Balochistan: A Battle Ground for Journalists

By Yousaf Ajab Baloch
Balochistan is being marked for increased violence against journalists   where more than 30 journalists have been killed or firstly abducted and later on killed and dumped while performing their profession. This has become an alarming situation for journalists and human rights activists. Balochistan has been transformed into a battlefield for Baloch journalist in order to prevent them from covering unabated human rights violation in the province.

Disappearance of Baloch youth, allegedly by intelligence agencies in collaboration with the Frontier Corps (FC) is an obvious issue. According to available facts and witnesses, all abducted ones who were later on tortured and killed systematically were firstly whisked away by intelligence agencies.
The human rights catastrophe in Balochistan is deepening. Certainly, many of these cases are even not reported in the mainstream national media. On the other hand, local journalists who are reporting these issues in the local media face hardships while reporting. Moreover, human rights activists affiliated with the human rights organizations reporting murders, disappearances of innocent Baloch people, are paying much of their performance in the form of their being whisked away and killed.
Khuzdar district is in the most precarious situation for professional reporters, where five journalists have been killed up to now. Earlier in November 2011, a banned militant group threatened to target six journalists from the district of Khuzdar, that they were “informers” of local separatist groups.
The mentioned group threatened included Nadeem Gurnani, correspondent of “Express News” TV channel and president of Khuzdar Press club, Abdul Haq Baloch, correspondent of “ARY News” TV channel, Abdullah Khidrani, correspondent of “KTN News” TV channel and Daily “Kawish”, Munir Noor, correspondent of Daily “Balochistan News” and Abdullah Shahwani, correspondent of “Aaj TV” channel. It is cleared government has failed to protect journalists. The failure of responsible authorities   to protect journalists can easily be judged that more than two dozen journalists have been target killed but none of the   killers have been arrested nor government made any effort to arrest perpetrators.
Similarly, disappearance and forced abduction of Baloch writers and journalists is deteriorating too. The raid on the house of Qazi Dad Muhammad Rehan, secretary general of Gwadar Press Club by security forces; the arrest of Wazir Khan Raki, president of the Mashkil Press Club, and death threats to Baloch Journalist Altaf Baloch are calculated plans. Threats to the young journalist Abid Mir and writer’s own (Yousaf Ajab Baloch) arrest by F.C for couple of hours are meant to suppress the voice of the media in Balochistan.
The murder of Baloch intellectuals, journalists and human rights activists is an inordinate loss for Balochistan which can never be compensated. It is hard for journalists and activists of civil liberties to practice their responsibilities in Balochistan without any fear.
There are no reports about the cold blood murders of Baloch journalists and human rights activists as their silence translates into endorsement of these undemocratic actions. The muzzled role of Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ), based in Quetta with a heavy influence of non-Baloch journalists on the organization, is equally perturbing.  The organization took no significant stand over the killing of two Baloch journalists Lala Hameed and Muhammad Khan Sasoli including the abduction of other Baloch journalist and writers.
Balochistan has been transformed into a battlefield for Baloch journalist in order to prevent them from covering unabated human rights violation in the province.
It is surprising as why the international media or the champions of the balanced media in Pakistan have adopted a tacit role on the target killings of Baloch journalists, political workers and leaders, human rights activists, including common citizens. If we have a look at the case of Saleem Shehzad 40, bureau chief of Asia Times Online (Hong Kong) and Italian news agency Adnkronos, who was abducted on May 29, 2011 in Islamabad and later, his bullet-riddled body was found after three days on May 31 in a river in Jehlam, as well as then observe disappearances of Baloch mainly, prosecution of journalists in Balochistan then the role of international media and journalist organizations becomes objectionable.
Though Baloch people have been receiving bodies of their loved ones, whether they are target killed or have become victims of “Kill and dump” policy, it is the need of the hour to examine the role or reaction of media on international level or the role of the proponents of defending journalists’ rights and fair journalism in Pakistan. The world may know what happens with journalist in other parts of world but let me share how the Baloch Journalists and freelance writers were victimized.
Journalists and writers killed in Balochistan in five years.
Muhammad Iqbal, was affiliated with Balochistan Times Quetta, a daily English newspaper On May 3, 2005 he was injured when unidentified men opened fire on him at his home. Later he succumbed to his injuries and died on May 5, 2005.
