Another Journalist Disappears in Pakistan

Posted on November 21, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, People
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Adil Najam

Some really disturbing news from Pakistan. Yet another Pakistani journalist – Dilawar Khan Wazir, Dawn‘s correspondent in South Waziristan and occasional stringer for BBC – has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Earlier this year his 16-year old younger brother had been kidnapped and later killed (here).

All of this comes on top of a rapidly deteriorating situation of press freedom and journalist safety in Pakistan. On November 1, Mohammad Ismail – the Islamabad Bureau Chief of PPI – was found dead in Islamabad. Earlier, Hidayatullah Khan was found shot in the Tribal Areas. More recently, a Sindhi TV station was banned in Pakistan by the authority regulating electronic media. And Pakistan was once again placed near the bottom of the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders.

In short, things are not good. According to a source at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), “Of the nine journalists who have been killed since Danny Pearl in 2002, only two cases have been competently investigated. One was Danny, the other was Hayat’s case, but the results of the High Court investigation into his case have not been made public.”

On Dilawar Khan Wazir’s disappearance, according to Dawn (21 November, 2006):

Dilawar Khan Wazir, Dawn’s correspondent in South Waziristan, who also worked for the BBC Urdu service, went missing from Islamabad on Monday afternoon. His younger brother Zulfiqar Ali, a final year student at the International Islamic University, told Dawn that after meeting him on Monday, Mr Wazir said he was returning to Dera Ismail Khan, but since then he had been untraceable.

The mystery surrounding his disappearance was compounded when Mr Ali was approached by a few people who wanted to take him to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) on the pretext that Mr Wazir was admitted there following a road accident. Already suspicious of such activities since their younger brother had been kidnapped and killed in Wana earlier this year, Mr Ali was advised by friends not to accompany the men.

Instead, they called on Mr Wazir’s mobile phone and someone who identified himself as Doctor Jamshed from PIMS said the journalist was admitted to the hospital. However, subsequent events proved that neither Mr Wazir had been brought to PIMS nor anyone by the name of Jamshed worked in the hospital. Both the BBC and Dawn have approached several government officials, expressing serious concern over the circumstances in which Mr Wazir went missing, but he has remained untraceable… Security officials said a largescale hunt had been launched to trace the whereabouts of the missing journalist… When contacted, Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said he was not aware of the development, but promised to order an investigation. Later, the interior secretary and other officials called the Dawn office and held out the assurance that all possible efforts would be made to track down the missing journalist. Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah said the additional inspector-general of police, Islamabad, had been assigned the task to investigate the matter.

… Fears about threat to Mr Wazir’s life also appeared real as he had escaped attempts on his life in the past while reporting for Dawn and the BBC from Wana. A bomb exploded outside his house in Karikot, South Waziristan, on Dec 16, 2005. His younger brother, 14-yearold Taimur Khan, was kidnapped by unknown people on Aug 29 this year and his body was found the following day with torture marks. Mr Wazir had moved to Dera Ismail Khan last year, following the death of two fellow journalists, Allah Noor Wazir and Amir Nawab Khan, in Wana on Feb 7, 2005. Mr Wazir, who was travelling with them, had escaped unhurt. They were returning from Sara Rogha after covering the signing ceremony of a peace agreement between the government and militant commander Baitullah Mehsud.

Events on this are still unfolding and it is not yet clear what exactly happened. First, one prays that he is alive and has not been killed. If he has been kidnapped, as it seems he has, then the question is by whom, and why? Enough such activities have now transpired over a short period of time to make one very worried. It is increasingly difficult to believe that this is just one more in a series of unfortunate coincidences based on personal enmity.

12 Comments on “Another Journalist Disappears in Pakistan”

  1. November 21st, 2006 1:43 am

    “ In the line of Fireâ€

  2. Samdani says:
    November 21st, 2006 9:06 am

    This is a very serious crisis that is developing. But I do not think it is fair (yet) to talk about political prisoners. Although teh government certainly bears a responsibility to do more in terms of journalist safety. Note that these are all happening in the Tribal Agencies and my assumption is that the rise of Taliban has something to do with this. However, the question is whether the government is doing enough to counter it and the answer seems to be NO.

  3. November 21st, 2006 10:11 am

    Good News. Just heard from journalist Beena Sarwar that he has been released…. details just coming in. Keep tuned.

  4. Kabir says:
    November 21st, 2006 10:16 am

    It is indeed a very serious issue that I think can be addressed to some extent via logistics and technology.

    Biometrics and RFID or other embedded micro-tracking chips (sometimes even invasive methods) may be “part of” the solution for such problems and can be used by anyone undertaking assignments with high risks.

  5. Adil Najam says:
    November 21st, 2006 11:16 am

    Got this email on a journalists list just now:

    “Dilawar Wazir has been freed!

    He walked to BBC office just a few hours ago.
    He said he was picked up from a bus near Islamabad, was beaten, interroagated for his reporting and then released in a wooded aread near Islamabad.
    He walked and then hitch hiked his way to BBC office in Islamabad.
    But he is free!”

    That he is back is good news. Everything else remains very disturbing. Hopefully we will get more clarity soon on who may have picked him up, what he was interrogated on, and why.

  6. Adil Najam says:
    November 21st, 2006 12:19 pm

    The Islamabad office of BBC, just issued this release on Dilawar:

    The BBC and Dawn’s reporter Dilawar Khan Wazir who went missing in mysterious circumstances on Monday appeared at the BBC’s Islamabad office on Tuesday evening.

    Dilawar’s colleagues in Islamabad say he is apparently unharmed but in a state of shock.

