Five men abducted Pakistani journalist Gohar Wazir on April 19, 2023. He was released around 30 hours later. (Photo credit withheld)

Pakistani journalist Gohar Wazir abducted, allegedly electrocuted

New York, May 2, 2023—Pakistan authorities must conduct an immediate and impartial investigation into the abduction and alleged electrocution of journalist Gohar Wazir and hold the perpetrators to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

At around 4 p.m. on April 19, five unidentified men abducted Wazir, a reporter for the privately owned Pashto-language broadcaster Khyber News and head of the National Press Club Bannu journalists association, from a market in the city of Bannu, in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to news reports, a statement by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a nongovernmental organization, and a person familiar with the case, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal.  

Two men forced Wazir into a vehicle where others were present, drove him 40 minutes to an unidentified location, and then handcuffed and locked him in a dark bathroom, that person said. The journalist’s captors gave him electric shocks while he remained handcuffed until he agreed to record a video praising pro-government militants, according to the person who spoke to CPJ and an article by Dawn quoting Wazir.

After about 30 hours in captivity, the men blindfolded Wazir and released him in Bannu district on the evening of April 20. He sustained painful injuries to his hands and feet where he was electrocuted, that person told CPJ.

“We are deeply disturbed by the brazen abduction of Pakistani journalist Gohar Wazir in apparent retaliation for his reporting on human rights issues and militancy in tribal areas,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Pakistan authorities must swiftly and impartially investigate Wazir’s abduction and allegations that he was electrocuted in captivity and take serious steps to end a dangerous pattern of impunity related to violence against journalists.”

Wazir filed a complaint at the Bannu City Police Station and received treatment at a local hospital, where he was tested for heart palpitations and prescribed painkillers and sleep medication, the person familiar with his case told CPJ.

That person said they believed Wazir was targeted by pro-government militants in retaliation for his extensive reporting on human rights issues affecting Pashtun people and militancy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Wazir’s captors warned him to stop such work at the risk of his and his family’s safety, citing his reporting on local tribes resisting the construction of a gas pipeline in the Bannu district, the person said.

In the video he was forced to record, Wazir was made to praise the militants for allegedly supporting peace and stability in the country and criticize protests against security forces following a March explosion in the Bannu district, which the journalist had reported on his Facebook pages and for Khyber News, the person told CPJ. 

As of May 2, police had not filed a first information report opening a formal investigation into the incident, the person said, adding that they believed the market’s security footage should allow police to identify the suspects.

CPJ called and messaged Yaseen Kamal, the station house officer of the Bannu City Police Station, and Imran Aslam, the deputy superintendent of the Bannu city police, but received no replies.

Previously, Pakistan security officials detained Wazir from May 27 to 29, 2019, after he reported on demonstrations of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, which promotes the rights of the Pashtun people, and interviewed PTM leader Mohsin Dawar.