CPJ urges Pakistani authorities to probe journalist’s disappearance

New York, November 20, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Pakistani authorities to immediately investigate the apparent disappearance of BBC Urdu-language reporter Dilawar Khan Wazir, who has not been heard from since leaving the capital, Islamabad, for his hometown of Dera Ismail Khan this morning, according to the BBC.

Khan, who reports from the violent and lawless region of South Waziristan in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, has received many threats in the past. His teenage brother, Taimor, was found murdered on August 30, a day after being abducted on his way home from school in the town of Wana.

The BBC reported on its Web site that Khan had met another brother, Zulfiqar Ali, at Islamic University in Islamabad on Sunday. He was due to travel home on Monday but never arrived. Unidentified men later arrived at the university hostel to tell Ali that his brother had been injured, family members told the BBC. Ali would not accompany them, according to the report.

When Ali called his brother’s mobile phone, the BBC said, a man who gave his name as Dr. Jamshed said Khan was hospitalized at the Pakistani Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad. The BBC said one of its reporters went to the institute but could find no evidence of either Khan or the purported physician. Ali told The Associated Press that he feared Pakistani intelligence agents may have detained his brother.

“A number of journalists have disappeared in Pakistan for days or months at a time. The government must act swiftly to find Dilawar Khan or, if he is being held by government agents, to disclose his whereabouts and the basis for his detention,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director.

At least three journalists have been detained under questionable circumstances, according to CPJ research. A team from privately owned satellite broadcaster Geo TV—including correspondent Mukesh Rupeta and freelance cameraman Sanjay Kumar—were taken by authorities on March 6, when they were reportedly taking pictures of an air base near Jacobabad near the Sindh-Baluchistan border. The two were held for more than three months without charge before being released on bail; they were finally charged with violations of the Official Secrets Act.

Also detained was Mehruddin Mari, a correspondent for the Sindhi-language newspaper The Daily Kawish. On July 2, Mari was taken by police on the road between the town of Jati, southeast of Karachi, and the town of Golarchi, where Mari is the Daily Kawish correspondent. Police refused to comment on the case during and after his detention. Mari was finally released on October 24. He told the BBC Urdu service that he was interrogated, beaten, and subjected to electric shocks and other forms of torture in an attempt to make him confess to ties with the Baluch nationalist movement.