Pakistan stops foreign reporters’ probe into radicalization of California shooters

The Times of India reports: Pakistan has begun preventing western reporters from investigating the radicalization of the San Bernardino terrorists even as it emerged that the Pakistani wife of the Chicago-born Pakistani-American Syed Rizwan Farooq may have “honey-trapped” him into entering the United States.

Correspondents who made their way to the city of Multan in Pakistan’s Punjab province, considered the hotbed of sunni extremism where Farooq’s jihadi wife Tashfeen Malik studied pharmacy, reported they had been corralled in a local hotel and are not being permitted to go out to investigate.

“Pakistani ‘officials’ not letting some journalists out of our hotel in Multan this morning to do reporting. I am still barred from leaving hotel in Multan and Pakistani ‘officials’ strongly suggest I, as foreign journalist, ‘go back to Islamabad”‘ tweeted Washington Post’s Tim Craig, who has been reporting from Pakistan.

“On one hand officials say Tashfeen Malik wasn’t radicalized here in Multan, yet on other hand they say ‘it’s too dangerous’ for foreigners,” Craig tweeted, adding, “I’ve lost track of how many different security/intel officials I’ve had to talk to, copy my passport, etc in past 17 hours – think 12 to 16.”

By putting “officials” in quotes, the correspondent seemed to indicate they are ISI roughnecks who are frequently tasked with tailing foreign reporters to make sure they do not get too close to the truth, in this case the fact that Multan and surrounding areas in Pakistan’s Punjab is the hotbed of state sponsored Sunni sectarianism and extremism.

The country’s security apparatus uses rough methods, including beating up foreign journalists as it happened with New York Times’ Carlotta Gall, to protect its interests. It also uses the grisly example of Daniel Pearl’s murder to advise foreign reporters that they are treading in dangerous territory, which in this case appears to be the state-protected Southern Punjab region. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: Dr. Shah, of the [Bahauddin Zakariya] university faculty, said he was shocked by the news that Ms. Malik was suspected of committing a mass killing. He said he did not think she had become radicalized at the university, because it does not have a reputation for extremism.

But neither Multan nor Ms. Malik’s university have been immune to extremist currents. A proliferation of hard-line religious schools across southern Punjab have obtained a reputation as incubators for sectarian and militant groups, some of which enjoy the tacit support of political leaders and elements of the Pakistani security forces.

In response, the university kept a “very vigilant eye” on its students, said Dr. Janbaz, the lecturer, and coordinated with intelligence agencies to install surveillance cameras. Ms. Malik, however, never came under scrutiny, he said.

“We never heard anything suspicious about her activities,” he said. “She kept to herself and seemed to just focus on her studies.”

But the authorities did little to stop a virtual witch hunt on campus that led to a nationally publicized death after Ms. Malik left the university.

In 2013, Islamist students there accused Junaid Hafeez, a young lecturer in English who had traveled to the United States as a Fulbright scholar, of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in comments he made on his Facebook page. Mr. Hafeez was later charged with blasphemy, a crime that carries a possible death penalty in Pakistan, and he is currently in jail awaiting trial.

Mr. Hafeez has struggled to find legal representation since two men fatally shot his lawyer, Rashid Rehman, in May 2014, in what was seen as punishment for daring to defend someone accused of blasphemy.

Pakistani security officials say there is no indication yet that Ms. Malik moved in extremist circles on campus or in the city. Yet they have sought to restrict reporting from the area in recent days, often by issuing quiet threats to Pakistani reporters to back off. The officials conducted a search of Ms. Malik’s former home in Multan on Saturday. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email