Munir Mengal/ Sherry Rehman: Who is lying?
I spoke to Munir Mengal on Sunday evening. Besides firmly standing on his previous statement he had given about Zarina Marri in the interview with Reporters Without Borders, he had a few new things to disclose. He said he been threatened and offered attractive privileges by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPPP) government in return of keeping his mouth shut.
He said he had received a threatening phone call from the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Sherry Rehman, last week who had asked him to keep his mouth shut on Zariana Marri case. If he agreed to the demand, the government would, as quid pro quo, provide him a ‘reasonable job’ and reopen his bank accounts which were frozen during the Pervez Musharraf government. However, if Mengal, who was himself kept in a military torture cell for around 22 months and subsequently managed to take refuge in France, did not comply with the official offer, his family members living in Pakistan would be harassed and arrested.
“Sherry Rehman asked me to keep quite at this situation because Pakistan is facing external threats [from India]. Once the situation with India normalizes, she promised, the government would take up the issue of Zarina Marri,” said Munir.
He added that the information minister had persuaded him to abandon the Baloch Voice plan and return to country where he would be provided a reasonable job and his bank accounts will be reopened. “I can not come to Pakistan due to security reasons. My biggest concern is the safety of my family living back in Pakistan. I am willing to testify before any court and human rights organization about the ordeal of Zarina Marri outside Pakistan,” he commented.
While recalling his stay in Dubai, Mengal said he had been repeatedly contacted by the provincial PPP authorities, including the provincial president of the party, Nawabzada Haji Lashkari Raisani, in order to entice him to return to Pakistan.
These threats or allegations are very serious. No journalist, including myself, would report them without verification. Hence, I SMSed Sherry Rehman on Monday morning and wanted her to clarify her position. Firstly, she replied saying that she had never spoken to Munir but then gave me a call and spoke at length.
According to Ms. Rehman, she hardly knew who Munir Mengal was. The only time she had heard about him was through journalist Beena Sarwar who had asked Ms. Rehman to help Mr. Mengal in whatever way possible.
She said she had never spoken to him. She wanted to know how she would be able to trace Munir Mengal back in France and why would she contact him given the fact that both of them never had to interact with each other in the past. Sherry accused Munir of telling lies and added that he could have been out of his mind.
“Maybe someone from the ministry, supportive of the previous regime, called him up and pretended to speak on my behalf. But I tell you honestly, I don’t know much about this person and I am appalled how could he go on saying things about me,” she protested.
Later on, I spoke to my editor Najam Sethi and asked if I should go on with the story inclusive of Munir’s allegations and Sherry’s response. Najam’s point of view was rational: Why would the PPP or Sherry threaten Muir Mengal given the fact that PPP never had a role in the latter’s arrest which took place during Musharraf regime. Secondly, the PPP government had a major role in ensuring Mengal’s release. Thirdly, if Mengal is a Baloch nationalist then what could be his possible grudge against the PPP.
Thus, we decided not to go with the story about Munir Mengal’s allegations on Sherry Rehman.
Now, I thank God for not going ahead and filing my story. Consider.
Sherry’s tone was filled with such confidence that I had to trust her that she had never spoken to Munir. However, I once again wrote to Munir Mengal in France and inquired if Sherry Rehman had really spoken to him and gave threats. This time, to my utter surprise, Munir budged from his statement and said: “plz do not writ anything about Sherry Rehman contact to me.”
I simply do not understand who is telling lies. The reason I am putting this piece on my blog and Facebook is to keep the records straight. I do not know what truth is likely to come out in the future regarding Zarina Marri case. But I surely want people to know about these contradictory statements. Similarly, I sincerely hope that Mr. Mengal, who has undertaken the gigantic task of exposing the truth about Baloch women being kept as sex-slaves in the Pakistani torture cells, would clarify his statement. If he really did not speak to Sherry Rehman then why did he level such charges against her? If those charges were false then how are we going to trust his testament on Zarina Marri account? If he spoke with Sherry Rehman then why did he ask me not to write about it?
We have reached at a stage where Munir has to tell one more truth.
I want Munir Mengal to stand on his statement because it would be very embarrassing for us that soon after the publication of such a report Mr. Mengal disowns his own statement. However, I would be a very disappointed man if there is either some exaggeration involved in this regard or the person of Sherry Rehman or Munir Mengal are guilty of telling lies.