Ahmad Hanayesh speaking at an event to launch his poetry book Maajoon e Rang in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, in December.
Afghan journalist Ahmad Hanayesh speaking at an event to launch his poetry book Maajoon e Rang in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, in December. The former radio station owner was shot by unknown assailants on April 3 and sustained injuries to his head and foot. (Screenshot: Ajmal Haqiqi/YouTube)

Exiled Afghan journalist Ahmad Hanayesh shot in Pakistan

New York, April 4, 2024—Pakistani authorities must promptly investigate Wednesday’s shooting of exiled Afghan journalist Ahmad Hanayesh by two gunmen on a motorcycle and bring the assailants to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

Hanayesh, also known by his birth name Abdul Aleem Saqib, was returning home on the evening of April 3 when he was attacked in the G6 residential sector of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, according to news reports and a person familiar with the case, who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

The journalist, who owned two radio stations in northern Afghanistan before he fled to Pakistan when the Taliban took power in 2021, was taken to hospital to undergo surgery for injuries to his foot and treatment for a head wound, which was not critical, those sources said.

“The assault on Ahmad Hanayesh requires a thorough investigation by Pakistani authorities, who must ensure that the culprits are held to account,” said Carlos Martínez de la Serna, CPJ’s Program Director. “It is imperative for Pakistan to safeguard the hundreds of Afghan journalists who have sought refuge within its borders, out of fear for their lives, because of the Taliban’s crackdown on media freedom.”

The motive for the attack remains unclear.

Hanayesh is known for reporting from Afghanistan’s northern provinces for the Afghan Service of the U.S. Congress funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), known in Afghanistan as Radio Azadi.

He also owned Radio Kahkashan in Parwan province and Radio Khorasan in neighboring Panjshir province, north of the capital, Kabul. The Taliban have since converted Radio Khorasan to a military base, according to Afghanistan’s Hasht-e-Subh Daily newspaper.

Hanayesh and his family had been waiting to relocate to a third country, according to the person familiar with the case.

CPJ has documented how many Afghan journalists are trapped in limbo in Pakistan, unable to find jobs without work authorization and facing restrictions on their movement and the threat of deportation if their visas are not renewed.

Since 1992, 64 journalists have been killed in connection with their work in Pakistan, CPJ’s data shows. The country ranked 11th on CPJ’s 2023 Global Impunity Index, which ranks countries by how often killers of journalists go unpunished.

CPJ’s text messages to information minister Attaullah Tarar and Syed Shahzad Nadeem Bukhari, acting Inspector General of Police in Islamabad, requesting comment on the shooting did not receive any replies.