No trace of missing Karachi journalist

September 22, 2006


KARACHI, Sept 21: Journalist Saeed Sarbazi, who went missing on Wednesday noon, was untraced till late Thursday evening.

Mr Sarbazi, senior sub-editor of Business Recorder and joint secretary of the Karachi Press Club, had left his house in his car around 11am on Wednesday and, according to his wife, nothing has been heard about him since then and his cellphone was switched off.

The issue of Mr Sarbazi’s disappearance echoed in the Sindh Assembly on Thursday when journalists staged a walkout and boycotted the proceedings.

Speaking on the floor of the house, Sindh Home Minister Rauf Siddiqui said that efforts would be made to trace the missing journalist. He said he had directed police to trace him.

However, the home minister said nobody was above the law, and if anyone was involved in a crime, he must face the law. He said that journalists had assured him that they would not support Mr Sarbazi if he was found involved in any criminal activity.

Earlier, talking to protesting journalists, the minister assured them of his cooperation in tracing Mr Sarbazi and said that police had no information about his arrest.

Chief of the Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) Sharfuddin Memon said that the CPLC was assisting the police in locating the journalist and his car.

The protest by journalists covering the proceedings of the Sindh Assembly began at the outset of the session when they left the press gallery and gathered in the press room. PFUJ leaders said Mr Sarbazi had contacted his colleague Arif Baloch on Wednesday before leaving home for the Press Club but he neither reached the club nor his office.

The boycott was followed by a procession of journalists who marched through the lobby and corridors of the assembly building demanding early recovery of Mr Sarbazi and protection from what they called high-handedness of agencies.

They staged a sit-in on the main entrance of the assembly building where representatives of journalists recalled other similar incidents and condemned the government for not taking their protest seriously.

They said this was the fifth case of disappearance of journalists in Sindh over the past six months, while four journalists were killed and an equal number of mediamen were victimised by being implicated in concocted cases as punishment for covering events and exposing the high-handedness of the state machinery.

Mehardeen Marri of Sindhi daily Kawish, they said, had been missing since July 2. In March, Mukesh Ropeta and Sanjay Kumar of KTN were picked up by law-enforcement agencies from Jacobabad and they were produced for remand in July.

Electronic media employee Muneer Mengal, who had arrived in Karachi from Dubai about six months ago, was whisked away as he came out of the airport lounge and his whereabouts are not known yet. During the last two weeks, Maqbool Hussain Sayal and Taimoor Khan were killed in DI Khan and Wana respectively.

In the latest case of victimisation, Shakeel Anjum of The News has been implicated in a triple murder case by an SHO of Islamabad whose involvement in extra-judicial killing was exposed by the reporter.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation also expressed concern over the disappearance of Mr Sarbazi and said violence against journalists under the present regime was unprecedented.

According to PPI, the PFUJ and Apnec suspected a role of intelligence agencies in the disappearance of Mr Sarbazi.

Leader of the PFUJ and Apnec issued a joint statement, condemning what they called the recent rise in incidents of violence against journalists, and appealed to human rights bodies, political parties and trade unions to raise their voice against the disappearance of newsmen.