Osama Bin Javaid's Blog

Wash my blood stained bag, mama

Posted in Uncategorized by osamabinjavaid on December 23, 2014

“Please don’t switch the light on, my brother has just fallen asleep” Waqar Amin whispered to us as we tiptoed into orthopedic ward number 7 where many of the young boys with bone-wounds were being kept.

It was nearly two in the morning when I reached Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital after a school came under attack on Tuesday. Waqar told us that two of his brothers went to the Army Public School and both of them had been shot – one in the waist and the other in the head. Waqar’s a police constable and his family sent the boys to the military run school for better education. Despite attacks on schools and civilians no one in Pakistan expected children would be massacred in the heart of one of the most secure areas in the city of Peshawar.

Waqar says he received a call from his brother asking him to come to the school as ‘terrorists’ have entered the premises, he was scared and there was heavy firing in the background. Then the line disconnected and Waqar feared the worst had happened. He rushed to the school where a few military guards were standing helplessly before help arrived. They saw children lying on the ground in the distance but no one could do anything for them as bullets whizzed past them when they tried to get close. “Then the phone rang after I had called it a hundred times” said Waqar “my brother told me that he’s been shot and everyone around him was dead except for one of his friends. His friend was scared too and then my brother said I have to hang up someone is coming”. It was one of the worst places to be, Waqar was standing outside the school knowing full well that his brother is in imminent danger inside and he could do nothing – Waqar welled up as he described what went on. “Then the phone rang again, my brother said they were checking if anyone was playing dead by putting the hot barrels of their guns on their necks. Anyone who made a noise was shot. My brother turned his phone to silent and played dead too. There was so much blood coming out of his bullet wound that they didn’t bother to check if he was alive. This time he was really scared. He said don’t come to get me or they will kill you too. They just killed my friend.” Waqar spoke to his brother a few times after that in brief whispers as they feared the attackers would return. Heavy firing continued with intermittent blasts. Both brothers feared each blast and each volley of bullets. Several hours went by as the cat and mouse game continued between the attackers and the military. Finally the army said the school was clear. Waqar pleaded with the guards to allow him in but they said it was still too risky. Waqar then borrowed an ambulance volunteer’s hat to gain access to the school. He says they waded through several pools of blood. It was gruesome; bodies were scattered everywhere, freshly spilt blood of young boys and girls who should’ve been out in the playground. Waqar then saw his brother being helped by a soldier,  limping and bleeding…his face looked very pale. But he was alive.

In the cold corridor of the hospital, people were sleeping on the uncomfortable chairs, perhaps exhausted physically and mentally. Peshawar is a conservative city and everyone we spoke to said that humans are incapable of committing such barbarism and expressed disbelief that people who claim to be close to Islam be capable of such depravity. The doctor too sounded defeated. He told me that they were doing all they could for the wounded but for far too many they could do nothing.  Ever in his life he said he’d seen this many young deaths. He qualified that statement by aging “I have worked in Lady Reading hospital for years and being in Peshawar we get victims of terror attacks on a daily basis”. It was nearly 3am so we headed to the hotel.

The unbelievable brutality of Tuesday morphed into the agony of Wednesday at some point. Small coffins were delivered to many cities of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 142 funerals were taking place. In Mansehra 6 year old Khaula was laid to rest. She had left to take admission in army public school. She had prepared for the competitive entry test and everyone was excited for her. I was told her mother was inconsolable. Back in Peshawar among dozens of other families, Dr Shabbir Awan buried his teenage nephew Abdullah.

He too had an agonizing tale. But despite his composure he was angry. ” if they don’t have the resources to protect us, we accept it. But they too shouldn’t be secured with tax payers money buying them long motorcades and bomb-proof cars.” Shabbir told us as he wanted to convey his message to the government, “If the govt can’t protect the children if they can’t make the army stand infront of the schools, there should be no army in front of the corps commander house, at the PM house, there should be no security for them. They should be like us”.

