Who killed Hayatullah Khan?

The Pakistani government must launch an impartial investigation to disprove the claim that intelligence agencies are responsible for Hayatullah Khan's murder, says a Dawn editorial

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Despite being assured by the government and intelligence agencies that the family of the missing journalist Hayatullah Khan would hear something about his whereabouts by June 15, the discovery of his bullet-riddled body on Friday is staggering. Mr Khan "disappeared" in Waziristan in December last year but his family has always maintained that he was picked up by intelligence agencies after he released pictures of remnants of US missiles used in an operation that killed Al-Qaeda leader Hamza Rabia last year. Mr Khan's photographs clearly refuted the Pakistan army's claims that Mr Rabia was killed in a blast inside his home. The local Taliban, who were first thought to have been behind Mr Khan's disappearance, denied that they had any hand in it. Since Mr Khan's photographs corroborated what the Taliban believed -- that US forces were behind Mr Rabia's death -- there is no reason to suspect that local militants would have anything to gain from holding Mr Khan. This is not to say that militants have not posed a threat to journalists covering the situation in tribal areas since the war on terror first began. In February this year, two journalists were killed in an ambush by masked men in Wana -- an act many journalists believed was meant to intimidate the press.

Since February's incident, Reporters Sans Frontier has noted that journalists in the tribal areas have felt increasingly insecure about their safety as they were routinely harassed and threatened. Now with Mr Khan's gruesome murder, they are likely to feel even more threatened. This makes it all the more imperative for the government to pay heed to international calls for an impartial inquiry into his murder. This is particularly necessary if it wants to disprove the belief that intelligence agencies are behind Mr Khan's murder -- a claim shared not just by the deceased's family.