a number of reporters on duty in the area went up to the Rangers personnel posted nearby and pleaded with them to help those trapped inside Business Recorder House. “We’re helpless. We can’t do anything unless we have orders from above,” the Rangers personnel kept saying, hours after the shooting had initially begun.

Other journalists reported sordid stories from around the airport. Young men toting flags and banners had set up camp outside the airport departure lounge. They hid, however, when policemen came by. Reporters in the vicinity were asked whether they had seen any political activists around. Munawar Pirzada (from Daily Times) said that he had seen some nearby. After the policemen had left, the activists came up to the reporter, dragged him by the hair and took him aside. They then proceeded to threaten him with dire consequences if he said anything the next time the policemen came around.

On M. A Jinnah Road, activists of the same party accosted myself and two other journalists with me and tried to bully us into giving our names, numbers and office addresses. – DAILY TIMES May 14th 2007

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