Khattak, a reporter for the Karak Times in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s southern Karak district, was shot dead outside his home, according to news reports and the Freedom Network, a Pakistani press freedom watchdog organization. Eyewitness accounts said two unidentified assailants riding a motorcycle waited outside Khattak’s home, fired at him when he appeared, and then fled the scene, the reports said.
Khattak’s colleagues said he had recently published a story on the sale of illegal drugs and a local gang of drug peddlers, according to news reports. Khattak had worked as a journalist since 2004, and had received threats in the past after his reports exposed criminal elements in the region.
Khattak’s family said they believed Khattak had been targeted in relation to his work. The journalist’s son filed a First Information Report with the police, in which he named two individuals as drug dealers, claiming they were responsible for his father’s murder, according to the Freedom Network.
The murder came only days after Minister of Information Pervaiz Rasheed expressed his support for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate attacks against journalists as part of the implementation of the larger U.N. Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity at a meeting in Islamabad on October 8.
On March 16, 2016, a court sentenced Aminullah Niaz to life in prison and fined him 5 million Pakistani rupees (about USD$47,700) for Khattak’s murder, according to local media. Niaz’s brother, Khoob, was acquitted of being an accomplice, reports said. During the trial, the court was told Khattak’s reporting on drug dealing angered Aminullah Niaz, and that he had previously threatened the journalist.
Khattak’s family told reporters they plan to appeal the acquittal for Khoob Niaz and demand harsher sentences for both brothers.