Date: September 1998
Contact: Kenneth Rodman
Phone: 207-872-3270 or 207-877-9864(h)
Pakistani journalist Zafaryab Ahmed, the first recipient of the Oak Human Rights Fellowship at Colby College, failed again on Thursday to get permission to leave his country. A month after he was due at the liberal arts college in Waterville, Maine, he remains in Pakistan, unable to accept his award of a one-semester fellowship at Colby.
Charged with treason after covering child bonded labor and the murder of Iqbal Masih, a 12-year-old who helped expose working conditions, Ahmed is on Pakistan's "Exit Control List" and is barred from leaving the country. He was charged with sedition in 1995 but he has not been tried on the charges, nor has evidence to support them been presented, according to Kenneth Rodman, director of the Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights, located at Colby.
According to the Journalists Resource Center in Lahore, Pakistan, Justice Faqir Khokhar on Thursday redirected Ahmed's petition to the secretary of the Interior Division of the government of Pakistan. The justice ordered that Ahmed appear before the secretary within one week and that Ahmed's petition be decided by the federal government within three weeks. The Journalists Resource Center characterized this action as a "repetition of another hearing of this case by another judge two months ago." In that hearing a different judge gave the federal government two weeks to resolve the matter. "Justice delayed is justice denied," concluded the report from the center.
"It's Kafkaesque," Ahmed said in an e-mail message to Rodman. "We will file an inter-court appeal tomorrow," he said.
Ahmed was selected for the inaugural Oak fellowship from a field of 70 human rights activists nominated from all over the world. He was supposed to arrive at Colby in August for a semester of research, reflection, writing and lecturing, according to Rodman.
Colby College officials have worked with Maine's Congressional delegation, the State Department, the U.S. Information Agency, the U.S. Embassy in Lahore, Pakistan's embassy in Washington and its United Nations delegation, as well as various non-governmental organizations in efforts to secure Ahmed's freedom to travel.