Khan’s body was found by villagers in the North Waziristan
town of Miran Shah, where he had been kidnapped six months earlier. Khan was
abducted on December 5, 2005, by five gunmen who ran his car off the road as
his younger brother, Haseenullah, watched helplessly. Local government
officials and family members said Khan, 32, had been found handcuffed and shot
several times. His body appeared frail and he had grown a long beard since he
was last seen, Pakistani journalists told CPJ.
The day before his abduction, Khan photographed what
apparently were the remnants of a U.S.-made missile said to have struck a house
in Miran Shah on December 1, 2005, killing senior Al-Qaeda figure Hamza Rabia.
The pictures, widely distributed by the European Pressphoto Agency on the day
they were shot, contradicted the Pakistani government’s explanation that Rabia
had died in a blast caused by explosives within the house. International news media
identified the fragments in the photographs as part of a Hellfire missile,
possibly fired from a U.S. drone.
Khan, who was also a reporter for the Urdu-language daily
Ausaf, had received numerous threats from Pakistani security forces, Taliban
members, and local tribesmen because of his reporting.
During Khan’s six-month disappearance, government officials
provided his family with numerous and often contradictory accounts of his
whereabouts: Khan was in government custody, soon to be released; Khan had been
abducted by “miscreants”; he had been taken by Waziristan mujahideen;
he had been flown to the military base at Rawalpindi and was then detained in
Kohat air base.
Khan’s relatives were told by hospital workers that he had
five or six bullet wounds and that one hand had been manacled in handcuffs
typically used by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Mahmud
Ali Durrani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, dismissed the reported
presence of the handcuffs as circumstantial and said the cuffs could have been
planted to incriminate the government. No autopsy was performed.
An investigation led by High Court Justice Mohammed Reza
Khan was conducted, but the results were not made public. Hayatullah Khan’s
family said they were not interviewed by the judge or other investigators.
North West Frontier Gov. Ali Mohammad Jan Orakzai told CPJ that North
Waziristan was not secure enough to risk exposing a judicial figure to
kidnapping or death. CPJ has repeatedly sought the release of the report,
making a direct request to President Asif Ali Zardari in 2011. The report
remained a secret as of February 2013.
In November 2007, Khan’s widow was killed in a bomb that was
detonated outside her home.