Feb 19, 2009

Musa Khankhel — murder of a brave journalist

Musa Khankhel used to tell his colleagues at The News International that he will be killed for his work as a journalist in Swat. He was right. On Wednesday, he was brutally murdered by unknown people while covering the vehicular procession of Maulana Sufi Mohammad, who is on a peace mission in Swat, from Mingora to Matta. The killers executed him after kidnapping him from Matta. Musa Khankhel died with his boots on. He lost his life in the line of duty. He was the fourth journalist to be martyred in Swat since 2007 when violence first erupted in Pakistan’s most beautiful and peaceful valley. Sirajuddin, Aziz Khan and Qari Shoaib had been martyred earlier. However, Musa Khankhel’s murder was the first target killing of a Swati journalist. His younger brother Isa Khankhel, who is also a journalist, was crying when he phoned this scribe to break the news of Musa Khankhel’s murder. He had lost not only a dear brother but also a professional colleague. They used to work together, helping each other at every step. Being older, Musa had taken Isa under his wings. Now Isa would have to cope for himself. Friends and acquaintances used to joke with the two brothers while mentioning their names. Both had been named after prophets. Their names had a certain rhythm. One had to mention Musa and the name of Isa would come to mind. Like their names, Musa and Isa stuck together. Musa Khankhel phoned this scribe on Wednesday morning to complain that the officials manning the military-run Swat Media Centre in Saidu Sharif had denied him permission to cover the press conference that senior provincial minister and ANP leader Bashir Bilour and other ministers were addressing. Isa too was denied the permission and he too called this writer with a request to take up the matter with the higher authorities. No reason was given for keeping the two brothers out of an event, which the government was keen to publicise. The ministers had ventured to travel to Swat after a while in a bid to show that the valley was returning to normalcy after the announcement of Nizam-e-Adl Regulation. It wasn’t the first time that Musa Khankhel had encountered problems in his dealings with the security forces and other stakeholders in Swat. Last year, he was manhandled by the men in uniform at the Circuit House in Saidu Sharif. Obviously, they weren’t happy with the reporting of the happenings in Swat by the headstrong Musa Khankhel. He was a fearless man. All advice to him to take care of his security fell on deaf ears. Journalism for him was an addiction. He was so much committed to the profession that he used to live in his office and stay awake at night to transmit news of the latest happenings to his media organisation. Musa Khankhel made many enemies during the course of his journalistic career. Anyone among them could have got him eliminated. The violence that affected every section of the population in Swat also took its toll on journalists. His family hasn’t blamed anyone for Musa Khankhel’s murder and, therefore, it would be unfair to name suspects or speculate about the killers. Though fair and proper investigations into his murder aren’t possible in Swat nowadays, one would expect the government to do its bit to expose and punish the murderers. Just when everyone thought peace was finally returning to Swat, the first murder after the enforcement of the ceasefire was that of a journalist. And it happened to be Musa Khankhel, who undoubtedly was one of the most courageous reporters in Swat.

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