The police investigation has made absolutely no progress and no suspect had been identified in the week since Malik Amanullah Khan, a reporter for the online daily Meezan-e-Adl and president of the press club in the town of Parowa, in Dera Ismail Khan district, was shot four times on 30 April by two gunmen on a motorcycle.
In the initial police report, of which RSF has obtained a copy, the journalist’s family said they were not aware of any personal hostilities or conflict that could account for Khan’s execution-style murder.
When reached by RSF, Meezan-e-Adl editor Muhammad Sohail Gangohi described Khan as an “extremely brave” reporter who was never afraid to expose social or political problems in the region he covered.
“His last report [on 20 April] was about the law and order situation in Parowa, where political leaders have allegedly been influencing police investigations into criminal gangs,” Gangohi said. A fellow Parowa-based journalist confirmed that Khan was a “pugnacious reporter.”
“Malik Khan’s profile and the nature of his published stories constitute clear grounds for thinking that he was targeted because of his investigative reporting,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“Impunity for crimes of violence against journalists is an alarmingly persistent problem in Pakistan. We call on the government in Islamabad to order an independent investigation. Above all, it is time that Pakistan’s legislators finalized a law guaranteeing the protection of journalists, for whom working in the field is especially dangerous.”
Located between the border with Punjab province to the east, the former “Tribal Areas” where the Taliban operate to the northwest, and the unstable province of Balochistan to the south, the district of Dera Ismail Khan where Khan worked embodies the many dangers to which Pakistani journalists are exposed.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a journalist who recently fled Parowa told RSF: “I moved out of the area because I didn’t feel safe. It is backward, there is little respect for press freedom and you can easily be targeted and killed.”
Four days after Khan’s murder, another journalist, Ali Sher Rajpar, was fatally shot five times at close range outside the gate of the press club he presided in the town of Padidan, in the southeastern province of Punjab.
After falling three places, Pakistan is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index that RSF published last month, voicing concern about the “cycle of fear” that has taken hold in many countries.