Pearl (Reuters)
Pearl (Reuters)

Flawed, but important: The Danny Pearl case revisited

It’s good to see that not everyone has forgotten about the Danny Pearl case. The Pearl Project, a three-year investigation carried out by a team of American journalists and students at Georgetown University says that the Pakistani government’s conviction of the four men it claimed beheaded Pearl sometime in February 2002, were convicted on conflicting and perjured testimony.

In May 2006, Abi Wright, CPJ’s then-Asia program coordinator, wrote in “Daniel Pearl: An Open Case“:

In June 2003, [President Prevez] Musharraf told reporters that the Pearl case was “history.” Pearl’s parents responded in a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal on July 8, 2003. They said their son’s case would remain an open wound until two conditions were met: “All those involved in the planning and execution of the murder are brought to justice and justice is served, and a monument to Daniel Pearl is erected in Karachi, reaffirming the ideals for which he stood: truth, humanity and dialogue.”

Those steps remain to be taken, Wright said in her closing paragraph.

Despite its flaws, CPJ often uses the Pearl trial as an example of what the Pakistani government can do if it decides to investigate a journalist’s murder. Pearl’s case was the only killing of a journalist in Pakistan that has been brought to trial and had convictions handed down by a court. According to CPJ data since Pearl was killed, 29 others have died–some in crossfire or terrorist bombings, but many in targeted killings. The most recent was Geo TV reporter Wali Khan Babar, shot and killed in Karachi on the evening of January 13, shortly after covering gang violence in the city. Two men approached his car and shot him pointblank. 

Babar’s death was part of the steady undercurrent of violence in Karachi, near where Pearl had been killed nine years earlier. Despite a police pledge to bring the killers to justice, and a sweep of arrests in the enduing days, no one has been charged with Babar’s murder. And if past history is any guideline, no one will be.