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CAO journalist Ghani Kakar attacked, wounded in Quetta
7 Pakistani journalists slain this year
By Qasim Yousafzai
QUETTA – Abdul Ghani Kakar, a Quetta-based senior journalist for Central Asia Online and the Quetta/Islamabad-based Daily Awam, was attacked and severely injured by unknown assailants July 12.
Kakar was heading to the Quetta Press Club when some 15 armed men ambushed him on Jinnah Road, wounding him in the head, chest and other parts of the body.
Security personnel in the area for Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s visit to Quetta broke up the attack and saved Kakar. Police moved him to a hospital for emergency medical aid.
Kakar told Central Asia Online as he recuperated July 13 that he had received several threats in recent months, such as “Get out of our way,” “Do not get in our way” and similar messages.
Kakar has reported on militancy issues in the region. In a recent CAO article, he reported on terrorist attacks on Balochistan's infrastructure.
Minutes before the attack, he received a text message that said, “We are coming to attack you,” Kakar recalled. He said he ignored the message, considering it another baseless threat.
But this time the attackers followed through on their threats.
“They first opened fire and then attacked with knives,” Kakar said. “Security personnel, deployed there for prime minister route duty resisted them and they (the attackers) managed to flee the scene due to heavy traffic,” Kakar said.
“An FIR (First Investigation Report) has been lodged against the assailants, and further investigations are under way,” police in Quetta said, adding they had made no arrests yet.
“We are appalled by this attack and we hope that he gets well soon,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, Asia-Pacific Desk Officer for Reporters Without Borders Paris, in an email about the incident.
The police should investigate the text messages and take steps to protect Kakar, Ismaïl said.
“Since it is not at all an isolated case, we hope that Pakistani authorities will respond nationally and without further delay to the media community’s request for the restoration of security conditions that allow its members to work normally,” Ismaïl added.
Journalists in Pakistan have contended with danger for years. After the bombing of Khyber Market in Peshawar in June, several editors had to ask their journalists to work from home and not come to their offices, which were closed either for several weeks or indefinitely.
Pakistan, which ranks 151st among 178 countries according to the 2010 Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index, is the deadliest country for journalists in 2011, Ismaïl said.
Journalist Iqbal Khattak agreed with that assessment. In 2010, 11 reporters were killed in Pakistan, prompting several global press freedom organisations to call Pakistan “the most dangerous country for journalists in the world,” Khattak told Central Asia Online. “Seven have been killed this year.”
"The situation for working journalists is deteriorating by each passing day,” Khattak said. “It is becoming almost impossible to work as independent and investigative journalist in Pakistan.”
Pakistan's tribal areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and parts of Sindh – including Karachi – are hot spots where working reporters face great pressure from militants, organised crime and political forces, he said.
“It is certainly an alarming situation in Pakistan, keeping in view the growing number of the incidents with journalists in various parts of the country,” Tribal Union of Journalists President Ihsan Dawar said in an email. He asked the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and other journalists’ organisations to take the matter seriously.