Mehsud was shot several times by two gunmen while riding his motorbike in the Tank district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police told local media. The 40-year-old journalist was the president and secretary-general of the Tribal Union of Journalists’ South Waziristan chapter and worked for the Urdu-language Daily Ummat and Daily Nai Baat newspapers. He was also district coordinator in Tank for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent group critical of all sides in the ongoing conflict in Pakistan.
In a statement, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called on authorities to catch the killers and bring them to justice. The statement added: “In none of the five previous fatal casualties that [the commission] has suffered over the last few years have the authorities succeeded in catching the killers.” In an email, Zohra Yousuf, the commission’s chairperson, told CPJ that members of the commission who knew Mehsud had met to discuss his case. “The consensus is that he was killed because of his work as a journalist,” Yousuf said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for Mehsud’s killing, with its commander Qari Saif Ullah Saif telling Reuters: “We killed him because he was writing against us … we have some other journalists on our hit list in the region, soon we will target them.” It is difficult to verify such claims independently, but it follows a pattern of attacks on journalists and human rights workers in and around the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Mehsud reported mainly from South Waziristan in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, along the border with Afghanistan. Violence including targeted killings in the Tank district, which borders South Waziristan, is commonplace, according to reports. Because of constant threats stemming from conflicts between militant groups and the military, journalists covering the region often live outside its districts, CPJ has found.
In a CPJ special report on Pakistan, published in 2009, journalists in the region said that militant groups often complain of what they consider unfair coverage of their activities by the media. The journalists with whom CPJ spoke said the press is often under pressure from the government to play down the militants’ activities.
Based on the patterns of journalist killings over a protracted period, and the assessment by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, CPJ considers Mehsud as having been killed because of his work as a journalist.