In a first, court convicts six for journalist Wali Babar's murder

Published: March 1, 2014

Wail Babar, a 28-year-old journalist, reported on drugs, crime, militancy and deadly turf struggles between the city's main political parties. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: An anti-terrorism court on Saturday awarded death sentence to two absconders and life imprisonment to four others finding them guilty of murdering Wali Babar, his brother said, marking the first time anyone has been convicted for killing a Pakistani journalist.

Wail Babar, a 28-year-old journalist, was shot dead in the Liaquatabad locality while driving home from office in the limits of the Super Market police station on January 13, 2011. He reported on drugs, crime, militancy and deadly turf struggles between the city’s main political parties.

In what is believed to be the first-ever case of a journalist’s murderers being taken to the task, the special anti-terrorism court took three years to conclude the trial.

Judge Mushtaq Leghari of the Anti-Terrorism Court Kandhkot, who conducted the trial inside the district prison, pronounced the verdict inside the penitentiary heavily guarded by the police and Frontier Constabulary personnel.

One of the men convicted, Mohammad Shahrukh Khan, said in an alleged videotaped confession posted on YouTube that he had been asked to follow Babar home from work.

Khan said he followed Babar and moments later, an accomplice shot Babar to death.

“The traffic had come to a complete halt. Zeeshan was on foot. He was wearing a cap and pants. He stepped in front of Wail Babar’s car and fired six to seven times. He had a black pistol,” he said in the YouTube confession, which was authenticated to Reuters by the prosecutor.

The activist and the gunman were never caught but the court sentenced them to death in absentia, said prosecutor Abdul Maroof. One man was acquitted and Khan and three others were sentenced to life in prison.

Six witnesses, a lawyer and two policemen linked to the case have been murdered, said Maroof, who took on the case in 2012 after two previous prosecutors fled the country.

Maroof’s own house was attacked in November but he shot back and wounded the gunman, who was later captured.

“I think justice has been done. I hope people would think again before attacking any other journalist in Pakistan,” he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says 46 journalists and media workers have been killed in Pakistan for their work since 2007. Babar’s is the first case successfully prosecuted.

“None of the workers convicted by the court are members of the MQM. MQM does not tolerate violence,” party spokesperson Nadir Jamal said of links claimed by the apprehended suspects. “They were never affiliated with the MQM. I have verified it today.”

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