Reporters Without Borders condemns the murders of all six of the witnesses who had agreed to testify against the five defendants being tried for Geo News TV reporter Wali Khan Babar’s murder in Karachi in January 2011.
The last surviving witness, Haider Ali, was shot dead in his home on 11 November. These cold-blooded murders could make it impossible for the authorities to successfully conclude the trial and could dash any hope of justice in this case.
“Babar’s tragic murder could now go unpunished,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The Sindh provincial government is directly responsible for protecting witnesses and last year the Sindh high court said security personnel should be assigned to protect the witnesses and the lawyers handling the case.
“But for nearly two years, the provincial government did nothing to protect the six witnesses who had agreed to describe what they saw on the day of the murder, and we therefore call for Sindh chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah’s immediate resignation.
“We also call for a renewed effort to shed light on Babar’s death and render justice in this case. The fact that the witnesses were eliminated while the main suspects were in preventive detention suggests that those behind Babar’s murder are still at large. Everything must be done to ensure that this street ‘justice’ by force of arms is brought to an end.”
A total of 23 people witnessed Babar’s murder but only six – the six who were eliminated one by one in the course of the past 22 months ¬– agreed to testify to Karachi’s Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC). The others refused, mainly for security reasons.
The last surviving witness was Haider Ali, also known as Saleem, who had already identified four of the five suspects before a magistrate. On 11 November, two days before he was due to testify to the ATC, two men went to his home. His wife opened the door and they immediately shot him twice in the head.
A Karachi-based TV reporter, Babar, 29, was gunned down on the evening of 13 January, a few hours after covering a police investigation in Pehlawan Goth, a district with a high level of violence in the eastern part of the city.
Pakistan was the world’s deadliest country for the media for the second year running in 2011, with a total of 10 journalists killed. Eight journalists have been killed since the start of 2012.
In the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Pakistan was ranked 151st out of 179 countries.
Credits: ASIF HASSAN / AFP