Mystery of Murdered Tribal Journalist

June 22, 2006 by  


By Mahvish Akhtar, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
The body of a tribal journalist, Hayatullah Khan, was found on June 16th 2006 near a village in Mirali which is located in the North Waziristan Tribal areas. The victim’s family was informed by tribesmen around 4 PM on the day the body was found where the body was. A few hours after that, the Intelligence agency called and asked family members to come pick up his body. Eyewitnesses say that his hands were chained and he was shot in the back. It could be assumed that he was shot while trying to run away. His 21 year old brother says that he was wearing the same clothing he had on when he was taken on December 5th 2005. His brother, Insanullah Khan Dawar said that he had grown very weak and had a beard because of not having shaved. However there were no signs of any kind of torture on his body. His brother also said the judicial police told them that they would know something of their brother’s whereabouts by the 15th of June, “And this is what we have got “his body.”

His brother also claims that they have no doubts in their mind who has committed this terrible crime. He claims that this is the work of one of the Intelligence Agencies within the country. He said there is no doubt in this matter because he was also wearing, “Sarkari Hatkari” even when he died. He claimed that he would avenge his brother’s death.

Hayatullah worked for national dailies and a western wire photo service. He was kidnapped by five armed masked men late last year; He is also the third tribal journalist to have disappeared from the scene. The initial suspicion was on militants, but they denied any involvement in the matter and assured the journalist’s family that they did not have him. The national intelligence agency was also a suspect after he had released pictures showing that Al-Qaeda operatives were killed in a missile attack and not in a house bomb as said by the governments of both Pakistan and the United States. .Just recently, government officials, including the Political Agent of North Waziristan, told his family that he was probably in the US custody at Bagram near Kabul.

After doing his first term in MSC Economics from the Government Degree College in Bannu in 1998, he started working for different newspapers. Hayatullah Khan started taking a keen interest in journalism after his father was detained in 1992 by the authorities. He made it his life’s cause to uncover injustices as a journalist from that point on. He ran into trouble with the authorities and was expelled from the tribal region for two months in 2002. He also had a brush with US forces when he was arrested in the south-east Pakrika area of Afghanistan. US forces mistook him for a secretary to the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. He was detained at the Bagram airbase for two months and questioned about the whereabouts of the Taliban Leader

The Khyber Union of Journalists strongly condemned the killing and accused the government of failing to provide protection to journalists, particularly those working in tribal regions. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Confederation also condemned the murder. The two organizations said in a joint statement that they would observe a ‘black day’ on Monday when protest demonstrations would be held and journalists would boycott assembly sessions. The statement also appealed to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to take action against the criminals of Journalist Hayatullah Khan. The statement asked the Supreme Court to appoint a judicial inquiry commission to investigate the kidnapping and murder thoroughly.

On June 18th, 2006, PM Shaukat Aziz announced that a judicial inquiry would be conducted into the killing of journalist Hayatullah Khan and that compensation of Rs500, 000 would be paid to the grieving family, which includes a wife and four children; two boys and two girls. He also committed to bear the education expenses for the children of the late journalist. “We have taken the decision for holding of judicial inquiry last evening”, said the Prime Minister of Pakistan while addressing concluding session of a three-day South Asian Electronic Media Workshop.

On June 19th 2006 the government announced the appointment of a judicial commission to investigate the causes leading to the death of journalist Hayatullah Khan. A notification issued by the law, justice and human rights division, termed the murder ‘gruesome, heinous and shocking.’ It also said that the commission comprising Justice Mohammad Raza Khan of the Peshawar High Court should commence inquiry immediately and submit its findings within 30 days. The notification described Mr. Khan as ‘an illustrious and brave journalist’ and his death as an ‘irreparable loss to the nation’. NWFP Governor Ali Mohammad Orakzai also announced three inquiry commissions to carry out fair and transparent investigation into the murder. Speaking to a group of Khyber Union Journalists, the NWFP Governor said, “The inquiry will be fair, true and transparent. Nothing will be hidden from anyone and reports of the inquiry commissions are likely to be completed in two weeks”.

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