It was early afternoon and the military took journalists to Army public school. When you enter the school there is a certain smell of death. The blood stained floors and charred rooms are signs of the massacre which happened there. Classrooms are riddled with bullets.. Books and shoes scattered after the mayhem. There are so many pools of blood. Outside someone had collected body parts, a picture no one can be prepared for regardless of their years of experience and training. The children were taking the exam in one of the main halls and there was an event taking place in the auditorium. Some children saw their principal being set on fire after she was shot. Some saw the last breaths of their closest friends. It looked like an abattoir not a school.

In the political corridors, the tragedy jolted the government. The prime minister and the army chief, two of Pakistan’s most powerful men, were in Peshawar and the bitterly divided politicians had all huddled together. Sensing that mere words won’t work, everyone in charge seemed wanting to prove that they were hurting too. The PM lifted the moratorium on death penalty for terrorism convicts and formed a national counter terrorism task force to devise an action plan within a week. Opposition politician Imran Khan ended his prolonged sit-in and planned anti-government protests. And the army chief flew to Kabul with the intelligence chief to shore up support from across the border as they intend to hunt down the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban believed to be based in Afghanistan. But Mulla Fazlullah’s men of the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan seem unfazed of the building consensus against them. A TTP release glorified the attackers and they sent me pictures of dead children who they say have been killed by the Pakistani army in military operations against them in the tribal areas. For them, the slaughter of children who included some from military families, is a way to inflict pain on the enemy in revenge. “It’s been a tough news story to cover as a Journalist and as a parent” a colleague confessed to me as she took long drags of her cigarette. “I don’t think I have ever cried this much while gathering news. I cried when I spoke to the families and I cried when I spoke to my newsroom” she told me that she kept thinking of her girls who she didn’t meet as she rushed out when the news of the school attack broke. She had said goodbye to them in the morning in another city but they were also wearing a school uniform the last time she saw them.

I just spoke to a grandfather who used to wait in the lawn by the front gate reading the paper and drinking tea as his grand kids would come home and kiss him hello. They would then run to their mother who’d been waiting to hear about their day, laugh at their silliness, be angry at their mischief, yell at them for not washing their hands and tuck them in every night. He lost his teenage grandson and says it’s an irreparable loss. To him the attackers have taken away bits of Pakistan’s future.

A friend has spoken to his son in a military school in another city. The nine year old boy says he isn’t scared but he’s been thinking of the last moments of the kids who died. He asked his dad would they have seen their dreams flash in front of their eyes and pop like balloons? Would they have been thinking of their ambitions? What if they fought with their mom and dad that day? How would they apologize? I asked him will he pull him out of the school and he says no.

As I board the plane to leave a resilient city, I’m reading this poetry in the local paper

Wash my bag mama – author unknown

Please don’t be cross- my bag’s got stains of blood All my books are red They’re lost and have become pictures of the past What happened to me how I long to tell you I travelled from your lap To a sea of knowledge in my school Explosions replaced the ringing of the bell Bullets were raining down from all directions That short moment of agony became so long In the chaos I saw that man A savage beast carrying a gun The messenger of hate in the cloak of religion He declared war as he entered our room of unarmed boys Waved his gun and lined all of us up And painted the walls with our blood Be proud of me mama I took the bullet in the head Did not waver did not falter did not fear

Please don’t be cross

The forehead you used to kiss goodbye

Has a hole and is covered in blood

I remember your words when I left in the morning Don’t forget to finish you lunch son Little did you know it was my last breakfast My creator chose my time was up Now I’m with my friends and eat with them Please don’t worry for me Please don’t forget me Please don’t be cross – my bag’s got stains of blood

I just called Waqar Amin. His brother Mian Amir Ali who was shot in the waist has underwent more surgery and his brother  Mian Ishaq Amir who was shot in the head just moved his body today – he’s not in a comma anymore. Waqar asked me to pray for their recovery.

http://blogs.aljazeera.com/blog/asia/wash-my-blood-stained-bag-mama

Musharraf: a landmark indictment for Pakistan’s democracy and constitution

Posted in News, Pakistan Curent Affairs by osamabinjavaid on March 31, 2014

Pakistan’s once most powerful man – a dictator, former military chief and president – has been indicted of high treason under the constitution of Pakistan. A first indictment for a military dictator in a country which has been predominantly ruled by them. When Musharraf ended his exile many wondered why he would give up an easy life in Dubai and London – maybe it was fate.

