A Dangerous Beat One of the Pashto-speaking journalists has been eliminated in Karachi while others have been advised to leave city. by Rahimullah Yusufzai on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 10:02am The small number of Pashtun journalists working in Karachi have been living in fear after the authorities warned some of them to curtail their activities due to threats to their lives in the wake of Wali Khan Babarâ€™s assassination. Of the three Pashto-speaking reporters covering Karachi on the television channels, Wali Khan Babar of Geo TV has already been eliminated by target killers and ARYâ€™s Faizullah Khan was advised to leave the city to avoid harm. Only one Pashto-speaking journalist is still able to report from Karachi on a private TV channel. All three filed their reports in Urdu, a language in which they had become fluent after living for years in Karachi. In fact, they were Karachiites and there was no evidence that they had shown ethnic bias in their reporting or were allowed to do so by their organisations. Wali Khan Babar, whose family hailed from Zhob in Balochistan, was hired in 2007 to work for Geo English, which couldnâ€™t be launched, and was then shifted to Geo TV. He had studied at the Karachi University and his family had made the city its home like hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis coming from the upcountry in search of livelihood. As his face had become familiar due to his appearances on the most-watched Geo TV channel, it was easy for target killers to identify and kill the 28-year old Wali Khan Babar in his car on the evening of January 13 in Liaquatabad. His assassination took place near a police station in a locality that has always been an MQM stronghold. The fact that he was widely mourned by his journalist colleagues transcending ethnic considerations showed that efforts to divide them on the basis of ethnicity, language, sect or region would fail. His Urdu-speaking male and female work-mates at the Geo TV could be seen on camera wiping away their tears as they remembered the Pashto-speaking Wali Khan Babar. Even in the wider society outside newspaper offices and newsrooms, his tragic death at such a young age was deeply mourned by most Pakistanis irrespective of their caste, creed or ethnicity. As there was no other apparent reason for his assassination, Wali Khan Babarâ€™s tragic death alarmed other Pashto-speaking journalists in Karachi. The government, in possession of more information due to its intelligence network, didnâ€™t want to take chances and a few Pashtun journalists were alerted to avoid harm. â€œInterior Minister Rahman Malik personally phoned me and suggested that I take care of myself as some target killers now in government custody had disclosed that the Pashtun journalists working in Karachi were on the hit-list of terrorists. The minister suggested I should no longer work in Karachi,â€ explained Faizullah Khan, who originally belongs to Battal town near Mansehra in Khyber Pakhtunkhwaâ€™s Hazara division. â€œI stopped working and now my organisation, ARY News, has transferred me to Islamabad,â€ he added. According to Faizullah Khan, at least 12 Pashto-speaking journalists in Karachi were on the terroristsâ€™ hit-list. He said sections of the print media in Karachi have also reported the threats facing Pashtun journalists working in the port city. Another source said 16 Pashto-speaking journalists from both the print and electronic media and even those who work in the newsroom as sub-editors and stay in the background were on the hit-list. If true, this could be part of a plan to ensure that no Pashtun journalist is able to report or edit any news coming out of Karachi. Ironically, the growing Pashtun population in Karachi is stated to be three to four million strong, or 25 percent of the total number of people living in the city. An overwhelming number of Pashtuns in Karachi are young and have come from every Pashto-speaking area in Pakistan including Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Fata, Balochistan and parts of Attock and Mianwali districts in Punjab to find jobs, study or do small businesses. Besides, most Afghan refugees living in Karachi are also Pashto-speakers. In case the threat against Pashtun journalists forces them to stop working or abandon Karachi, there would be no Pashto-speaking journalist in the city to cover a community that is the second largest in terms of numbers after the Urdu-speakers. This appears to be the objective of the target killers assigned to eliminate those named in the hit-list. In fact, Wali Khan Babarâ€™s violent death had already scared Pashtun journalists and their organisations. Henceforth, not many Pashtun journalists would dare appear on television and report the events taking place in Karachi. There could be no other effective way in manipulating the media coverage of happenings in Karachi. Karachi is often described as the biggest Pashtun city in the country. This is true because more Pashtuns live in Karachi than in Peshawar, Quetta, Kabul, Jalalabad and Kandahar, the cities with high concentration of Pashtuns. It is also a fact that the Pashtuns are poorly represented in the political, economic and social life of Karachi. There are only two Pashtun MPAs in the Sindh Assembly and both were elected for the first time in 2008 on the ANP ticket. Lack of Pashtun representation in the provincial assembly and the National Assembly from Sindh, particularly from Karachi and Hyderabad where they have substantial population, is one major reason for the unrest in these big cities. One had heard of hit-lists of political activists, cops, religious scholars, doctors and other members of the intelligentsia. Now we have this hit-list of journalists belonging to a particular ethnic community working in Pakistanâ€™s biggest and richest city. Journalists have already been the target of killers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, particularly in Swat and Fata, and lately in Balochistan. Pakistan had the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous place for members of the media as the highest number of journalists were assassinated, imprisoned and threatened in 2010. The latest wave of attacks against journalists of Pashto-speaking descent in Karachi would ensure that Pakistan continued to lead in terms of the dangers facing the mediapersons in the world. Despite the heightened threats, there would always be journalists willing to risk their lives and practice the profession that they love. One such journalist is Jamshed Bokhari, a Pashto-speaking reporter with the daily Jang in Karachi. He conceded that he was worried and now more concerned about his security. â€œWe have heard about the hit-list. But we have done nothing wrong and have to continue working,â€ he said. â€œI cannot carry a pistol or keep a guard. All I can do is to be careful and do honest journalism as I have been doing all these years,â€ he argued.