Waiting for Justice: Unique Case of Impunity in Pakistan

Mazhar Abbas, former Secretary General, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists writes about a unique case of impunity in Pakistan.
Carrying poster of slain Pakistani cameraman Munir Sangi lying in pool of blood, his widow Reshma then burnt some 150 pages case file before dozens of cameramen outside the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Karachi last week. Hers was a protest against injustice. Her husband’s murder case has been pending for eight years in the lower Sessions Court in Larkana, hometown of the late former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Munir Sangi worked as cameraman for popular Sindhi language news channel, Kawaish Television Network (KTN), which has huge following in interior of Sindh. He was killed while covering an encounter between two tribes on 29 May, 2006. The next day his photograph appeared in newspapers, a graphic image of him lying in pool of blood. One bullet killed him while the other damaged his camera, which could also be seen lying near his body.
She was in tears as I spoke to her about the fate of Sangi’s case. She gave me one set of the case copy. “I am under threat and staying with my relatives in Karachi, because I refuse to withdraw the case against Altaf Unar (former Minister and now PPP, MPA),” she said.
Sangi’s brother, Hadi Sangi, who took on a job as cameraman for KTN after his brother’s death, was also facings cases and threats.”Larkana has become a no-go area for us,” she said, with Hadi sitting on her left along with a few other relatives. “I just want justice in the case. If they can’t give justice, please give me one bullet to kill myself.”
Eight accused were nominated in the case. Three of them were named as direct accused, while another five were named for their indirect involvement. This in itself something quite strange in a murder case. One accused, Unar, was a minister and not in the Pakistan Peoples Party at the time of the murder, was put in the indirect accused category. Initially, all the accused were arrested. All were later bailed out. After countrywide protest, a judicial inquiry was ordered by the then-Chief Minister of Sindh. The file also contained the findings of the inquiry, which includes remarks that “journalists in Upper Sindhi were killed when they report irregularities or about tribal feuds”.
In Sangi’s case, it was disclosed in the inquiry that “Sangi got a telephone call that two tribes, Unar and Abro, were firing. He took a private car and reached the Bagapur village to cover the event. One of the accused instigated his son, who was also involved in the firing to kill this cameraman. On his instigation, he pointed the gun towards Sangi and killed him’.
Later, Unar joined PPP in what it understood to be an attempt to save himself from arrest. He avoided appearance in the court and, according to case file, cited medical reasons.
The case record showed that he regularly appeared in the Sindh Assembly session, but not in the Sessions Court. The file also revealed a report submitted by the than Home Secretary, which confirmed that
Sangi was targeted by one of the accused as they saw him filming the encounter. Three years after his murder, in 2009, Reshma and Hadi filed a petition in the Supreme Court that their lives were under threat. The Supreme Court appointed a committee to probe the allegations. The then-DIG, Sanaullah Abbasi asked for some more time. I asked her what the status of the case was today. “No-one is appearing, no statement has been recorded,” she said.
“I don’t know where to go. My life has already been destroyed but now they are after my and Sangi’s family unless I surrender and withdraw the case. I will not,” determined Reshma said as her voice choked.
“I wanted to burn myself with the case file but Hadi and another cameramen stopped me.”
Reshma reminded me of the widow of another journalist Hayatullah Khan, who was kidnapped in December 2005. After five months his body was found. She showed courage like Reshma, recorded her testimony before a one-man Commission of Peshawar High Court Judge and identified the suspects.
A month later, she was killed in a mysterious explosion.
Are we all waiting for another widow to lose her fight for justice and be killed? This is a wake-up call for all journalists fighting for impunity.

Source: IFJ Asia-Pacific

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