Pakistan must pursue killers of Zaman Mehsud and bring them to justice

New York, November 3, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Pakistan to investigate the killing of local journalist Zaman Mehsud who, according to reports, was shot dead in the Tank district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province today.

Unidentified gunmen opened fire on Mehsud while he was on his motorbike, police told local media. The 40-year-old journalist was the president and secretary-general of the Tribal Union of Journalists’ South Waziristan chapter and worked for the Urdu-language Daily Ummat. He was also the district coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Tank, an independent group critical of all sides in the ongoing conflict in Pakistan.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, with its commander Qari Saif Ullah Saif telling Reuters: “We killed him because he was writing against us … we have some other journalists on our hit list in the region, soon we will target them.” It is difficult to verify such claims independently.

“Whether it was related to his work as a journalist or for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan or some other reason, the murder of such a widely respected figure as Zaman Mehsud deserves the full attention of investigative authorities,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Pakistan can ill afford to add to its history of impunity for murderers, no matter who claims responsibility.”

As a journalist, Mehsud reported mainly from South Waziristan in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, along the border with Afghanistan. Home to many militant groups, the region is notoriously lawless despite government efforts to bring it under control. The Tank district borders South Waziristan and violence, including targeted killings, is commonplace, according to reports.

Pakistan ranks ninth on CPJ’s global Impunity Index, which analyzes countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go free. CPJ data shows that 22 journalists have been murdered with impunity in the past decade. Impunity remains the norm not only in these murders but also in a slew of non-fatal attacks, such as the shooting that gravely injured news anchor Hamid Mir in 2014. Threats to journalists come from military and intelligence agencies, political parties, criminal groups and militants, and corrupt local leaders, CPJ has found.