- Mashal Butt, who is a student of NUST, became a witness to Siddiqui running for his life on the Islamabad Expressway early on Wednesday morning
ISLAMABAD: In the most recent development in the Taha Siddiqui kidnapping case, a witness has come forward to further strengthen the claims made by the journalist about an alleged abduction attempt by unknown assailants on Wednesday, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Mashal Butt, who is a student of National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), became a witness to Siddiqui running for his life on the Islamabad Expressway early on Wednesday morning.
Mashal’s claims come in the wake of a strong backlash regarding Siddiqui’s kidnapping story.
Saw him run across heavy oncoming traffic on the highway near Koral chowk and get into a moving cab two cars in front of me… No one should have to fear for their life this way. #JournalistsSafety https://t.co/cOzSWIFsQ6
— Mashal (@_mash2210) January 10, 2018
While talking to Pakistan Today over phone, Mashal narrated that while she was on her way to her university she came across some unusual traffic congestion on the Islamabad Expressway. “Usually there is not much clutter on the Expressway, especially in that particular patch of the highway, so I thought an accident has occurred,” she recalled.
However, as she drove along, she caught the glimpse of a man running across the road desperately trying to wriggle away from the speedy traffic. “At first, I thought it must be an attempted robbery and this guy must be a thief,” Mashal said.
The last she saw of that man was when he was getting on to a moving taxi. “I just had a feeling that I had seen this man before,” she said recalling the events of that day. Once she reached her university, she saw a report on Dawn.com and only then she realised that man was Taha Siddiqui.
Her only interaction with Siddiqui was when he was invited to NUST as a guest speaker during a course of conflict and disaster reporting. “Immediately after I got to know the whole story, I realised what he must have gone through because I witnessed his ordeal,” she said.
I was on my way to university and saw him running through heavy traffic and slipping and falling and struggling to get into a cab with my own two eyes. It’s easy to sit behind a screen and feed your own bias.
— Mashal (@_mash2210) January 11, 2018
Meanwhile, Siddiqui has since been able to register a First Information Report (FIR) with the Koral Police Station. He has been given security at his house by the Islamabad Police. “Police is cooperating with me but if you ask me about my expectation from this investigation, I am not too sure,” he said.
FIR registered by Taha Siddiqui at Koral Police Station
Backlash over Siddiqui’s claims
Soon after Siddiqui took to Twitter to share his story, a strong backlash came against the originality of his claims. When he went to Islamabad Press Club to narrate his version, a fellow journalist – Inamullah Khattak – berated his claims by asking whether this was all done to claim asylum abroad. Later other social media users joined in to criticise Siddiqui’s claims.
Mashal said that people have started rebuking her claims as well. “I narrated what I saw, why would I make up a story when I don’t have any stakes involved,” she said. Journalists, according to Mashal, get a lot of backlash because they report what certain people don’t want to hear.
She is also willing to become a witness in the case if a need arises. “My mother said that coming forward as a witness might get me in trouble but I told her that I will only say what I saw.”
For Siddiqui, the backlash is not new. “They are trying to discredit me but have failed so far, many experienced local and foreign journalists have stood by my side,” he said.
Among other difficulties, Siddiqui has not been able to find answers to his five-year-old son’s questions. Although he doesn’t know the whole story, he was concerned about security being beefed up outside their residence. “I told him that the police outside our house is just like it is outside his school, it is a good thing to have.”
Siddiqui knows that he is trudging a tricky path ahead and things will only complicate if he continues to air his honest views but he wants to concentrate on the case proceedings for now. Family members and close acquaintances are advising him to put his head down and stay away from controversy and maybe leave journalism or else fear the worst. “Next time, maybe, they will shoot me.”