Nayyar Zaidi, the well-known US-based Pakistani-American journalist, who has been a citizen of the United States for more than 20 years has been allegedly detained by FBI on terrorism-related charges including obstruction of justice, a very serious offense.
News of Nayyar Zaidi’s detention was first reported by Irshad Salim, Editor-in-chief of DesPardes.com. On July 26, 2008, he posted on his blog:
A few days back, wife of renowned Washington-based Pakistani journalist, Mr. Nayyar Zaidi, called me up and informed me that her spouse was in detention in Ohio since March 2008 and that she would like to send me some documents for review and publication on DesPardes.com. I therefore gave her my address and my Ferderal Express account number. The next day, I received a package which contained copies of correspondents Mr Zaidi had to the Depertment of Justice, FBI, etc., along with copies of his handwritten notes, observations and latest rejoinder to the Federal court judge.
Mr Zaidi has been living in Virginia, USA, for the last twenty odd years. He is a well renowned columnist of JANG Urdu and a political analyst/commentator for GEO TV, CNN, BBC Urdu and several other world media.
Mr. Zaidi called me up today from the Northeast Correctional Center in Youngstown, Ohio. Since our conversation was basically relevant to his detention and the papers he had arranged to send me through his wife Shaheen, I did not bother that our phone talk was being “recorded and monitored”. It was a no-holds-barred-conversation but he took pain not to break rules.
Our conversation was obviously intense. This was the third time in my life that I had received a phone call from a person I knew who was behind bars and who wanted to reach out to someone outside for help. And, of all the people, when a respected Pakistani journalist-cum-columnist with a vast readership in Pakistan and elsewhere happened to be on the other end of the phone, things became different. Naturally, I offered my moral support and promised to break the news to the public on his behalf.
Without discussing with him the merits of the case and his detention, I showed my concern and promised to review the papers he had sent me.
Mr Zaidi said he had gone to Ohio to pursue his journalistic “obstruction of justice” research against those individuals who are being detained there from “all over the world”. Unfortunately, he ended up being detained himself in the same facility, he said. He is awaiting trial now in which he is the defendent.
Mr Zaidi has claimed that he has been “targeted” by the FBI/DOJ and the “story” goes back to 1995 when he worked for the Pakistan Television. He was approcahed to work for the U.S. government, he said.
According to Mr Zaidi, he was visited by the Feds (FBI) sometime in 2003, and was asked, he claims, to “become an informant”. But he refused.
He says he has a case against FBI/DOJ for “obstruction of justice” and wants only “due process of law” to happen.
I have asked him to writeup a synopsis of the events leading to his arrest. He promised he will send.
I then called the Press Attache of the Pakistan embassy in Washington. Mr Kiani, who happens to be the press attache, told me that he found out about Mr Zaidi’s detention today only from the ambasaddor Mr. Hussain Haqaani who found out from Pakistan, he claimed.
According to Kiani, Mr. Haqqani is “concerned” about Mr. Zaidi’s welfare.
Both, according to Kiani, were unaware that Mr Zaidi was in detention since the last three months.
Mr Kiani said he had been calling Mr Zaidi’s residence but his wife would say that he was either overseas on an assignment or would give him “some kind of answer”. Interesting!
Meanwhile, Mr Zaidi remains in detention on “national security matters”, he said.
Daily Times adds:
However, there is a history to this story. On Feb. 20, 2003, Zaidi was visited by three FBI agents at his residence in Prince County, Virginia, while he was away from home. The three agents tried to interrogate Zaidi’s 15-year old son Zain Zaidi, who immediately phoned his father but by the time he got home, the agents were gone, leaving a phone number that they said he should reach them at. When Zaidi called that number, he was asked to come over to the FBI’s Washington field office and asked several questions about his personal, social and religious activities. The agent questioning him, also asked him to bring his phone notebook with him because of an FBI claim that Zaidi’s home phone had been used for making calls to 10 numbers in Pakistan, China, India, the Netherlands and Thailand. Those numbers, an agent by the name of Chris MdKinney, added, were under investigation for links to the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Two of the numbers – one in Pakistan and the other in China – that they claimed had been called from Zaidi’s phone respectively were (9221) 2633066 and 86-51081254. The Pakistan number, Zaidi told the FBI, bore similarity to a fax number that he often called in Karachi to file his news and other reports.
Zaidi has filed for the Jang Group of Newspapers for more than 25 years. The Pakistan phone number was officially investigated by Pakistani authorities, which found it to be the disconnected number of a textile company that had gone bankrupt. When Zaidi asked to be given other numbers that had allegedly been called from his phone, the request was refused.
Zaidi offered to cooperate with the FBI but refused to hand over his phone notebook or any records unless the agents came up with legal grounds to make such a demand. He was left alone until August 8, 2003 when two different FBI agents came to his home while he was away. When he called them on August 11, leaving three messages, his calls were not returned. The embassy also took up the issue of this FBI intrusion with the State Department, which promised to look into the matter. Nothing more was heard of it till Zaidi’s mysterious disappearance in late March this year.
While newspapers in Pakistan reported the news of Nayyar Zaidi’s detention, most pathetic attitude was of Jang, the publication Nayyar Zaidi is associated with since last 30 years. Jang printed a small news item in an inside page, whereas the news surely deserved front page treatment. Also, one wonders how Jang was ignorant about Mr. Zaidi’s detention when he is regular contributor at Jang and its weekly publication, Akhbar-e-Jehan.
There is a letter in circulation by some relative of Mr. Nayyar Zaidi, pleading for his release.
The news of Nayyar Zaidi’s detention leaked out on Monday, coinciding with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani’s arrival in Washington. So far, Government of Pakistan has done nothing in this matter, except babbling the usual crap.