The former commando was adamant – saying he came back to save his country.”I was thinking the government would call me back, and would say ‘Save Pakistan’ but that did not happen. Today my nation ordered me to come back. I came back, putting my life in danger, to save Pakistan.” said Musharraf after landing to a small crowd in Karachi.

He failed to see that it wasn’t the same Pakistan which he ruled ten years ago – the judges who forced him out, were now powerful. Many were amazed at the stunt because Musharraf was forced out of power by the judiciary he tried to rule. And court cases piled up against him. Political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi says Musharraf represents a huge baggage  for the military and it’s unlikely he’ll spend any time behind bars.

Musharraf faces criticism for shortcomings ranging from
Benazir Bhutto’s killing , killing a Baloch separatist leader Akbar Bugti, mishandling of Lal Masjid ,  allowing U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan, sending Pakistanis for torture abroad , selling detainees for dollars , depriving Pakistan of economic boom at the start of the millennium and systematically destroying Pakistan’s institutions and many many more.

He had taken refuge in his farmhouse (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fvrxd812huk) and avoided several court hearings to escape indictment. Bombs were found, a Taliban letter was produced and in the most dramatic of the moves he fell “sick” during a drive to the court. Now Musharraf’s ailing mother has been taken to hospital in Dubai – and his lawyers are preparing a case to get his name off the exit control list to allow him to leave Pakistan.

But controversy was nothing new for Musharraf. In 1999 Indian and Pakistani troops came close to war in the Kashmiri area north of Kargil. During that conflict General Musharraf was plotting how to rule Pakistan. And he took power in a bloodless coup and later named himself President.

Then, two years later, after the September 11 attacks, Musharraf decided to align Pakistan with the so-called U.S. war on terror. Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the Former Jamat i Islami chief  said the general buckled. “General Musharraf is under American pressure, this is not a war against terror this is a war against Islam”

Musharraf then supported the invasion of Afghanistan…though he later said the US had threatened to bomb Pakistan unless it joined the fight against al-Qaeda. Musharraf was in a fine balancing act. Managing a US-Pakistan relationship on one hand and trying not to completely sever ties with tribal fighters on the other.

Believed to have given approval for U.S. drones to operate from Pakistan, Musharraf also had to sign agreements with tribal fighters in the north. But his approach failed to stop the resurgence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda –whose attacks killed more than 50,000 Pakistanis in the last ten years. For the first time Pakistan had to deploy troops to the north to stop fighters from operating in Afghanistan. On the eastern border the relationship with India also saw some major lows.

And all his efforts to improve the economy were forgotten when Musharraf came under fire at home. The suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry in March 2007 triggered street demonstrations by lawyers and the civil society. And opposition parties also joined the protests. His political legitimacy was under attack – and the movement eventually led to Musharraf’s humiliating resignation.

And that’s where the spiral to the ground began. Musharraf returned to Pakistan despite these and many legal and political problems including from Taliban fighters – who tried to assassinate him three times during his time in office. He also found the hard way that he had very little support on the ground and all those who support him on social media aren’t voters in Pakistan.

Here are the formal charges he faces.