    Dilawar Khan Wazir told his colleagues he was picked up from near the police lines in Rawalpindi by six or seven people who stopped his taxi and pushed him out. Dilawar was manhandled, blindfolded, thrown into a car and taken to an unknown place.

    Dilawar says he remained blindfolded till his release and was beaten several times during custody. He told his colleagues that he was repeatedly questioned about his work in the tribal areas and his sources
    of information.

    This evening, he was driven to a wooded area close to Islamabad and left there, from where he caught a taxi and reached office.

    Dilawar’s colleagues are extremely pleased at his safe return while remaining deeply concerned about the entire incident.

    They are extremely disturbed and have reasons to believe that Dilawar’s abductors were people who were not pleased with his reporting and wanted to silence one of the few remaining journalists who have been reporting from the tribal areas.

    They feel that the government must not treat it as a closed case and should make detailed inquiry into the incident and the people behind it.

    They would also like to request journalists not to try and call Dilawar till he has had time to recover from his ordeal as he is still in a state of shock.

  7. PatExpat says:
    November 22nd, 2006 1:56 am

    Having numerous television channels and having yourself poked fun on TV is not freedom of expression because thats what Musharraf and his advisors make us believe.

    Freedom of expression should also be freedom of information which in our case is seriously lacking. What happened in Bajaur, Balochistan, why was Mush’s Baloch jirga a failure, what about the real jirga, hundred of alleged alqaeda activists handed over to USA, ARY closed for reporting of beating of journalists by government, now Sind TV closed for reporting some real issues.

    Its not the tribals that are abducting the journalists. Its mainly government agencies because they don’t want you to find out the truth.

    If anyone knows doctors in Pakistan Army, I suggest he should find out how many soldiers have been killed in last few years and earlier under Musharraf’s misguided adventures in Kargil, FATA or Baluchistan.

    Its not Daily Show, Begum Nawazish Ali or Hum Sab Umeed Say Hain which are the symbol of freedom of expression.

  8. November 22nd, 2006 4:30 am

    [quote post="428"]Its not Daily Show, Begum Nawazish Ali or Hum Sab Umeed Say Hain which are the symbol of freedom of expression.[/quote]

    Pakistan is ranked 157 out of 167. Source here

  9. November 22nd, 2006 1:28 pm

    Here is the editorial from Dawn on this. Good analysis:

    THE mysterious ‘disappearance’ of Dilawar Khan Wazir, Dawn’s correspondent in South Waziristan who also works for the BBC, came as a shocking blow to the press fraternity in Pakistan. Just as we were going to press, a visibly shaken Mr Wazir appeared at the BBC office in Islamabad. But the circumstances in which he vanished and the manner in which an attempt was made to mislead his brother deepens the suspicion that this was more than a simple case of kidnapping for ransom or personal vendetta. A series of mishaps that befell the missing journalist’s family in the last few months also confirms the fear that Mr Wazir had been put on the hit list for his professional work which evidently has aroused the ire of some agencies or groups. This is a direct attack on press freedom in Pakistan.

    Wishing to suppress information that journalists like Mr Wazir have been unearthing and disseminating through their media outlets, dictatorial governments with many skeletons to hide in their cupboard have taken to harassing and persecuting media persons â€

  10. November 23rd, 2006 1:21 am

    Editorial in The News today:

    The kidnapping of an independent journalist covering the tribal areas is another unfortunate and unnecessary episode of coercion and intimidation of the press by what appear to be elements working for the country’s intelligence agencies. While the journalist was thankfully freed — perhaps after his employers went public and demanded of the government to act on his disappearance — the incident is reflective of how intolerant the powers that be really are when it comes to coverage of what are deemed sensitive matters. The manner in which the interior minister dealt with the whole issue, telling journalists who wanted details on the journalist’s captors and why he was kidnapped, kept blindfolded and asked about the sources of his news stories, leaves much to be desired. The minister told the journalists that they should not have anything to worry about further because the journalist had “come back home” and was in “fit and sound” condition. He also said that they (the journalists) should not ask any specific questions. One would respectfully like to inform the minister that it is very much the right of the press to ask for reasons if a journalist happens to disappear all of a sudden. Surely, he knows the experience of journalists and reporters in this country, especially at the hands of the various intelligence agencies, enough to understand that there would be a quite justifiable cause for concern when a journalist disappears in the manner that Dilawar Khan Wazir did. Besides, it does not behove the minister to act — and that is the only thing that one can conclude from his actions – as an apologist for the military and its intelligence agencies.

    Mr Wazir may have returned home but we all know what happened to Hayatullah Khan. The line, as most professional journalists in Pakistan know all too well, between what happened to Mr Wazir and becoming another Hayatullah Khan is very thin. Such incidents are nothing but wanton attacks on the press to stop it from disseminating what the government or some in it want to hide. If there is a problem in such cases, legal processes should be followed, or else the rest of the world would be inclined to think that the law of the jungle is followed here when it comes to dealing with the press.

  11. Roshan Malik says:
    November 23rd, 2006 3:12 pm
  12. December 28th, 2006 8:51 pm

    [...] Here at ATP we try to be as fair and even-handed as possible. We have praised the police in a number of posts when it has done well (here and here). We try to highlight what is blatantly wrong (here and here) when we see it. Silly attempts to spread lies is one thing; disappearances are quite another. They do not do anyone any good and cause irreparable harm to the reputation of the country, and to all of us. To those who worry about Pakistan’s image internationally, we have asked before, and we ask again: Who is giving Pakistan a bad name? [...]

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