Pakistani journalist allowed to leave country, still faces danger

Tuesday, February 2, 1999

Pakistani journalist allowed to leave country, still faces danger

2 February 1999

On 15 December 1998, Zafaryab Ahmed was finally allowed to leave Pakistan to take up his fellowship and teaching duties at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, USA. Senior people at Colby College, as well as the American ambassador to Pakistan, had increasingly lobbied the Pakistani government on Ahmed's behalf. USA Senator Tom Harkin personally raised the issue with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif late last year. As a result, the Pakistani administration finally allowed Ahmed to leave the country. He has been at Colby College since the week of 17 December.

However, Ahmed's difficulties are far from over. He was allowed to leave Pakistan temporarily, but his case is still pending and he still faces charges of high treason for research he did on the subject of child labour in Pakistan. He is due to return to Pakistan at the end of May, after the fellowship ends. He has been unable to reach his lawyer, Abid Hassan Minto, for information about his status, but fears his situation will remain unchanged once he returns to Pakistan.

Ahmed, a journalist known for his reporting about the social problems of bonded labour in Pakistan, was arrested and detained on 5 June 1995. He campaigned against child labour in Pakistan, particularly in the carpet industry, and was blamed for a reduction in carpet exports and loss of revenue. Ahmed was charged with anti-state activities and was put on the Exit Control List (ECL) that same year. Persons on the ECL are prohibited from leaving the country.


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Zafaryab Ahmed

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