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, DawnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢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 WazirÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢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 WazirÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢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.