Outrage over killing of senior journalist in Khyber

Ashrafuddin Pirzada
Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

Ag Agencies

LANDIKOTAL: Unidentified gunmen shot dead senior journalist and former president of Landikotal Press Club, Khalil Jibran Afridi, while his friend was injured in an attack in Mazrina locality of Landikotal in Khyber district, police officials said on Wednesday.

Local journalists said that Khalil Afridi and Sajjad Shinwari, advocate, were returning in a car from a friend’s house in the Mazrina locality in Khyber Sultankhel area when they came under attack.

Residents told this correspondent that gunmen offloaded Khalil Afridi from the car and sprayed him with bullets, causing his death on the spot. They said Sajjad Shinwari also sustained bullet injuries.

District Police Officer Salim Abbas Kulachi confirmed the incident, stating that the militants intercepted the car near Mazrina village, forced Khalil Afridi out and shot him. The assailants fled after committing the crime.

Khalil Afridi had reportedly received repeated threats from militants prior to the attack, the DPO said. Later, the body and the injured were transported to District Headquarters Hospital in Landikotal.

Locals noted that Afridi’s body lay on the road for three hours before the Landikotal police arrived.

In September 2023, outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had issued pamphlets, threatening journalists in Khyber and Waziristan and warning them to support their agenda or face dire consequences.

Khalil Afridi, known for his bold reporting and human rights advocacy, had previously survived two militant attacks. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur and Governor Faisal Karim Kundi have ordered authorities to immediately apprehend the culprits. Meanwhile, local journalists and political parties’ workers staged a protest in Sultankhel markets in Khyber, blocking the Pak-Afghan Highway for hours and demanded justice for Khalil Afridi and his family. The Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) condemned the murder and urged the authorities to bring Afridi’s killers to justice. They criticised the ongoing threats and violence faced by journalists across the country.

The Tribal Union of Journalists and Pakhtunkhwa Union of Journalists called for nationwide protests on Friday to demand protection for journalists. Eighteen tribal journalists have been martyred in tribal districts while several injured in the decades-long militancy so far.

Khalil Jibran’s funeral prayer was offered in Landikotal, participated by thousands of locals, political leaders, social workers, Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leaders and journalists from merged districts. The DPO, deputy commissioner, assistant commissioner Landikotal and other civil and military officials did not participate in the funeral prayer of Khalil Jibran Afridi.

Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari has strongly condemned the killing of President Landi Kotal Press Club Khalil Gibran. In his condolence message, President Asif Ali Zardari expressed grief and extended sympathies to the bereaved family. The president stressed for taking measures for the protection of journalists in Pakistan. He said efforts should be made to provide justice to the victim.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday strongly condemned the murder of Khalil Jibran, a senior journalist. The prime minister, sympathizing with the bereaved family members of the slain journalist, directed the KP chief minister and relevant authorities to arrest the perpetrators and take them to task. He reiterated the government’s resolve to take all-out measures to protect the lives and freedom of the media community. Prime Minister Shehbaz prayed to Allah Almighty for peace for the departed soul and strength for the bereaved family to bear the loss with fortitude. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also strongly condemned the gruesome murder of journalist Khalil Jibran in Landikotal. He called upon the authorities concerned to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to book and urged safety and security of the journalists in KP.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has strongly condemned the murder of journalist Khalil Jibran demanding of the government to arrest the killers and provide protection to media persons. In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, PFUJ President Afzal Butt and Secretary General Arshad Ansari and Finance Secretary Lala Assad Pathan said that despite the fact that Jibran had been facing threats from terrorists, no protection was provided to the senior journalist, who was also the former president of the Landikotal Press Club. PFUJ leaders said Jibran was dragged out of his car and targeted by unknown terrorists close to his home while his friend also got wounded. They said since the eruption of the Taliban insurgency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a number of journalists have been targeted but the government has not arrested even a single murderer. “This shows that the government is not interested in providing protection to those who are on the hit list of terrorists.”

The PFUJ leaders demanded of the chief minister Ali Amin Gandapur, and federal interior minister Mohsin Naqvi to immediately take measures for the arrest of killers. The PFUJ leaders also demanded government provide protection to media persons so that they could perform their professional duties without any fear of attacks. Meanwhile, the Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) strongly condemned the gruesome murder of the journalist and demanded the KP chief minister and federal interior minister to bring Jibran’s killers to justice. In a statement, the association criticised the higher authorities’ failures to stop such incidents as journalists were continuously facing torture, abductions and threats across the country.