General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf may be formally charged as under:

a) Firstly, on 3rd November, 2007 at Rawalpindi as Chief of the Army Staff, he issued an unconstitutional and unlawful “Proclamation of Emergency Order, 2007” which, unconstitutionally and unlawfully, held the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 in abeyance and he thereby subverted the Constitution and thus committed the offence of high treason punishable under section 2 of the High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973 (Act LXVIII of 1973), which is within the jurisdiction of the Special Court established under section 4 of The Criminal Law Amendment (Special Courts) Act, 1976 (XVII of 1976).

b) Secondly, on 3rd November, 2007 at Rawalpindi as Chief of the Army Staff, he issued an unconstitutional and unlawful “Provisional Constitution Order No. 1 of 2007” which, unconstitutionally and unlawfully, empowered the President to amend the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 from time to time and he also suspended the Fundamental Rights enshrined in Articles 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 19 and 25 of the Constitution and he thereby subverted the Constitution and thus committed the offence of high treason punishable under section 2 of the High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973 (Act LXVIII of 1973), which is within the jurisdiction of the Special Court established under section 4 of The Criminal Law Amendment (Special Courts) Act, 1976 (XVII of 1976).

c) Thirdly, on 3rd November, 2007 at Rawalpindi as President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, he issued an unconstitutional and unlawful “Oath of Office (Judges) Order, 2007” whereby an oath was, unconstitutionally and unlawfully, introduced in the Schedule which required a judge to abide by the provisions of the Proclamation of Emergency dated 03.11.2007 and the Provisional Constitutional Order dated 03.11.2007 to perform acts and functions in accordance thereof and this order also resulted in removal of numerous judges of the superior courts including the Hon’ble Chief Justice of Pakistan and he thereby subverted the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and thus committed the offence of high treason punishable under section 2 of the High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973 (Act LXVIII of 1973), which is within the jurisdiction of the Special Court established under section 4 of The Criminal Law Amendment (Special Courts) Act, 1976 (XVII of 1976).

d) Fourthly, on 20th November, 2007 at Rawalpindi as President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, he issued an unconstitutional and unlawful Order 5 of 2007 “Constitution (Amendment) Order, 2007” whereby Articles 175, 186-A, 198, 218, 270B and 270C were, unconstitutionally and unlawfully, amended and Article 270AAA was added to the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and he thereby subverted the Constitution and thus committed the offence of high treason punishable under section 2 of the High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973 (Act LXVIII of 1973), which is within the jurisdiction of the Special Court established under section 4 of The Criminal Law Amendment (Special Courts) Act, 1976 (XVII of 1976).

e) Fifthly, on 14th December, 2007 at Rawalpindi as President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, he issued an unconstitutional and unlawful Order 6 of 2007 “Constitution (Second Amendment) Order, 2007” whereby the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 was, unconstitutionally and unlawfully, amended and he thereby subverted the Constitution and thus committed the offence of high treason punishable under section 2 of the High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973 (Act LXVIII of 1973), which is within the jurisdiction of the Special Court established under section 4 of The Criminal Law Amendment (Special Courts) Act, 1976 (XVII of 1976).

The special court set up to try Musharraf has rejected his plea to visit his sick mother and seek cardiac treatment abroad. The court says removing his name on the exit control list is the prerogative of the government.

Stephen Cohen is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a South Asia Analyst. He says if Pakistan’s judiciary becomes vengeful, it will lose all the ground it’s recovered since ousting a dictator from power.” I’d hate to see the Pakistani system turn into a revenge system. The courts, judiciary and even the military should let justice take its course. But not treat him abusively. He’s been humiliated, he’s been disgraced but you don’t want to begin a process of hanging people of charges many others are guilty of.” said Cohen.

And that’s his defence so far. His supporters insist that it was necessary at that time to remove a democratically elected prime minister and Musharraf did not act alone. Legal experts agree that the constitution is clear that whoever “aided and abetted” in the acts of treason must face justice. Some argue that Musharraf’s case should be the beginning and all those politicians, judges, bureaucrats and generals who helped Musharraf subvert the constitution must now face the music. But the trail must not become a farce and individuals must be given a fair chance to defend themselves.

His critics call Musharraf a victim of his own vanity and arrogance. And now he faces the possibility of the death penalty. Although most commentators do not believe that he will face the death penalty BUT this indictment has set a precedent for future adventurers in the garb of patriotism and doctrine of necessity.

For Musharraf perhaps it’s the legacy he wanted to have – that of insisting on defiance with not much defence in the face of obvious repercussions.

