May 9, 2000
His Excellency Gen. Pervez Musharraf
Chief Executive, Islamic Republic of Pakistan
General Headquarters, Pakistani Army
Via fax: 92-51-922-4206/921-2434/927-0956
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the May 2 murder of Sufi Mohammad Khan, an investigative reporter with the Daily Ummat Karachi. While we are relieved that the gunman and two accomplices are now in police custody, we believe, based on interviews with local sources, that others involved in this crime may still be at large. We call on you to ensure that a complete and impartial investigation is carried out.
Khan, 38, was a correspondent for the Karachi-based, Urdu-language Daily Ummat Karachi. Over the years, he had distinguished himself through his aggressive reporting on drug trafficking and organized prostitution in the district of Tharparkar, southern Sindh province, near India.
In mid-April, according to Khan’s editor and other sources in Pakistan, Khan published an article alleging that Ayaz Khatak, a resident of the Tharparkar town of Shadi Large, was involved in drug trafficking. On April 30, according to Khan’s editor, Khatak visited Khan’s house and warned him to stop reporting on his activities. Refusing to be intimidated, Khan filed a story about Khatak’s alleged involvement with a local prostitute. The article ran in Daily Ummat Karachi on May 2.
Sometime before noon on May 2, Khan left his home on a motorcycle. Khatak was waiting for him just down the road, standing in front of a white car with several accomplices. “I told you I would kill you,” Khatak apparently told Khan, before opening fire with a handgun. As Khan lay dying from multiple gunshot wounds, Khatak and his accomplices fled in the white car.
Half an hour after the killing, Khatak surrendered to the police and confessed to the killing, describing his actions in detail. His account was widely covered in the local press. Two other suspects are also in police custody, including Malco Mochi. According to one of Khan’s earlier stories and other local reports, Mochi is employed by the powerful Arbab family, which allegedly runs an organized prostitution ring out of Shadi Large, smuggling women from Punjab province and selling them across the border into India.
After Khan published his first reports on the Arbab family’s alleged involvement in organized prostitution, family members tried unsuccessfully to purchase his silence. Khan refused to accept bribes and continued to write critical stories about the Arbab clan, whereupon family members filed a defamation case against him and his newspaper. Khan was also threatened several times and physically assaulted twice in the past six months, according to his editor.
As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, we are dismayed that a Pakistani journalist has been murdered simply for carrying out his professional duty. The murder sends a chilling message to all Pakistani journalists, thus damaging press freedom in your country. We urge you to use your good offices to ensure that Khan’s killers are brought to justice. Such an effort would send an emphatic message that Your Excellency’s government stands for the rule of law and will not tolerate violence against journalists in Pakistan.
We await your response.
Ann K. Cooper