Trial in plot to assassinate exiled blogger commences
A UK crown court on Thursday, January 13, commenced the trial of British-Pakistani Gohir Khan for his attempt to murder exiled Pakistani blogger Ahmad Waqass Goraya in his home in Rotterdam, Netherlands. According to the prosecution, 31-year-old Khan was hired to kill Goraya by persons based in Pakistan, and accepted a sizable sum of £100,000 for carrying out the task. The prosecution further claimed that the defendant had also purchased a knife that he intended to use in the murder.
The court was told that Khan may have accepted the hit as he was deep in debt at the time. It was maintained that the defendant had received the target’s photo and his address by a middleman using the aliases ‘Mudz’, ‘Zed’ and ‘Papa’, and the two had agreed to a total payout of £100,000, 80 percent of which Khan would pocket while the rest will be paid to the middleman.
The prosecution explained to the court that the defendant traveled to Rotterdam and purchased the intended murder weapon, however the blogger was not at his home at the time and after several days of failing to locate the target, Khan traveled back to the UK where he was arrested upon his return. The court was told that Goraya may have been targeted in a conspiracy to silence him, as he was a vocal political activist, and that it raised the question whether Khan is involved in that conspiracy.
Khan admitted to the jury that he had sent and received all messages admitted as evidence in the court, and that he was indeed the person seen in CCTV footage traveling around Rotterdam, however he had never intended to kill the target.
Goraya is a social media activist who has accused Pakistan’s military establishment and premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of rights violations in different parts of the country. He along with four other bloggers were abducted in January 2017 and were released weeks later after international rights organizations protested against their abduction.
The victims later alleged they were in the captivity of security forces and were torture, claims which have been denied by the military. During their disappearance, a social media campaign against the bloggers accused them of blasphemy. In December 2017, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) told the Islamabad High Court that it found no evidence of blasphemy against the bloggers.
Goraya went into self-exile fearing threats to his life.
HRW sums rights abuses in Pakistan in 2021
In its annual report published on Thursday, New York-based international rights advocacy organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW), noted various human rights abuses in Pakistan for the year 2021, and expressed particular worry at intensifying efforts to curb dissent, control media and crackdown on civil society activists, journalists and political opponents.
The World Report 2022 also noted continued violence, discrimination and persecution of women, transgender people and religious minorities, and the failure of the authorities to ensure adequate protection and holding perpetrators of violence against these groups to account. HRW further regretted that the government is doing far too little to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for torture and other serious rights abuses.
The report also highlighted the loss of life and deteriorating security situation due to attacks by radical Islamist militants, especially the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, who have targeted religious minorities and law enforcement personnel.
Riot breaks out in Larkana Central Prison
Inmates of the Larkana Central Prison protesting against the transfer of 13 ‘dangerous’ prisoners broke into a riot on Thursday, forcing police to subdue the situation with teargas and suspending power to the barracks.
According to the jail administrators, the transferred inmates were identified as leaders of different groups within the prison who had long been causing trouble to staff. The decision to shift them to different detention centers across the province was the source of much resentment among other inmates. The situation deteriorated after their transfer on Wednesday when, the following day, prisoners refused to return to their barracks after doing their assigned jobs.
Jail officials cut off power when the protest eventually devolved into a riot, with inmates setting fire to their bed sheets, chanting slogans and climbing onto the rooftop. Police used teargas to force rioters back to their barracks. A search operation was conducted with the intervention of the Inspector General (IG) of Prisons, in which around 1,500 cellphones and other prohibited items, including drugs, were confiscated from some 1,000 inmates.