An Ex-Tribal Belt Roamer Recalls His Experiences
By Ali Hasan Cemendtaur
Khawar Mehdi Rizvi recalls his (Pakistan) Tribal Belt experiences before members of Friends of South Asia
Khawar Mehdi Rizvi, a freelance Pakistani journalist, who after mysteriously disappearing from Avari Towers Hotel in Karachi remained in the custody of Pakistani intelligence agencies and Police from December 2003 through March 2004, gave a talk on "Turmoil in the Tribal Belt" at the Pakistani American Community Center (PACC) in Milpitas. The event was arranged by the Friends of South Asia, a Bay Area group of South Asia watchers.
Before moving to the US, Khawar Mehdi Rizvi specialized in facilitating visits of foreign correspondents to the Afghan-Pakistan border area. He acted as a guide and interpreter to foreign media and used his local contacts to offer safe passage to visitors in the tribal area.
This journalist himself became a news story when he suddenly disappeared from his hotel in Karachi in December 2003. For several weeks the Pakistani government denied having any knowledge of Khawar Rizvi — hardly anyone believed.
Rizvi had disappeared after facilitating a trip to the tribal belt of two French journalists, Marc Epstein and Jean-Paul Guilloteau.
After being defeated in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban were regrouping in the Pashtun areas. The French journalists wanted to do an investigative report on the prospective Taliban comeback and Khawar Mehdi Rizvi took them into Afghanistan, from Quetta, through areas where no one gives a hoot about the Durand Line and passports and visas don’t mean much.
The three of them successfully returned to Quetta and decided to drive to Karachi. They were stopped at Hub, the border of Sindh and Balochistan provinces. The Coast Guards went through the bags of the journalists and confiscated cameras and video tapes.
A receptive audience listens to Khawar Mehdi Rizvi’s absorbing account
Khawar Rizvi and his French associates reached Karachi where Khawar started calling his contacts in the police and military to get the video equipment and tapes back. A couple of days later a person claiming to be with the military called Rizvi on the phone and offered to help him.
Khawar was asked to wait in the hotel lobby. In a short time a visitor appeared and asked Khawar to come with him to get his things back. As soon as Khawar came out of the hotel he was blindfolded and put in a car. What followed was an over three-month ordeal, first of illegal detention and then a trial on the false charges of conspiracy and sedition.
Khawar Medhi Rizvi's talk at PACC was preceded by a screening of "The Silent Revolt", a dated documentary on the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban rule. The film was directed by Rizvi and Stéphanie Carron, a French filmmaker.