Senior journalist Ayaz Amir is seen in his car after the assault. — Pictures via Twitter
Senior journalist Ayaz Amir was assaulted by "unidentified men" in Lahore on Friday night, he said in a statement to Dunya News.
A visibly distressed Amir, with bruises on his face, said his car was intercepted by a vehicle as he left his office after recording his television show for Dunya News, where he works as a senior analyst.
"A man wearing a face mask emerged from the vehicle and collared my driver.
"As I questioned the man, a couple of other men also arrived by my side, opened the door of my car and unleashed blows to my face, and dragged me out of the vehicle," Amir said.
He said the men also resorted to assaulting him on the road. Since it was a crowded road, people began gathering, he said, adding that the attackers then made off with his mobile phone and wallet.
Pictures circulating on Twitter showed the journalist sitting in a car with his shirt torn.
The incident comes just a day after Amir delivered a speech at a seminar, which was also attended by PTI Chairman Imran Khan, organised by the Islamabad High Court Bar Association on the topic ‘Regime Change and its Fallout on Pakistan’.
In his speech, parts of which went viral on social media and were widely shared by senior journalists as well, Amir criticised the role of the country's military establishment while also pointing out mistakes committed by Imran Khan during his reign as the country's prime minister.
Immediately after reports of the attack on Amir were shared on Twitter, Imran strongly condemned the "violence" against the senior journalist.
"Pakistan is descending into the worst kind of fascism with violence and fake FIRs against journalists, opposition politicians and citizens. When the state loses all moral authority it resorts to violence," the PTI chairman said in a tweet.
Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz took notice of the assault and sought a report from the inspector general of the Punjab police.
In a statement, he said the attackers would be arrested and dealt with soon.
"The incident is highly condemnable. The dispensation of justice in the case will be ensured," the chief minister added.
Condemnations and calls for immediate action
Journalists, lawyers, activists, politicians and members of the civil society strongly condemned the attack on Amir.
PTI's Andleeb Abbas said the assault was "truly a pathetic attempt to crush the truth."
Without naming anyone, she said, "It's absolutely obvious that neutrality is desperate and would go to any lengths."
Veteran journalist Mazhar Abbas also called out the attack on Amir, saying "this is unacceptable".
Senior journalist Kamran Khan said it was "better to ban freedom of speech through a state decree than beating into silence those exercising the right to free speech enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan."
He said the attack on Amir was "utterly reprehensible".
Terming the incident "highly condemnable", journalist Mansoor Ali Khan said arresting the attackers should be the highest priority of this government.
"Shameful how voices are being silenced in this era," he added.
Journalist Amir Mateen said the attack on Amir was "deplorable", adding "this didn’t happen even during martial laws."
He called upon Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to "dare ask somebody to stop this".
"It's a new low," said journalist Rauf Klasra.
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