Khalil Ahmed Sumalani, A reporter of Daily Bakhabar Quetta from Mach city of Balochistan, who was killed in Karachi on 28 October 2007,in suicide attack on former Prime Minister Benazeer Buhto.
Unidentified militants killed Dr Chushti Mujahid on February 9, 2008. He was affiliated with weekly Akhbar Jahan, a weekly magazine of Jung group. later on Baloch Liberation Army BLA, claimed responsibility of his killing
Khadim Hussain Shekh, was killed on 14 April 2008 in Hub Balochistan. Khadim was Editor-in-Chief of Daily Hub News and reported for Daily Khabrain.
Wasi Ahmed Qurishi was target killed on 10 April 2009 in Khuzdar. Wasi reported for Daily Azadi Quetta and Daily Express.
Faiz Muhammad Sasoli, a former member of Khuzdar press club and reporter for Daily Aaj Kal, was murdered on 27 June 2010 in Khuzdar.
Mr.Ali Sher Kurd was abducted on 21st September 2010 from Quetta, three days later his tortured and bullet riddled body was found in Khuzdar..His body had visible marks of torture. Mr. Kurd was a regular contributor to daily Ustaman and he also served as Sub-Editor of Monthly Nawa-e-Bolan.
Muhammad Khan Sasoli, 36, was killed on December 12, 2010. He worked for Royal TV and the INP news agency in Khuzdar. He was the president of Khuzdar Press Club. An anti-nationalist group claimed responsibility for his killing.
Hameed Hayatan Baloch, a young Baloch journalist, was kidnapped in Gwadar, Balochistan on October 25, 2010.Three months later, his bullet-riddled body was recovered in a deserted area .A piece of paper found from his pocket stated: “Eid gift for Baloch Nation.” Hayatan Baloch was a correspondent for the most quoted Baloch newspaper, Daily Tawar.
Malik Muhammad Arif, a senior cameraman of news channel Sama , who was killed in a suicide attack while covering the news and victims of suicide attacks in civil hospital Quetta.
Muhammad Sarwar, a staff member of news channel Aaj. He was killed in a suicide attack on a Shiite demonstration on September 3, 2010.
Ijaz Resani, a young cameraman of Sama News channel, who was wounded in suicide attack on September 3, 2010, while covering a Shiite demonstration at Mezan Chock Quetta. He succumbed to his injuries on September 2010 at Hospital in Quetta.
Rehmatullah Shaheen, a young Baloch journalist had been whisked away by personnel of Pakistani security agencies on March 5 at Dhadar Balochistan. His mutilated and bullet-riddled body was found at Espelinji Balochistn on April 1,2011. Shaheen reported for Daily Tawar at Mach city.
Muhammad Ilyas Nazar, 26, a Baloch journalist affiliated with Balochi language magazine Dhorant was reportedly picked up by the Government agencies after dragging him out of a passenger bus in the coastal area of Ormara when he was on his way from Quetta to Turbat on December 22, 2010. His body was found along with the body of Baloch students’ leader Qamabr Chakar on 5th January 2011. He had received bullets in head and had severe marks of torture on his body
Abdost Rind, a reporter with Urdu language newspaper Daily Eagle, was shot dead on February 18, 2011. The secret agencies were alleged for his murder.
On April 25, 2011, bullet-riddled body of Zareef Faraz, a poet and editor of a Balochi magazine – The Shabjoo – was found on a road in Turbat, Balochistan. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, Faraz was whisked away a week before he was killed, extra-judicially. His family members blame intelligence agencies of the state for disappearance, torturing and subsequent murder.
On April 28, 2011, the body of Baloch journalist and human rights activist, Siddque Eido, was found along with the body of Yousaf Nazar, an activist of BSO-Azad in Ormara, Balochistan. Both the victims were disappeared on December 21 last year.
Munir Ahmed Shakir, an online journalist for the Online News Network and was also a TV correspondent for Sabzbaat, a Baluch television station. He was murdered in Khuzdar, Pakistan on 14 August 2011.
Javid Naseer Rind, belonged to Hub city of Balochistan. He was freelance columnist and reported for Daily Tawar. On 10 September 2011 unidentified man abducted him from Hub city and on November 5, 2011. Javid’s bullet-riddled dead body was found Gazgi area of Khuzdar.
Razaq Gul Baloch, The reporter of Daily Express and Express news had gone missing on 18 May 2012.On 19 May 2012 his bullet-riddled dead body was recovered close to his house.
