Journalist Khalil Jibran gunned down in Landi Kotal

Published June 20, 2024
Protesters carry the coffin of slain journalist Khalil Jibran prior to his funeral, on Wednesday.—Dawn
Protesters carry the coffin of slain journalist Khalil Jibran prior to his funeral, on Wednesday.—Dawn

KHYBER: Unidentified gunmen killed a senior journalist in Landi Kotal tehsil of Khyber district, police and family sources said on Wednesday.

According to them, Khalil Jibran was traveling with friends, including a local lawyer, after attending a dinner party in the Mazreena locality of Sultan Khel when their vehicle was ambushed by armed men on Tuesday evening.

They said two armed men dragged Khalil Jibran out of the car and ordered the other three occupants to get out, stating that they were not the targets. The gunmen then unleashed a hail of bullets at Jibran, killing him on the spot.

Doctors at the District Headquarters Hospital in Landi Kotal said the journalist’s body bore 19 bullet wounds, and his arm was also fractured, suggesting a physical scuffle between him and the attackers.

Advocate Sajjad Khan, who sustained a bullet wound to one of his hands, was treated for his injuries and later discharged from the hospital as his condition was stable. He said he had to seek refuge in a nearby house when the armed men opened fire on Khalil Jibran.

Locals said the journalist’s lifeless body lay on the ground for nearly an hour, as police arrived at the scene belatedly. Fearing retaliation from the attackers, local residents hesitated to approach the body, leaving it unattended for a significant period.

However, police claimed that they responded promptly to the shooting incident as soon as they were notified, and a First Information Report (FIR) was filed against unknown assailants. Investigations into the incident, they said, were immediately initiated.

No armed group or militant organisation claimed responsibility for the murder of the journalist till late into the night.

Khalil Jibran, a veteran journalist in his early 50s, is survived by his wife and six children. He began his career in journalism in 2001, working with various local dailies and a Pashtu language private television channel. He also served two terms as president of the Landi Kotal Press Club. Mr Jibran was highly respected in the community, both for his contributions to journalism and his dedication to social work.

Protest demonstration

Meanwhile, outraged residents and local journalists staged a protest demonstration on Wednesday morning, prior to Khalil Jibran’s funeral. They blocked the main highway leading to the Torkham border and condemned the brutal killing of the journalist.

The protesters accused the law enforcement agencies of failing to launch a search operation soon after the incident despite information about the presence of a group of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan activists in the Mazreena hilly area. They issued a three-day ultimatum for the arrest of the perpetrators and demanded a financial assistance of Rs10 million for Khalil Jibran’s family, as well as free education for his children.

Journalists’ organisations and press clubs across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa condemned the brutal murder of Khalil Jibran and staged separate protest demonstrations in their respective districts, demanding justice and an end to violence against media professionals.

Local journalists announced holding another protest demonstration at Bab-i-Khyber in Jamrud on Friday afternoon.

Poignant scenes were witnessed both during the protest demonstration on the main road and later at Khalil Jibran’s funeral, as a majority of his colleagues and close friends struggled to contain their emotions, overcome with grief and sorrow.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) strongly condemned the murder of Khalil Jibran and demanded that the government arrest the killers and provide protection to media persons.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, PFUJ President Afzal Butt, Secretary General Arshad Ansari and Finance Secretary Lala Assad Pathan said that despite the fact that Mr Jibran had been facing threats from terrorists, no protection was provided to the senior journalist.

The PFUJ leaders lamented that since the Taliban insurgency began in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a number of journalists have been targeted, but the government has failed to arrest a single murderer. “This shows that the government is not interested in providing protection to those who are on the hit list of terrorists.”

The PFUJ leaders urged KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur and federal Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi to immediately take measures for the arrest of the killers. They also demanded that the government provide protection to media persons so that they could perform their professional duties without any fear of attacks.

Kalbe Ali in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2024

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