Documentary filmmaker missing in Pakistan

New York, April 8, 2010—Reports that freelance documentary filmmaker Asad Qureshi has gone missing on a reporting trip in a tribal area of Pakistan are deeply concerning, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Qureshi, a British citizen, went missing on March 26 on his way to North Waziristan in the tribal region that borders Afghanistan, where he planned to interview Taliban leaders, according to local and international news reports. Two former officials from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency who were accompanying him as guides are also missing, the reports said. The UK’s Guardian newspaper said a second British citizen may have been among the missing team working on the film.

No group has come forward to say it is holding the journalist. The British Foreign Office said it is investigating reports that a British national is missing in Pakistan, according to the Guardian.

“We are concerned for the welfare of Asad Qureshi and his colleagues, who were filming a documentary when they went missing,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We urge the authorities to do their utmost to find them.”

Qureshi, who is of Pakistani descent, has worked as a freelance journalist in Pakistan for several years, according to news reports. He was traveling with Sultan Amir Tarar (known as Colonel Imam) and Khalid Khawaja, who are retired intelligence officials with links to militants in the region, the reports said. Khalid Khawaja’s son told the Press Trust of India news agency that his father had assisted journalists in the past in meeting with Taliban leaders.

Despite interventions by Pakistani military forces, North Waziristan remains a haven for extremists. International journalists reporting in unstable regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where militant groups operate, are extremely vulnerable to abduction, according to CPJ research. David Rohde, a New York Times reporter on leave to research a book, and his local colleague, Tahir Ludin, were held in North Waziristan for several months after being kidnapped in Afghanistan’s Logar province, before escaping their captors in June 2009.

Pakistani journalist Hayatullah Khan was found dead in June 2006 after he was abducted the previous year. He had been threatened by local intelligence officials for reporting on a U.S. military strike in North Waziristan which Pakistani authorities denied, according to CPJ research.