Abdul Qadir Haji Zai, was affiliated with Balochi news channel Vsh, as reporter in district Washok. On 28 May 2012 he was killed by unknown armed men and later on Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) claimed the responsibility, claiming that he worked for secret agencies of the state.
Dilshad Dahani, was Joint Secretary of Gwadar Press Club. Dilshad was killed on 31 August in Liyari Karachi , when he was there to attend a workshop of Pakistan Federation Union of Journalist .
Abdul Haq Baloch, was a senior journalist and the Secretary General of the Khuzdar Press Club. He was a great source of inspiration for his fellow journalists in Khuzdar. Abdul Haq Baloch was killed on September 29, 2012, while he was on the way to home after performing his professional duties.
Khalid Musa, unknown armed men target killed the report of Daily Umat Karachi was Killed in Turbat district Kech on 23 October 2012.
Abdul wahid Baloch was affiliated with Urdu Daily ‘Aaj Kal. On 15 November 2012, unidentified men opened indiscriminate fire on him at Gurmakan area of Panjgoor and he died at the spot.
Rahmatullah Abid, was a Punjgor based Journalist and he was affiliated with Associated Press of Pakistan and Dunya News. On 18 November 2012, unknown armed persons killed at Vshbood area of Panjgor.
Jamsheed Ali Karal, was staff member of Daily Nazim Quetta, on 20 December 2012, A Baloch militant group killed him when he was traveling to Sadiqabad Punjab.
Saif–ur-Rahamn Baloch, was former bureau chief of Daily Asaap Quetta at Karachi. He joined Sama news in 2010. He was killed on 10 January 2013 in a suicide attack against Hazara community. The banned militant organization Lashker-e- Jangvi claimed the responsibility of the attack.
Muhammad Imran Shekh, was affiliated with Sama News for last five years. Imran died in 10 January 2013 sucide attack while perfoming his duty
Muhammad Iqbal, a photo journalist of News Network International (NNI) who lost is life in 10 January 2013 suicide attack in Quetta.
Murtaza Baig, was a senior journalist and former reporter of Pakistan Television. Baig died in 10 January 2013.
Mehmood Afridi, was target killed on March 31, 2013. Mr Afridi was sitting at a private Public Call Office in Kalat Bazaar when gunmen on a motorcycle came there and opened fire. Afridi had worked for the Urdu-language print and online The Daily Intekhab for almost 20 years, and was the head of the Kalat Press Club. The Baloch Liberation Army (B.L.A) claimed responsibility of his killing and alleged that he was working for secret agencies of the state.
Haji Abdul Razzak Baloch went missing from Karachi on March 24, 2013, the capital of Sindh province. He was copy editor for the Balochi-language newspaper “Daily Tawaar. His mutilated dead body was found on August 21, 2013. Ms Saeeda Sarbazi, younger sister of deceased Baloch identified the body as her brother by the clothes he was wearing when he went missing and his feet since only that part of his body was identifiable.
Baloch Journalists question on the applied silence of world over killings of Baloch journalists, including other Balochs who were killed as part of the “Kill and dump” policy of the state. On the one hand, if one journalist is killed in any other part of Pakistan, the world takes attention, on the other hand, more than two dozen journalists were killed in Balochistan, but no one knows about them. I believe, this all is because of the hypocritical media in Balochistan and in the state of Pakistan. The lack of interest of international media in unfolding humanitarian crisis in Balochistan is also questionable.
This is the time world community and international organizations working for human rights and journalists took notice of the extra-judicial murders of the Baloch journalists. Their silence means they are hiding their heads in sand on the subject of Baloch genocide. Doesn’t that make them stand with the perpetrators?
The judiciary has never taken any effort pertaining to violence against journalists in Balochistan including mainstream media never covers the systematically kill and dump of Baloch reporters.
In the warlike situation of Balochistan, militant groups must respect profession of journalism and journalists should not be forced to report according to the will or dictation of parties. Not only the underground groups but also political parties have to respect   reporters who are means to transfer their voice to common people.
In my point of view, Baloh journalists are being deliberately targeted and this phenomenon will continue until organizations like Reporters Without Borders and International Federation of Journalists intervene. They should urge responsible authorities to let journalist and human rights activists perform their professional responsibilities without any obstructions. Impartial investigation into the murder of journalists must be initiated with representation offered to international media watchdogs in such investigation commissions.
The writer is human rights defender and Editor-in-Chief of the Balochistan Point.