Death threats sent to Pakistani journalist Kamran Shafi and his family

New York, August 27, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to immediately investigate threats made against Pakistani journalist Kamran Shafi and his family, and to ensure their security.

“We hold Pakistani authorities responsible for the security of Kamran Shafi and his family,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Pakistan’s violent history shows that threats against journalists are to be taken with utmost seriousness.”

Shafi, a freelance columnist and retired army officer who has written for various outlets including the privately owned newspapers Dawn, and The Express Tribune, among other publications, received two threats via email this week. The content of the emails, which Shafi shared with CPJ, are posted below with his permission:

On Saturday, August 23, 2014, 10:22 a.m. Khaki Power <[email protected]> wrote:

You are dead shafi. You will be shot and dragged on the streets. Have your cyber wing and other “friends” look into this… trace it.. track it.. do whatever tickles your fancy. You are already marked to be hit. Shamelss [sic] traitor. Keep barking and Tubby and his might take a few stray rounds. Collateral damage. Oh how the mighty fall!

On Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 10:39 a.m. Khaki Power <[email protected]> wrote:

Take cover Mickey, your end is near. Everything you say, you do, you speak, you eat, you shit, and specially when you sleep: can be seen.

You think you will make it to Heathrow or Dulles or Pearson quietly when your boogeymen move? No, traitor. You will be amongst the first to be thrown in a dark cell and have your balls hooked to rusty live-wires.

The irony is that you will not spend your last days as a spent cartridge traitor “journalist” – they will be spent shamed by your sordid past being leaked and blasted. That will be the end of a less then glorious life.

Nighty night Mick.

Shafi told CPJ that whoever sent the threats is familiar with him and his family. The reference “Tubby” is a family nickname for Shafi’s son, Anwar. “Micky” is an old army nickname for Shafi which is still used by his family.

In a column published in the privately owned daily The Nation on August 16, Shafi was critical of politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who have been leading campaigns for the removal of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from power. He has also been critical of Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler, in columns for papers including The Tribune, and in tweets; and of the military.

“I take these threats seriously: if you are for Musharraf’s trial or for Nawaz Sharif’s constitutional right to be [prime minister] for another four years you are considered anti-Khaki [anti-military] by some hardliners,” Shafi told CPJ.

In April, CPJ documented a similar threat against journalists working at the English-language daily, The News, including 2011 International Press Freedom Award winner Umar Cheema. In both cases, the threats were made under the name Khaki Power, though from slightly different email addresses.

It is not the first time Shafi has been targeted. In 2009 a gunman fired multiple shots on Shafi’s residence while he and his family were inside. After the attack, Shafi received death threats by phone, warnings he said he believed came from elements in Pakistan’s security establishment, The New York Times said. An ISI spokesman denied the organization was involved, the Times said. The gunman was never identified.

In 2004, Shafi quit his post at The News to protest what he said was censorship of critical stories on domestic issues and the Musharraf administration, according to CPJ research.

Journalists in Pakistan face threats from an array of sources including militants, criminals, and warlords, as well as political, military, and intelligence operatives. In March, unidentified gunmen fired on the car of Raza Rumi, a senior Pakistani journalist, as he was leaving the studio in Lahore after his TV show “Khabar Se Agay” on Express News. Rumi was not injured but his personal driver, identified only as Mustafa, was killed. In April, gunmen shot and seriously injured Hamid Mir, a senior anchor for the privately owned Geo News, in Karachi.