 

SHUT UP OR DIE

A dear friend, a bold journalist a brave man was killed in pursuit of the truth. Saleem Shahzad leaves behind three children and a widow. The mourners under their wails and tears still have no clue why was their father killed. Since his abduction from Pakistan’s fortified federal capital to the discovery of his bruised mortal remains, the message is to hammer home the chilling threat to all those who strive to inform.

Rest in peace, we will not be silenced.

UPDATE:

After a successful 24 hr sit in by journalists demanding justice, the ineffective government made matters worse. The journalists from all over Pakistan demanded a judicial inquiry by appointing a judge who refused to head the investigation because the GOP didnt bother to ask the chief justice before appointing one of his subordinates.

On June 17, the ISPR released the following statement after Asma Jehangir said data of calls and texts from Saleem Shahzad’s mobile was wiped out by the ISI.

“Spokesperson of ISPR voiced concern on unfounded and baseless insinuation’s being voiced in a section of print and electronic media against ISI in regard to murder of Journalist Saleem Shahzad. Such negative aspersions and accusations were also voiced against ISI in some previous cases but investigations proved those wrong.
The spokesperson strongly supported   formation of a Commission to investigate the murder of   Journalist Saleem Shahzad. The case must be investigated thoroughly and facts made known to the people, the spokesperson concluded.”

 

Here’s what happened earlier …

 

Missing people in Pakistan have become a sad reality. Wikileaks has revealed that DEMAND TO ACCOUNT FOR MISSING
DRAWS LIMITED GOVERNMENT COOPERATION

“….The Supreme Court’s activism on the issue is a brave and encouraging start, but there are a number of obstacles that will make solving the problem a serious challenge. Interior Ministry and Attorney General’s office must rely on information from Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agencies to comply with the Supreme Court’s order. So far, this pressure has generated a few releases — often abrupt affairs, in which detainees have reportedly been pushed out of cars, confused and disoriented, and left to find their way home. It remains to be seen whether the Court’s scrutiny will have a lasting effect on the way the intelligence agencies do business.…”

Here is a compilation of a very well articulated response by the Newspaper Society and the rest of the world on the sad demise of Saleem Shahzad, a courageous journalist. Will there be action, I doubt it, but still all we have are words as our weapons

STATEMENT OF PRESIDENT OF APNS

A leading newspaper publisher in Pakistan and the president of the nationwide newspapers body has reacted sharply to charges by the Inter Services`Intelligence Agency (ISI) that allegations by Human Rights Watch of the intelligence agency’s involvement in the murder of Pakistani journalist Salim Shahzad were “baseless” .

It has come to my notice that a spokesman of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) while speaking to the official national news agency in Islamabad yesterday has questioned the “baseless allegations” leveled by Human Rights Watch on the basis of an E mail from Salim Shahzad, the Bureau Chief of the Hong Kong based Asia Times Online, in their possession . Mr Shahzad was mudered three days ago near Islamabad after being abducted by unknown persons.

“I wish to state on record that the e mail in the possession of Mr Ali Dayan, the monitor for Human Rights Watch (HRW) stationed in ,Lahore Pakistan, is indeed one of the three identical E mails sent by Mr Shahzad to HRW , his employers (Asia Times Online) and to his former employer, myself . I also wish to verify that allegations levied by HRW at the Inter services Intelligence (ISI) are essentially in complete consonance with the contents of the slain journalists E mail ”

“In their denial issued Wednesday an anonymous spokesman from the ISI has questioned the “baseless allegation” leveled against ISI by Mr Dayan of HRW. I wish to state on the record for the information of the officers involved in investigating journalist Salim Shahzad’s gruesome murder, that the late journalist confided to me and several others that he had received death threats from various officers of the ISI on at least three occasions in the past five years. Whatever the substance of these allegations , they form an integral part of Mr Shahzad’s last testimony. Mr Shahzad’s purpose in transmitting this information to three concerned colleagues in the media ,was not to defame the ISI but to avert a possible fulfillment of what he clearly perceived to be a death threat. The last threat which I refer to was recorded by Mr Shahzad by e mail with me, tersely phrased as “for the record”, at precisely 4.11 am on October18,2010, wherein he recounted the details of his meetings at the ISI headquarters in Islamabad between the Director General- Media Wing (ISI) Rear- Admiral Adnan Nazir, with the Deputy Director General of the Media Wing, Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, also being present on the occasion.

