A leading Pakistani journalist working for an American news wire service has been asked to quit his job by his organisation after informing his bosses that the Taliban are after his life.
Ashraf Khan, a Karachi-based correspondent for The Associated Press, has been working with the renowned news company for five years. A month back, on February 21, he received a handwritten letter in Urdu which said that the Taliban were watching his every move.
Addressing him by name on a letterhead that said Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Karachi chapter), it warned the journalist to stop working for the dajjal (infidel) media and refrain from his supposed anti-Islam activities.
The letter, signed by an individual named Abu Hamza, went on to tell Khan that all of his reports were based on an anti-Islam agenda. In the end, the journalist was told that this was his “first and last warning.”
Khan asked AP to help him leave the country for the US. However, a month later he was told by the news organisation to leave the company instead, since they could not help in providing protection or settling him outside Pakistan. The top AP bosses told him it would not be possible to relocate him to the US because of the policy shift in the aftermath of 9/11.
The logic was that since the threatening letter said that Khan works for AP, which in the Taliban’s eyes is ‘infidel’ media, it would be safe for Khan if he quit. Khan, according to the commission’s report, told his superior officials that the news agency’s advice amounted to ‘economic murder’ and he would become a soft target.
Khan’s boss at The Associated Press, bureau chief Chris Brumitt, sent a one-line text in response to The Express Tribune’s queries. He said that “the security of our staffers is paramount” and added that “we are refraining from commenting on any specifics in this matter.” He confirmed that Khan still remained an employee of AP.
A senior journalist, who also works for a leading foreign media and specialises in war-on-terror reporting, said that a number of journalists in Karachi have been receiving threats from the Taliban. “Some choose to stay quiet over the matter, but I know of at least four other journalists, some of them who work for the local media, who have also received similar threats from the Taliban.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2012.