Journalist found dead in Baluchistan

New York, November 22, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating the circumstances surrounding the murder of Pakistani journalist Lala Hameed Baloch. His body was found with gunshot wounds on Thursday outside of Turbat, in western Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

Hameed disappeared on October 25 while on his way from Turbat to his home in Gwader, according to the Gwader Press Club. Local journalists believe he was seized by Pakistani security officials, according to Mazhar Abbas, the former secretary-general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

Hameed’s body was reportedly found along with that of another man, Hamid Ismail. Four other bodies were found across Baluchistan during the three-day Eid festival that ended Friday, the Lahore-based Daily Times newspaper reported. Their relatives alleged that government officials targeted them for their political activism.

Hameed reported for the Urdu-language Daily Intikhab, and worked as a stringer for several other news outlets, Abbas said. He was also active in the Baluch National Movement, a political organization that advocates for an autonomous Baluchistan, according to Baluch nationalist websites and local news reports.

It is unclear whether Hameed was targeted for his work as a journalist.

“We call on the Pakistani authorities to pursue all leads in the murder of Lala Hameed Baloch and consider his journalism as a potential motive for his killing,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Journalists in Baluchistan remain at risk from both sides in an ongoing struggle between Pakistani security forces and separatists.”

Two other journalists were killed in separate incidents in the provincial capital of Quetta earlier this year.