Slain journalists’ families in Pakistan mourn for lifetime

It’s a coincidence, but May 29, the date of Saleem Shahzad’s kidnapping in Pakistan, coincides with the killing of journalist Munir Sangi six years ago. Against all odds, Sangi’s widow, Yasmeen Sangi, is still fighting for justice in the case of her late husband, while Shahzad’s widow, Anita Saleem–who is now responsible for the couple’s three children–has decided not to appear publicly yet. Either way, fighting outright or suffering in silence, slain journalists’ families pay a price that lasts a lifetime

Sangi worked for a leading regional Sindhi-language television channel, KTN. He was killed while covering a tribal feud in Larkana, home town of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Sangi’s alleged killer were identified and arrested but, because of political connections, soon released.

It’s too early to say how far Anita, her three children, her mother-in-law, and the rest of the extended family intend to fight for justice in Shahzad’s case, but with Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency (the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate) as the prime suspect in his death, you can be sure their battle will be far tougher than even that of Sangi’s widow.

The widows are the ones who suffer most whether they contest the murder of their late husbands or not. Merunisa Khan, the widow oflate journalist Hayatullah Khan, who was kidnapped in December 2005 and killed in 2006, showed courage and identified the killers to Peshawar High Court Judge Mohammed Reza Khan, who investigated the death. Hayatullah Khan’s younger brother was also killed in 2006, while his wife was killed in a bomb attack in 2007. The couple’s four children have been dispersed among family members.

But those who survive the loss of their husbands still suffer too. “He went too early. My six children missed him almost every day,” said Gulshan Ara, the widow of slain cameraman Arif Hussain, who worked for the television channel ARY, where I am now news director. The children too say they still miss their father. Arif was killed during a twin suicide blast on October 18, 2007, while covering the procession of former premier Benazir Bhutto in Karachi, in which 150 people were killed. Bhutto was to die two months later in another suicide blast in Rawalpindi.