Pak MI gathering information on journalists: Report
Pakistan's Military Intelligence has launched a nationwide drive to gather information on journalists and columnists, with operatives going from door- to-door to ascertain details about their religion, passports and bank account numbers as part of a "verification process".
The intelligence operatives have approached journalists with a two-page form in Urdu to gather information on them, The News daily reported today.
The names of nearly 100 well-known media personalities, including women journalists who live on their own and a columnist who is a sitting member of Parliament, are on the list of persons on whom information is being gathered, the report said.
Selected journalists and columnists living in Rawalpindi come under the jurisdiction of the army's 10 Corps, the report quoted Military Intelligence officials as saying.
A two-member team is assigned to gather personal details from these journalists, including four currently working with The News, the daily said.
Mariana Baabar, a correspondent with The News, wrote she was approached yesterday by two "polite" officials, who identified themselves as Military Intelligence operatives and said they had visited her home several times but were unable to meet her.
The operatives also sought her help in locating phone numbers and the address of another journalist.
The Military Intelligence is currently headed by a two-star general, Maj Gen Naushad Ahmed Kayani, who was nominated by army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
After reading dozens of questions on the two-page form, Baabar wrote at the end of the questionnaire, in the space provided for remarks: "As a working journalist, the Constitution and the laws of the land do not oblige me to provide the Military Intelligence with such personal and intimate information."
Though the questionnaire was presented under the garb of ensuring "security clearance" for events hosted by the military, "it was clear that it was much, much more than that," the report said.
Lt Gen Asad Durrani, a former head of both the Military Intelligence and ISI, told the daily: "I do not think the DG MI has even read this questionnaire, which is certainly not a very professional one. But if I were in his place I would certainly take responsibility for this ridiculous procedure."
Apart from the journalist's name, father's name, national identity card number and other details, the form makes it obligatory to specify one's religion and whether one is a Sunni or Shia.
Details were sought as to whether one had strong affiliation with any religious group and if one had been involved in any illegal activity.
The Military Intelligence also wants to know which foreigners the journalists were meeting and what kind of information was being exchanged with them.
The questionnaire also seeks details of cars owned by journalists, their bank account numbers, their tax return numbers and their passports.
Columnist and parliamentarian Ayaz Amir, whose name too is in the list, was asked by the daily whether his privilege as a lawmaker would be breached if the Military Intelligence approached him with its questionnaire.
He replied, "It is my privilege as a journalist which will be breached... And anyway it is none of their business to be asking such personal information."
When chief military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa was contacted about the matter, he told the daily, "I will certainly look into this matter as these kind of questions and seeking such information from working journalists is unnecessary."