The ostensible agenda for this meeting was the subject of Mr Shahzads’s story of Asia Times Online with respect to the Pakistan government freeing of senior Afghan Taliban commander, Mullah Baraadar. Mr Shahzad informed the senior officials that he story was leaked by a intelligence channel in Pakistan, and confirmed thereafter by the ” most credible Taliban s source” . The senior officials present suggested to Mr Shahzad that he officially deny the story, which he refused to do, terming the official’s demand as “impractical”

The senior intelligence official was “curious” to identify the source of Mr Shahzad’s story claiming it to be a “shame” that such a leak should occur from the offices of a high profile intelligence service. Mr Shahzad additionally stated that the Rear -Adimral offered him some information, ostensibly “as a favour ” in the following words : ” We have recently arrested a terrorist and have recovered a lot of data, diaries and other materials during the interrogation. The terrorist had a hit list with him . If I find your name on the list I will certainly let you know.”

Mr Shahzad subsequently confirmed to me in a conversation that he not only interpreted this conversation as a veiled threat to his person. He also informed me that he let an official from the ISI know soon thereafter that he intended share the content of this threat with his colleagues ..

As President of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and as head of Pakistan’s leading media group I consider the the security of journalists to be of paramount importance. At present the APNS has officially committed itself to the creation of a national body for the investigations of serious threats to the lives of journalists, a body which the Committee to Protect the Journalists in New York, and other leading organizations in the Pakistani press and human rights bodies have promised to lend vigorous support to. Pakistan has one of the high rates in the world for journalists killings and such an environment is inimical to the functioning of democracy . The government and the intelligence agencies should take the investigation into Mr Shahzad’s murder seriously and examine his last testimony closely.

Whether the Oct 18th incident itself or his last article in the Asia Times Online ,that alleged Al-Qaeda penetration of the security curtain for Pakistani Naval establishment in Karachi hastened his murder is for the official investigation to uncover. And nobody not even the ISI should be above the law”.

Hameed Haroon
PRESIDENT
ALL PAKISTAN NEWSPAPERS SOCIETY
KARACHI

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) fully backs a call by its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), for the Government of Pakistan to establish by June 10 a judicial commission to investigate the disappearance and murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad.

PFUJ president Pervaiz Shaukat said journalists from throughout Pakistan would assemble in Islamabad and stage a sit-in at the Parliament if the commission was not set up by this date.

The deadline was set at a meeting of senior union leaders and journalists in Islamabad on June 2, where the PFUJ also sought unity with the All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS).

APNS president Hameed Haroon issued a statement on June 2 in which he confirmed Shahzad had reported receiving threatening messages on at least three occasions, allegedly from members of the intelligence arm of the Pakistan military, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

“Whatever the substance of these allegations, they form an integral part of Mr Shahzad’s last testimony,” Haroon said in his statement. “Mr Shahzad’s purpose in transmitting this information to three concerned colleagues in the media was not to defame the ISI but to avert a possible fulfilment of what he clearly perceived to be a death threat.”

The head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Zohra Yusuf, was reported as saying that although there was no conclusive evidence, “circumstances seem to point to state security agencies because there have been other cases where journalists have been picked up”, according to Reuters.

The ISI denies involvement in the murder of Shahzad, 40, who disappeared in Islamabad on May 29. Shahzad’s tortured body was found on May 31 at Mandi Bahauddin, about 150km southeast of Islamabad in Punjab province.

On May 27, Shahzad published on Asia Times Online an investigative report into alleged links between Al-Qaeda and Pakistani naval officials. It was to be the first of a two-part series. However, an editor’s note on the website says Shahzad had not completed the second part of his report and it will therefore not be published.

