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PESHAWAR: “For the last so many years we spend our Eid crying. No one has ever come to console us,” said daughter of a journalist who was killed by target killers on Dec 31, 2007.

“An FIR was registered but his killers were never arrested,” said the young girl requesting not to be named since hers was a strict religious family. Despite strict family traditions, her mother who has no education was forced to work at a boutique and is the bread-earner of a family of five. All the four siblings are finding it very hard to even pay for their education.

“If the government could do nothing for the families financially could it just ensure protection of other working journalists,” she said, adding no one should go through what they have been going through since their father was killed.

Killers not arrested in most of the cases

The International Federation of Journalists has called Pakistan as the most dangerous country for journalists with 14 journalists killed only in 2014. However, data gathered from a local organisation set up by a journalist in Peshawar says that there were at least 23 journalists who had been killed in the last 10 years or so.

The Journalist Welfare, Safety and Development Foundation had also been gathering data of the families and their sources of income since 2013 to assess their situation. The report shared by the JWSD organisation is shocking as almost each journalist killed while performing duty has left behind small children who were now living in poverty.

The heart-wrenching stories abound about how the families of the journalists killed in bomb blasts and targeted killings were neither getting any financial support from the organisations these deceased journalists worked for nor the government has provided these terror-affected families any support. Only a few got a one-time meagre amount from the government.

All these years as war on terror took many military and civilian lives – journalists killed in the line of duty have been unsung and long forgotten by all except their families.

The data collected about the progress in these murder cases from Khyber

Pakhtunkhwa police also shows that the killers were not arrested in many cases. Most of these cases have been tagged as ‘untraced’ by the police and shelved.

Even the lethal terrorist attack on the Peshawar Press Club on Dec 22, 2009 was termed ‘untraced’ by the police. The suicide attack on the main gate had killed three persons, including policeman Riaz Khan and had left 23 injured at PPC. The police could find ‘no clue of the actual accused’ so the case was termed untraced and closed.

Data gathered from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police Department on progress of cases in about 23 cases showed that those who were killed in a suicide blast were termed ‘untraced’ cases.

There were no details available on journalist Tariq Aslam Durrani (Daily Pakistan) case who was killed in a suicide blast on April 16, 2013. Journalist Asfandyar working with Akhbar-i-Khyber was killed in the twin blasts at Khyber Super Market on June12, 2011. “All-out efforts were made but no clue of the actual accused was found so the case was sent as untraced to the court of law”, said the police record.

The police showed some progress in Mehbook Khan’s case, a reporter from Mardan who was killed in a suicide bomb blast at Station Korona in Charsadda along with 28 people on April 28, 2007. One accused was arrested and another killed during a police encounter while Baitullah Mehsud, another accused, was killed in a drone attack. Also, two accused were at large. The arrested accused was set free by the Anti Terrorist Court.

The cases of four journalists killed in Swat were neither registered nor pursued by the police, stating insurgency as the main hurdle. The data says that journalist Musa Khankhail was killed on Feb 18, 2009 by unknown accused and a case was registered in police station Matta. The case was referred to the court as untraced.

Journalists Sirajuddin, Abdul Aziz Shaheen and Mohammad Shoaib were also killed, but the cases have not been registered due to insurgency as the government’s writ was not established at that time, said the police.

Maqbool Hussain Sial, a journalist from Dera Ismail Khan, was killed in sectarian target killing on Sept 14, 2006. Two accused were traced by the police, but they were acquitted by the court on June 25, 2011.

The case of killing of two journalists from DI Khan named Mohammad Tahir Saleem and Mohammad Imran in a bomb blast on Jan 4, 2009 was also registered against unknown accused.

“Both belonged to very poor families. Their families are still in mourning,” said Irfan, a colleague of both the young slain journalists.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2015

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