This past week, a delegation of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) led by its chairperson, Zohra Yousaf, visited Balochistan. The delegation met with people belonging from different walks of life and on Sunday it addressed a press conference in Quetta. Amongst other things, HRCP chief expressed concerns over the facilitated rise of the religious militancy in Balochistan.
President of Quetta Press Club Raza Ur Rehman, Senior Journalist Shahzada Zulfiqar and President of Balochistan Union of Journalists Irfan Saeed along with their colleagues informed the delegation about the security situation of the province—specifically working conditions of journalists. The journalists said they are facing anti-terrorism charges for publishing the statements of banned organizations. Journalists are pressurized by government and armed groups to follow their lines. It’s the journalists that get killed, if they do not publish the statements of proscribed organization. When they publish the statements court frame charges against journalists.
It must be noted that anti-terrorism cases were lodged against ten editors and journalists of Balochistan in Balochistan High Court over publishing the statements and claims of banned Organizations. The cases were lodged by Balochistan High Court under directives of former Chief Justice Qazi Faez.
Former President of Supreme Court Bar Council and Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan Asma Jahangir was also a part of the HRCP delegation. She has offered to voluntarily fight the anti-terrorism cases of Balochistan’ journalists community in superior courts.
Asma Jahangir expressed her concern on the anti-terrorism cases lodged against journalists and editors. She volunteered to fight the cases of journalists and defend them in superior courts. She expressed regrets over the decision of Balochistan High Court to lodge cases of anti-terrorism against journalists who endanger their lives to tell the truth in a province like Balochistan.
Journalist community has been caught in cross fire between proscribed militant organizations and government and security forces. Around 40 journalists have been killed in Balochistan during last 5 years and the killers of not a single journalist have been arrested. This portrays the insecure working conditions in which the journalistic community of Balochistan works on daily basis. Notwithstanding the numerous protests and assurances by chief minister of Balochistan, no practical action has been taken to give protection to journalists in Balochistan.
Media is the fourth pillar of a modern state and its well being is essential for the state. That’s why media is facilitated by developed countries to work in a secure and friendly environment. The conditions in Pakistan in general and Balochistan in particular are hostile towards journalists. They can get killed for simply doing their normal duty of reporting news.
The announcement by Asma Jehangir is really appreciable. It will help the journalists fight their case in superior courts in a better way. However, the role of HRCP in highlighting the plight of journalists of Balochistan has been less than satisfactory. The kind of attention that killing of one journalist, Saleem Shehzad, got overwhelms the attention that 40 odd journalist received who were killed in line of duty in Balochistan. Human rights organizations are not absolved from responsibility when it comes to ignoring Balochistan.
The Balochistan Point
Published in the Balochistan Point on October 14, 2014.