“The IFJ commends the courage of journalists in Pakistan at this distressing and dangerous time,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said. “We and journalists around the world will not rest until all murderers of journalists in Pakistan are brought to justice.”

Black flags have been hoisted at union offices and press clubs throughout the country, and PFUJ members will conduct a protest outside the Parliament today.

Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, for whom Shahzad was the Pakistan bureau chief, is establishing a trust fund for his wife Anita and three teenage children.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

The United States strongly condemns the abduction and killing of reporter Syed Saleem Shehzad. His work reporting on terrorism and intelligence issues in Pakistan brought to light the troubles extremism poses to Pakistan’s stability. We support the Pakistani government’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.
We remain committed to helping the government and people of Pakistan as they work to bring peace and stability to the country.

Chairman Kerry Washington, DC

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) issued the following statement on the death of Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief:

“I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear about the recent abduction and murder of reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad. His reporting on critical national security and intelligence issues helped shed light on the difficult challenges confronting the region. His death is a blow to Pakistan’s fragile democracy and a chilling reminder of the dangers journalists continue to face in Pakistan. I hope that the Pakistani government’s investigation into his murder will be as a thorough as possible to hold those responsible accountable and deter another crime against members of the press.”

BRITISH Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

“I was shocked to hear of the abduction and killing of Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shazad. He courageously reported on the terrorism and extremism which has caused so much suffering to the people of Pakistan. His death highlights the dangers faced by those working for a stable Pakistan and our thoughts are with his family at this time of grief.

“I welcome the announcement of an investigation. It is vital that this is thorough and transparent and that those responsible are brought to justice.”

Joint Action: Pakistan – Thirty-five organizations call for murder investigations in Pakistan

Thirty-five organizations call for murder investigations in Pakistan

The International Federation of Journalists and 33 other members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), including co-author the Committee to Protect Journalists, endorsed the following letter at IFEX’s General Meeting held in Beirut, Lebanon on May 30 and 31. The letter was also supported by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

Mr Asif Ali Zardari
President, Islamic Republic of Pakistan,

Mr Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani
Prime Minister, Islamic Republic of Pakistan

CC:

Mr Rehman Malik
Minister for Interior

Dr Firdaus Ashiq Awan
Minister for Information and Broadcasting

General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
Chief of Army Staff

1 June 2011

Dear Mr President, Honourable Ministers and General Kayani,

RE: Journalists and Press Freedom Groups Call for Murder Investigations

We the undersigned members and partners of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) are writing with respect to express our deep concerns for the safety and welfare of journalists and media workers in Pakistan.

Representing the international community of journalists’ organisations and press freedom defenders gathered in Lebanon for IFEX’s bi-annual conference, we urge the Government of Pakistan and its law-enforcement and security agencies to take immediate and firm action to implement all appropriate measures to protect media personnel and to prosecute murderers of journalists in Pakistan.

In 2011, the tragic toll of dead and injured journalists and media workers placed Pakistan ahead of Iraq and Mexico as the world’s most dangerous country for journalists and media workers.

The killings have continued into 2011, with at least three journalists murdered in targeted attacks, including the killing of Nasrullah Afridi in Peshawar on May 10 and Syed Saleem Shahzad, whose body was found just yesterday.

We are deeply disturbed by Shahzad’s brutal murder, following his abduction in Islamabad on May 29. We note reports by Human Rights Watch that the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) may have been involved in his disappearance. We also note the potential connection between Shahzad’s murder and an article he published on May 27 about alleged links between Al-Qaeda and Pakistan Navy officials. We appeal to the Government of Pakistan and its security agencies to move with utmost urgency to identify Shahzad’s killers and bring to them to justice.

We fully appreciate the great difficulties confronting all people in Pakistan at this time. However, we also know that Pakistan has the resources and expertise to conduct credible investigations into murders of journalists and to bring culprits to justice.

