Freelance Journalist Missing, Feared Kidnapped from Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province

By Nayana Jayarajan for International Press Institute

A freelance journalist and filmmaker has gone missing under suspicious circumstances from the tribal areas around the city of Kohat in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan according to a senior editor for a broadcaster with whom the reporter was working, and a source at Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper.

The senior broadcast editor asked that neither he nor the broadcaster be identified out of concern for the safety of the reporter.

The Dawn newspaper source also requested anonymity for security reasons. He identified the journalist as freelance reporter and filmmaker Asad Qureshi.

According to Dawn, which first reported the story, Qureshi was traveling with two retired officers from Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The Dawn source told IPI that Qureshi and the two former ISI operatives had been returning from a meeting with Taliban representatives when they were all intercepted and kidnapped by unknown individuals. The two officers have been identified by local media as Col (R) Imam and Sq Leader (R) Khalid Khawaja.

So far, the source told IPI, no group has claimed responsibility. “Everything is shrouded in mystery,” he said.

The senior broadcast editor said: “I think we can say that something has happened.” He said that the journalist and the two retired ISI operatives had been believed to merely have been delayed until yesterday morning, when it was suddenly reported that they had gone missing and had been kidnapped.

When IPI called a mobile phone number for Qureshi listed on his website, it was switched off.

A reporter working in the NWFP told IPI that the son of one of the missing ISI operatives had spoken to his father before the kidnapping, and had been told that the trio would return in about two hours time. They have not been heard from since. The source was not able to confirm the exact time of the kidnapping, but estimated it to have taken place two to three days ago.

“We are gravely concerned for Qureshi’s well-being and safety”, said IPI Director David Dadge. “We call on the authorities to investigate his disappearance and to do everything possible to ensure his safe release.”

The North West Frontier Province has witnessed a long-running battle for control between the Pakistani military and tribal and Islamist political factions.

On Monday 5 April, forty people were killed and over a 100 injured in a suicide bomb attack at Timergarah of the Lower Dir district in the northwest province. The bomb was planted at a party meeting of the ANP, the Awami National Party, which is in a ruling coalition in the NWFP, along with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s ruling Pakistan People’s Party.

The rising levels of violence have made the region one of the world’s most dangerous for journalists.

According to IPI’s Death Watch, in the last two years alone 14 journalists have been killed in Pakistan. Seven of the deaths occurred in the Northwest Frontier Province. In August 2009, Aaj TV correspondent Sadiq Bacha Khan was gunned down in broad daylight on his way to work in Mardan, a town in the province. On 4 January 2009, Muhammad Imran, 20, a trainee cameraman with Express TV, and Saleem Tahir Awan, 45, a freelance reporter with the local dailies Eitedal and Apna Akhbar, were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of The Government Polytechnic College in Dera Ismail Khan in the North West Frontier Province. And on 18 February 2009, Musa Khankhel, a reporter for Geo TV and the English-language newspaper The News, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen while on assignment covering a peace march led by Muslim cleric Sufi Muhammad in the Swat valley.

-Read more about Asad Qureshi in his own words from his website prior to his disappearance at http://www.asadqureshi.com

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  1. This is nothing unusall that has happened but it is really somthing which should be prevented at any cost.

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