Roots of Impunity

Sidebar: Verbatim: Threats, Promises, and Fears

“No half-hearted police measures or words of consolation from the highest offices in the land will suffice in the aftermath of the brutal treatment meted out to journalist Umar Cheema of The News.”

Editorial in the newspaper Dawn condemning the September 2010 abduction and beating of Cheema. Intelligence agents were suspected in the attack. No arrests were made.

“This recurring pattern of death is a stark negation of the most basic rights that the state is under an obligation to protect. … The task of the law enforcement agencies must be more than merely delivering dead bodies and injured to hospitals and claiming to be on high security alerts after the fact.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a January 2011 statement condemning the murder of reporter Wali Khan Babar and a spree of targeted killings in Karachi.


“I take Adnan’s following statement as MURDER threat. He said: ‘Saleem I must give you a favor. We have recently arrested a terrorist and have recovered lot of data, diaries and other material during the interrogation. He has a hit list with him. If I find your name in the list I will let you know.’”

Reporter Saleem Shahzad in an October 2010 email to his editor, documenting a meeting
with Rear Adm. Adnan Nazir at ISI offices. Shahzad asked his editor to keep the note “as
record if something happens to me in the future.”


“The failure of this probe to identify the culprits does, in all seriousness, raise a big question about our justice system’s ability to resolve such ‘mysterious’ incidents even in the future.”

The report of the official commission of inquiry into the May 2011 murder of Saleem Shahzad.


“President Zardari must make it a priority to ensure that Pakistan’s probing press is not forced to refrain from sensitive coverage in order to stay alive.”

CPJ Chairman Paul Steiger, after a May 2011 meeting with the president. In the meeting, Zardari pledged to reverse the country’s record of impunity.


“The protection of journalists is in my mandate.”

Zardari, speaking to the CPJ delegation in May 2011.


“You want to be a hero? We’ll make you a hero. We’re going to make an example of you.”

Waqar Kiani, correspondent for the U.K.’s Guardian, recounting the words of assailants who beat him for 15 hours in June 2011. Kiani had recently reported on cases of abduction and torture by men suspected of being intelligence agents.


“What should I do? Not report what I know just to stay safe?”

A Pakistani journalist, in an interview with CPJ for an article published in October 2011.
The journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, eventually fled the country.


“Our announcement from today is that all reporters of Voice of America are our targets and should resign. Otherwise we will kill them.”

Taliban spokesman Mukarram Khurasani to Bloomberg News after the January 2012 murder of VOA reporter Mukarram Khan Aatif.


“In the last 10 years, Pakistani journalists have been observing the death anniversary of a murdered colleague almost every month.”

Prominent journalist Mazhar Abbas, in a January 2012 commentary in The News on
the anniversary of the Babar murder.


“Pakistan has become a country where the corrupt enjoy immunity and killers enjoy impunity.”

Umar Cheema writing for the CPJ Blog in April 2012 after Pakistan opposed a UNESCO plan to combat impunity in journalist murders.


“All murder is a tragedy but when journalists are killed, public debate loses a voice that can provide an important contribution to democracy. It is essential that governments do all they can to ensure safe conditions for journalists to carry out their work.”

Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, in a December 2012 statement condemning the killing of journalist Saqib Khan in Karachi.

(Photo by AP)

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