Yet this is not happening and a culture of impunity prevails. Of all the murders of journalists in Pakistan over many years, the identification and prosecution of culprits has occurred only once in recent memory – in the internationally high-profile case of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Pakistan’s law-enforcement authorities and security agencies at the provincial and federal levels have consistently failed to show the will to conduct full and proper investigations into all other murders of journalists in Pakistan.

Just a few examples where reports of investigations into murders are long overdue include the following:

• Hayatullah Khan, murdered, June 2006 in North Waziristan, after being abducted in December 2005.
• Allah Noor, murdered, Wana, February, 2005.
• Chishti Mujahid, murdered, February 2008, Quetta.
• Abdul Razzak Johra, murdered, Mianwali district, Punjab, November, 2008.
• Musa Khan Khel, murdered, Swat, February 2009.

The highly publicised investigation carried out by Peshawar High Court Judge Mohammed Reza Khan shortly after the killing of Hayatullah Khan has never been made public, despite repeated calls from the PFUJ and international media support groups.

In April 2009, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and its district affiliates urged your Government to set up a judicial commission to investigate the murder of Khan Khel. This followed an independent investigation by the Khyber Union of Journalists and the PFUJ after local authorities failed to initiate their own inquiry. We await results in this case.

In early 2010, the then Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Sumsam Ali Bukhari, acknowledged that Pakistan’s authorities and Interior Ministry had a responsibility to identify and arrest suspects. He gave an assurance to PFUJ members that the Sindh Government had been instructed to conduct a thorough investigation into the killing of Ashiq Ali Mangi in Khairpur, Sindh province, in February 2010. We await results in this case.

With respect, we remind you that your Government has a responsibility to protect and defend the rights of journalists and the media, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738.

As a signatory to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and to the 1997 Additional Protocol on the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), the Government of Pakistan and its security forces are obliged to ensure the protection of journalists as civilians.

Article 13 of Protocol II states: “The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.”

The 2006 Security Council Resolution, which stresses the civilian status of journalists reporting in war zones and crisis areas within national borders, stipulates: “… that all parties to an armed conflict comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under international law related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel.”

Under the laws of Pakistan, the federal and provincial governments have a duty to require that law enforcement and security authorities utilise appropriate and transparent policing and judicial means to fully investigate all murders and disappearances of journalists.

We fully support the PFUJ in its recent request to Minister Malik to initiate and oversee a comprehensive inquiry and report into the killings of journalists in all of Pakistan’s provinces. We look forward to full public disclosure of all evidence and official records.

We further call on you to work with the PFUJ and Pakistani and international media support groups to establish an independent taskforce to act promptly on the findings of the Malik inquiry, including through the pursuit of full and proper investigations and prosecutions of cases.

Again, we respectfully request that you use your authority to reverse the culture of impunity and act on the grave concerns held by the international community of journalists and press freedom defenders for the welfare of our colleagues in Pakistan.

In the absence of investigations and the prosecution of offenders, the State is failing to provide the necessary deterrent to those who would use violence to silence and intimidate journalists and restrict the right of all people in Pakistan to information.

Yours Respectfully,

The Undersigned

1. Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (Alliance of Independent Journalists)
2. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
3. ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
4. Association of Caribbean Media Workers
5. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
6. Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
7. Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
8. Centre for Independent Journalism
9. Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala
10. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
11. Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
12. Freedom Forum
13. Freedom House
14. Free Media Movement
15. Globe International
16. Hong Kong Journalists Association
17. Independent Journalism Center
18. Index on Censorship
19. International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
20. IPS Communication Foundation
21. Maharat Foundation (Skills Foundation)
22. Media Foundation for West Africa
23. Media Institute of Southern Africa
24. Media Rights Agenda
25. Media Watch
26. Mizzima News
27. National Union of Somali Journalists
28. Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d’édition et de création
29. Pacific Islands News Association
30. Pakistan Press Foundation
31. Public Association “Journalists”
32. Southeast Asian Press Alliance
33. South East European Network for the Professionalization of the Media
34. Thai Journalists Association
NON-IFEX MEMBER SIGNATORY:
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ)