November 2nd, 2020

By Rehan Piracha


LAHORE

On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, 15 murder cases of journalists remain unresolved in Pakistan for a decade, making the country one of the seven nations that have appeared every year on the CPJ’s Global Impunity Index since its inception in 2008.

Pakistan has been placed on the ninth spot on the Global Impunity Index 2020 for unresolved murders of journalists from September 1, 2010, to August 31, 2020. Voicepk.net recalls the names of the slain journalists whose killers have gone scot-free due to the apathy shown by the government in punishing perpetrators of impunity against media persons in the country.

  1. Abdul Haq Baloch (September 29, 2012)

According to CPJ, Abdul Haq Baloch was shot dead by unidentified gunmen as he was leaving the Khuzdar Press Club in Balochistan on September 29, 2012. Haq was the secretary-general of the press club and a local correspondent for ARY Television.

Media reports quoted Baloch’s brother Razzaq as having said the family was not satisfied with the progress of the case which remained under investigation despite passage of eight years. Razzaq said whenever he goes to a police station he is told they can’t find any clues to Baloch’s murder.

The CPJ said Haq’s family declined to discuss widespread assertions by his colleagues that he had been killed because security forces were angry that he was working with the families of missing Balochis on presenting cases before the Quetta bench of the Supreme Court. At the time of Haq’s death, the court was hearing more than 100 missing-person cases in Balochistan. Of those cases, 19 were from Khuzdar.

  1. Abdul Qadir Hajizai (May 28, 2012)

According to local news reports, gunmen shot Abdul Qadir Hajizai, a headmaster of a middle school who also worked at WASH TV, a private Balochi-language TV channel, on May 28, 2012, in the Basima area of Washik district of Balochistan. Two days after Hajizai’s death, the Baloch Liberation Front, an armed separatist group, claimed responsibility for his killing and called him a government informer. The journalist’s colleagues said they were unaware of any threats made against him. The Balochistan Union of Journalists issued a statement protesting the killing and appealed to the Supreme Court and the Balochistan High Court to address the rising level of threats to journalists.

  1. Faisal Qureshi (October 7, 2011)

Faisal Qureshi, 31, an editor for the political news website The London Post, was found dead by his brother Zahid after family members found blood stains outside the journalist’s house in Lahore. Police reports said Qureshi’s throat had been cut and described his body as showing signs of torture, news reports said.

Another brother, Shahid, who lives in London, told CPJ that the killers had taken the journalist’s laptop and telephone. Shahid Qureshi, who also wrote for The London Post website, told CPJ that he and his brother had received death threats from men who claimed they were from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or MQM. The London Post, which was widely recognized as anti-MQM, had run a series of critical stories on the party’s exiled leader, Altaf Hussain.

Police arrested Faisal Hameed, a childhood friend of Qureshi, in December 2011, alleging monetary motives, according to local news reports. On 12th April 2016, a court acquitted Faisal Hameed from the charges of murdering Faisal Qureshi.

  1. Ghulam Rasool (August 28, 2014)

Trainee reporter, Ghulam Rasool, also known as Abdul Rasul, and the Online news agency bureau chief Irshad Mastoi when two unidentified gunmen stormed the news agency offices in Quetta on August 28. 2014. A network employee, accountant Muhammad Younus, was also killed, according to news reports.

All three were shot several times, according to police. Rasool and Younus were killed immediately, and Mastoi was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead, reports said. The assailants fled the scene, according to reports. Rasool, who was in his early 20s, was a student in his final year at the media and journalism department of the University of Balochistan Quetta, according to news accounts. He had joined the agency in May 2014 and wrote news reports, but was not assigned to any particular beat. Rasool often accompanied staff journalists on their assignments, his colleagues told CPJ. Prior to working at the agency, Rasool interned with Geo TV, the colleagues said.

  1. Ghulam Rasool Birhamani (May 9, 2010)

The body of Ghulam Rasool Birhamani, 40, a reporter for the Daily Sindhu Hyderabad, was found outside his hometown of Wahi Pandhi, Sindh province, on May 10, a day after he was reported kidnapped. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the media support group Pakistan Press Foundation reported that his body was badly scarred and showed evidence of torture.

Birhamani’s family believed he was killed because of his reporting on ethnic issues in Sindh province, the journalists union said. A colleague told the newspaper Dawn that Birhamani’s story on the marriage of a 12-year-old girl to a 22-year-old man might have been the specific trigger for the attack. Birhamani had received threats from members of the Lashari tribe just days before he was seized, the press foundation said.

Hundreds of journalists turned out for a march to protest his killing. Dawn quoted some of the demonstrators as saying that police were reluctant to investigate because of political sensitivities. The journalists union said Birhamani had worked for many years for various Sindhi-language dailies. He left behind a wife, two sons, and a daughter.

  1. Irshad Mastoi (August 28, 2014)

Two unidentified gunmen stormed the offices of Online International News Network in Quetta, and shot dead Irshad Mastoi, the agency’s bureau chief, and reporter-in-training Ghulam Rasool. A network employee, accountant Muhammad Younus, was also killed, according to news reports. The assailants fled the scene after the attack, according to reports.

Mastoi, 34, was secretary-general of the Balochistan Union of Journalists. Mastoi was an assignment editor for ARY News channel and had written for publications including The Express Tribune. He had reported on issues including the political situation in the restive region of Balochistan, according to colleagues. Mastoi’s friends, family, and colleagues said that he had been threatened by an array of actors, including sectarian and militant groups. Shortly before his death, he told a friend that someone had been threatening him on the phone, but did not offer further details, the reports said.

  1. Javed Naseer Rind (November 2011)

Javed Naseer Rind’s body was found in Khuzdar on November 5, nearly two months after he was abducted, according to news reports. The journalist had been shot multiple times in the head and chest, and his body showed numerous signs of torture, local news media reported. The killing appeared to have occurred shortly before the discovery.

An editor and columnist with the Urdu-language Daily Tawar, Rind was kidnapped in his hometown of Hub in Balochistan on September 11, 2011. The Daily Tawar was known for its coverage of the many conflicts between rival groups and the government. Rind was also an active member of the separatist Baloch National Movement, news reports said. The Baluchistan Union of Journalists condemned Rind’s kidnapping and murder and demanded that the government put together a high-level committee to investigate the attack. No group claimed responsibility for the killing.

  1. Misri Khan (September 14, 2010)

Misri Khan, a newspaper reporter and head of the local journalists association, was shot several times as he entered the press club building in Hangu, according to news reports and the\ Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists. Shahid Sabir, news editor for the Urdu-language daily Ausaf, said two or more assailants had apparently been lying in wait.

Khan was a reporter for Ausaf, as well as Mashriq, an Urdu-language daily published in Peshawar, provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Khan was also president of the Hangu Union of Journalists.

The English-language daily Dawn reported that Khan had received threats from militant organizations. Khan had been a journalist for more than 20 years, reporting for several newspapers during his career, according to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists. He was survived by a wife, six sons, and five daughters.

  1. Mukarram Khan Aatif (January 17, 2012)

Two gunmen killed Mukarram Khan Aatif, a reporter for the Pashto-language service of the Voice of America, at a mosque in Shabqadar, Charsadda. The assailants, who struck during evening prayers, shot Aatif multiple times before fleeing on motorcycles, police told reporters. Aatif died of his injuries at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar. An imam was injured in the attack.

Taliban spokesman spoke to several news outlets, taking responsibility for the killing. Ihsanullah Ihsan told The Associated Press that Aatif had been warned “a number of times to stop anti-Taliban reporting, but he didn’t do so. He finally met his fate.”

Several CPJ sources said they were skeptical Aatif had been killed on the orders of the Taliban or for the publicly stated reasons. Aatif told friends and relatives that he started receiving threats from military and intelligence officials immediately after covering a November 2011 attack by U.S.-led NATO forces on Pakistani army check posts at Salala, near the border with Afghanistan.

  1. Nasrullah Khan Afridi (May 10, 2011)

Nasrullah Khan Afridi, a reporter for Pakistan Television and the local Mashriq newspaper, was killed when his car blew up in Peshawar on May 10, 2011, according to local and international news reports. An explosive device was detonated remotely shortly after he returned to the vehicle, which was parked in a densely populated shopping area, news reports said.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists said Afridi, who was also the president of the Tribal Union of Journalists, had moved to Peshawar to flee militant groups.

In May 2006, CPJ reported, unidentified assailants had lobbed two hand grenades at Afridi’s house in Bara. Afridi had been the target of a death threat issued on a pirate radio station run by the Islamic militant organization Lashkar-e-Islam. The threat came after Afridi reported that the authorities suspected Lashkar-e-Islam of being responsible for an attack in which a paramilitary soldier was injured.

The journalist moved to Islamabad after the attack but said officials there would not heed his complaints of being under threat. He then moved to Hayatabad area of Peshawar. But in mid-2007, grenades were lobbed at his home there. No one was injured in that attack. No arrests were made in the case.

  1. Razzaq Gul (May 19, 2012)

Razzaq Gul, 35, a senior reporter with Express News TV in Turbat,   was abducted near his home on the evening of May 18, according to news reports. His body was found the next day with several bullet wounds and marks that indicated he had been tortured, his family told local journalists.

Gul was a member of the Baloch National Movement,  and was the secretary of the Press Club of Turbat, according to news reports. His colleagues at the club told Express News TV that Gul had not mentioned receiving any threats. No group claimed responsibility for his death.

  1. Rehmatullah Abid (November 18, 2012)

Unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle killed Rehmatullah Abid in a barber shop in Panjgur district of Balochistan. Abid had worked as a general assignment reporter for Dunya News channel for several years and had also worked for the Urdu-language daily Intikhaab.

According to the Pakistan Press Foundation, Abid was shot six times, once in the head. The PPF also reported that Eesa Tareen, president of the Balochistan Union of Journalists, said Abid’s family was unaware of any personal enmities that would have caused his death.

Aslam Raisani, chief minister of Balochistan, issued a statement saying that “hidden hands” were attacking Baluchi journalists to stop them from working, according to news reports. Abid’s colleagues at the PPF said that they believed Abid had been killed because of his reporting. The Balochistan Union of Journalists appealed to the local and federal governments to address the rising levels of threats to Pakistani journalists.

  1. Saleem Shahzad (May 29 or 30, 2011)

Saleem Shahzad, 40, vanished on May 29, 2011, after writing about alleged links between Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Navy. His body was found on May 31 in a canal near Mandi Bahauddin. His friends said the body showed signs of torture around the face and neck. He had told colleagues that he had been receiving threats from intelligence officials in recent months.

Shahzad was reported missing after he failed to show up for a televised panel discussion in Islamabad. He was scheduled to discuss his recent article for Asia Times Online in which he reported that Al-Qaeda, having infiltrated the Pakistani Navy, was behind a 17-hour siege at a naval base in Karachi on May 22. He said the attack came after military or security officials refused to release a group of naval officials suspected of being linked to militant groups. Shahzad’s death also came a few days after the release of his book, Inside the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

For months, the journalist had been telling friends that he had been warned by intelligence agents to stop reporting on sensitive security matters. Pakistan’s official commission of inquiry concluded in January 2012 that the perpetrators were unknown, a finding that was widely criticized as lacking credibility.

  1. Shan Dahar (January 1, 2014)

Shan  Dahar, a reporter for Abb Takk Television, was shot in the back while filming outside a pharmacy near the Badah Press Club in Larkana, according to his sister and brother-in-law who spoke to CPJ. He died shortly after at a local hospital.

Initial media reports suggested that Dahar was hit by a stray bullet as weapons were being fired into the air during New Year celebrations, but in the days that followed, journalists and local media support groups suggested this was an intentional killing. Dahar’s sister and brother-in-law told CPJ that they had seen the video that Dahar was recording at the time he was killed. The video shows medication Dahar bought at a pharmacy that had a “not for resale” stamp on it, they said. The journalist was killed a few minutes after that.

Shortly before his death, Dahar had broadcast a story on drug sales. At the time he was killed, he was working on a report about the unauthorized sale of pharmaceutical drugs in the area, according to Nasir Baig Chughtai, the then director of news for Abb Takk. According to Dahar’s family, medications allocated by a local NGO for the poor were being resold illegally. Chughtai told CPJ that Dahar had covered a range of stories on sensitive local issues, including politics and poverty, and had been killed in retaliation for his work.

  1. Sohail Khan (October 16, 2018)

Sohail Khan, a reporter for the Urdu daily K2 Times, was shot and killed while driving in Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on October 16, 2018.

News reports said that Khan received threats shortly after writing a story about the arrest of an alleged drug dealer named Musarrat Iqbal. He filed an application at the district police office requesting protection on the day he was killed, Iqbal Khattak, director of the media watchdog organization Freedom Network, told CPJ. Police had not taken any protective measures, according to the Pakistani TV channel Samaa. CPJ was unable to reach K2 Times for comment via phone.

On October 16, the Freedom Network tweeted a photo of the Urdu-language first information report filed on Khan’s killing. Khattak told CPJ that two people listed in the report are Musarrat Iqbal’s sons.

The Associated Press reported on October 17 that police identified Ali Sher and Himayun Iqbal, Musarrat Iqbal’s sons, as suspects. They are accused of ambushing Khan’s car and killing him, the report said. A Haripur police official said Khan was killed because of his reporting, according to The Associated Press. On October 24, 2018, police arrested Himayun Iqbal, who they said was trying to flee to Iran via the Chaman border, according to Samaa. Ali Sher had not been apprehended as of late 2018.

  1. Wali Khan Babar (January 13, 2011)

Wali Khan Babar, 28, was shot shortly after his story on gang violence aired on Pakistan’s most widely watched broadcaster, Geo TV. At least two assailants intercepted the journalist’s car at 9:20 p.m. in Karachi’s Liaquatabad area, shooting him four times in the head and once in the neck, Geo TV Managing Director Azhar Abbas told CPJ. Witnesses said one assailant spoke to Babar briefly before opening fire, Abbas said.

In April, police announced the arrests of five people and said additional suspects were at large. In all, police said, at least 17 men were involved in the murder plot. Police, based on statements given by the suspects, described a plot organized by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or MQM, Pakistan’s third-largest political party and considered its most influential secular political organization. A Joint Investigation Team report said the killing had been ordered by Agha Murtaza, a South Africa-based MQM operative. Zulfikar Mirza, home minister of Sindh, was outspoken at the time in saying that MQM operatives were responsible for the killing.

Local journalists believe the killing was prompted by Babar’s aggressive reporting on violent political turf wars, extortion, targeted killings, electricity theft, and land-grabbing. Just weeks after Babar was slain, several people connected to the investigation were murdered. They included a police informant, two police constables, and the brother of an investigating officer. One of the constables, Asif Rafiq, was on the scene when Babar was murdered and had identified the plotters’ vehicle. On November 10, 2012, two gunmen aboard a motorcycle killed Haidar Ali, the only remaining witness in the case, near his home in the Soldier Bazaar area of Karachi. He was due to testify in court two days later.

The original prosecutors in the case—Muhammad Khan Buriro and Mobashir Mirza—told CPJ that they were threatened and eventually fired. They fled the country in late 2011.

On March 3, 2014, more than three years after Babar was killed, a special Anti-Terrorism Court convicted six defendants for their roles in the murder. Judge Mushtaq Ahmed Leghari, who presided over the court, sentenced Naveed Polka, Muhammad Ali Rizvi, Faisal Mahmood, and Mohammad Shahrukh Khan to life in prison, news reports said. Two others, Kamran (alias “Zeeshan”) and Faisal Mota, who remained at large, were given the death sentence in absentia. A seventh man, Mohammed Shakeel, was acquitted for lack of evidence, the reports said.

In an alleged video confession posted on YouTube, Khan said he had been told to follow Babar as he was driving home from work, according to a Reuters report. He said Zeeshan had stepped in front of the journalist’s car and shot him six to seven times. The video was authenticated to Reuters by the prosecutor, the report said.

Police arrested Faisal Mota, said by the court to have masterminded the murder, in Karachi on March 11, 2015, according to reports. On August 16, 2017, the Sindh High Court ordered a retrial in his case in the lower court, according to reports. On June 15, 2020, police arrested Zeeshan in Karachi, according to news reports.

  1. Zaman Mehsud (November 3, 2015)

Mehsud was shot several times by two gunmen while riding his motorbike in the Tank district, police told local media. The 40-year-old journalist was the president and secretary-general of the Tribal Union of Journalists’ South Waziristan chapter and worked for the Urdu-language Daily Ummat and Daily Nai Baat newspapers. He was also district coordinator in Tank for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

In a statement, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called on authorities to catch the killers and bring them to justice. The Taliban claimed responsibility for Mehsud’s killing. Based on the patterns of journalist killings over a protracted period, and the assessment by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, CPJ considers Mehsud as having been killed because of his work as a journalist.        

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