TV journalist killed in targeted attack in southern Pakistan

Armed ethnic Baloch separatist group claims responsibility for attack on the journalist’s vehicle using a magnetic explosive device.

At least 61 journalists have been killed in targeted attacks in Pakistan since 1992, according to CPJ data [File: Aamir Qureshi/AFP]

Islamabad, Pakistan – A journalist has been killed in a targeted attack in the southern Pakistani town of Hub, police officials say, with the ethnic separatist Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claiming responsibility for the attack in a statement.

Shahid Zehri was killed while driving in his vehicle in the town of Hub, about 20km (12 miles) west of Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, on Sunday evening, police say.

“Last night at 7:52pm, Shahid Zehri was targeted on a main road in the city of Hub,” said Younus Raza, a senior police official.

“He was shifted to [the local] Jam Ghulam Khan hospital, and then he was sent to Karachi.”

Zehri was declared dead soon after arriving at Karachi’s main government hospital, Raza said.

The explosion appeared to have been caused by a magnetic device attached underneath the driving seat in Zehri’s vehicle, Raza added.

“The [explosives were] right underneath the [driver’s] seat, so when it explodes it obviously goes upwards and destroys the seat as it does so,” he said.

Zehri, who covered Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, was a reporter with local television news channel, Metro 1.

For more than a decade, Balochistan – the country’s largest but least populated and least developed province – has faced an armed separatist movement by ethnic Baloch groups.

Late on Sunday, the BLA armed group claimed responsibility for the attack, accusing Zehri of working with Pakistan’s security forces in a statement emailed to journalists.

Shahzada Zulfiqar, president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), told Al Jazeera that such accusations were commonly made when armed groups targeted journalists in Balochistan province, but that evidence of any such associations is rarely shared.

“If you have the evidence, then present the evidence that he is not a journalist and is a party to the conflict,” Zulfiqar said. “We are not ready to accept this, without evidence.”

The PFUJ and other regional journalist unions in the country condemned the attack in statements issued on Sunday.

Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, particularly those covering conflict zones, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (known by its French acronym RSF) media rights watchdogs.

At least 61 journalists have been killed in targeted attacks in Pakistan since 1992, according to CPJ data.

In 2021, RSF rated Pakistan 145 out of 180 countries on its World Press Freedom Index.

“Reporters […] continue to be at risk in the field, especially in the western provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where they are caught in the crossfire between the security forces and armed rebels,” notes RSF’s country profile on Pakistan.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim. Additional reporting by Saadullah Akhtar in Quetta.

Source: Al Jazeera