Wali Khan Babar

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Wali Khan Babar, 28, was shot shortly after his story on gang violence aired on Pakistan’s most widely watched broadcaster, Geo TV. At least two assailants intercepted the journalist’s car at 9:20 p.m. in Karachi’s Liaquatabad area, shooting him four times in the head and once in the neck, Geo TV Managing Director Azhar Abbas told CPJ. Witnesses said one assailant spoke to Babar briefly before opening fire, Abbas said.

In April, police announced the arrests of five people and said additional suspects were at large. In all, police said, at least 17 men were involved in the murder plot. Police, based on statements given by the suspects, described a plot organized by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or MQM, Pakistan’s third-largest political party and considered its most influential secular political organization. A Joint Investigation Team report said the killing had been ordered by Agha Murtaza, a South Africa-based MQM operative. Zulfikar Mirza, home minister of Sindh, was outspoken at the time in saying that MQM operatives were responsible for the killing.

Local journalists believe the killing was prompted by Babar’s aggressive reporting on violent political turf wars, extortion, targeted killings, electricity theft, and land-grabbing.

Just weeks after Babar was slain, several people connected to the investigation were murdered. They included a police informant, two police constables, and the brother of an investigating officer. One of the constables, Asif Rafiq, was on the scene when Babar was murdered and had identified the plotters’ vehicle. On November 10, 2012, two gunmen aboard a motorcycle killed Haidar Ali, the only remaining witness in the case, near his home in the Soldier Bazaar area of Karachi. He was due to testify in court two days later.

The original prosecutors in the case—Muhammad Khan Buriro and Mobashir Mirza—told CPJ that they were threatened and eventually fired. They fled the country in late 2011.

On March 3, 2014, more than three years after Babar was killed, a special Anti-Terrorism Court convicted six defendants for their roles in the murder. Judge Mushtaq Ahmed Leghari, who presided over the court, sentenced Naveed Polka, Muhammad Ali Rizvi, Faisal Mahmood, and Mohammad Shahrukh Khan to life in prison, news reports said. Two others, Kamran (alias "Zeeshan") and Faisal Mota, who remained at large, were given the death sentence in absentia. A seventh man, Mohammed Shakeel, was acquitted for lack of evidence, the reports said.

In an alleged video confession posted on YouTube, Khan said he had been told to follow Babar as he was driving home from work, according to a Reuters report. He said Zeeshan had stepped in front of the journalist’s car and shot him six to seven times. The video was authenticated to Reuters by the prosecutor, the report said.

Police arrested Faisal Mota, said by the court to have masterminded the murder, in Karachi on March 11, 2015, according to reports. On August 16, 2017, the Sindh High Court ordered a retrial in his case the lower court, according to reports.

On June 15, 2020, police arrested Zeeshan in Karachi, according to news reports.