A prominent anti-government and pro-Baloch nationalist Urdu language newspaper, Daily Tawar, says personnel of Pakistani intelligence agencies raided its Karachi office early in the morning on April 6. According to the newspaper, a convey of seven vehicles surrounded the newspaper’s office, broke the locks, burnt all the furniture and took away every piece of electronic equipment, including computers, fax machines and an electric generator. The attackers also stole the newspaper’s data and archives. The B.B.C. Urdu also reported that the attack seemed to have been carried out by intelligence agencies. A former secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (P.F.U.J.) said he believed that the government raided and ransacked the offices of Daily Tawar.
The newspaper under attack has consistently played an extraordinarily courageous role in highlighting human rights abuses in Balochistan. A number of its reporters, including a former sub-editor, Javid Naseer Rind, have been killed while a proof-reader of the same newspaper,Haji Abdul Razaaq, was kidnapped from Karachi on March 24 and he has been missing since then. The Pakistani government has repeatedly attempted to block access to Tawar’s website. Fearful for his own life, the newspaper’s editor, Khadim Lehri, currently lives underground. This reflects the disgracefully low level of freedom Baloch journalists enjoy in Pakistan.
The latest desperate attack on Daily Tawar is a continuity of Pakistani government’s lack of tolerance for the Baloch media. Such measures are taken clearly to muzzle dissenting voices. This is a very flawed government strategy to deal with difference of opinion. Amid continued attacks on newspapers, Pakistan cannot flaunt over the completion of five years of uninterrupted democracy and fresh elections. What we are missing right now is a culture of respect for free expression. Democracy is incomplete without the freedom of expression.
We urge all national and international media watchdog organizations to take notice of repeated state-sponsored attacks on the Baloch media, particularly the courageous Daily Tawar. These attacks are increasing day by day because of a culture of impunity that has flourished due to a lack of accountability for those who assault the media again and again. The government should probe the matter; take action against all officials involved in the extra-constitutional assault on the newspaper’s office and fully and immediately compensate the daily for all damage caused to its property during the raid.
The Baloch Hal
Published in The Baloch Hal on April 6, 2013