Arrest in beating of Pakistani publisher p.14

By: Joe Strupp Suspect was named
in stories exposing
immigrant ripoffs

ANew York City travel agent who a local Pakistan weekly had accused of defrauding immigrants has been arrested in connection with an attack on the newspaper's publisher.
Mohammed Za Siddiqui, owner of Peak Time Travel in Brooklyn, N.Y., was arrested on Feb. 4. and charged in the Feb. 2 assault on Shafqat Chughtai, publisher of the 10,000-circulation Sada-E-Pakistan.
Chughtai says the attack occurred in the late evening as he was putting the paper to bed. He told police that about five men forced their way into in his Brooklyn office and began clubbing him and kicking him.
"I never thought this was going to happen," says Chughtai, 53, who was released from the hospital a day after being treated for head injuries, four broken fingers, and cuts.
Siddiqui, 48, of Brookville, N.Y., was charged with one felony count of assault and released on bail. He did not return phone calls to his home or office.
Investigators say they are reviewing Chughtai's reporting on Siddiqui's travel business but must translate newspapers from Urdu.
Chughtai's supporters in the Pakistan community in Brooklyn rallied outside his office on Feb. 5.
Chughtai, who emigrated from his native Pakistan 23 years ago, started the newspaper two years ago. He claims the attack was prompted by Jan. 15 and Jan. 26. stories alleging Siddiqui oversold airline tickets to Pakistan immigrants trying to fly to their native land.
The publisher says a group of travelers called him from Kennedy Airport and reported problems attempting to board a flight. When he went to the airport, he discovered that only six of 41 Peak Time Travel customers were allowed to board the plane. The rest were told their tickets were invalid.
"The airline manager told me that it was not the airline's fault, it was the travel agent," Chughtai says. "He said this had been done before." Chughtai says he received several threats of violence and death after the articles appeared.
Shafi Bezar, who publishes a Pakistani paper in Queens, says he is not surprised by the attack ? and was himself threatened just for sympathizing with Chughtai.
"I don't write as much about those things as him because I do not want to put myself in danger," Bezar says.
Chughtai, a Pakistan Air Force veteran who worked at community papers in the city for 10 years, says he opened his own to champion the rights of Pakistan immigrants who were being preyed upon.
?(Shafqat Chughtai) [Photo]
?(Editor & Publisher Web Site: [caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher February 6,) [caption]


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