KARACHI: The chief reporter of the state-controlled Associated Press of Pakistan wire agency in Karachi, Khushnood Ali Shaikh, who had been threatened upon refusing to pay Rs50,000 in bhatta, was killed in a “hit-and-run” accident by a car near his house Monday night.
The story of this reporter with a standing of over 20 years goes like this.
Shaikh informed me a few months back about the threats he had been getting ever since he had bought a house in Gulistan-e-Johar, where mobile phone snatching and robberies are common and which is considered quite a risky neighbourhood. Given this perception, the real estate prices had gone down in the past few years. There are hundreds and thousands of apartments in the locality but many are empty with only gangs to occupy them.
Sheikh took the risk of acquiring a house here because it is not possible for most journalists to buy a house in a good locality given their salaries. “After all, hundreds and thousands of people live there,” he told me when I questioned his decision.
Almost two weeks after he had moved in, he got a call from someone followed by a “parchi” or a note asking for 50,000 rupees in extortion. He took the letter and call lightly and tore the parchi.
Then, one day after he had returned from office, he got another call. “What do you think you are up to. We will cut you, your wife and your child into pieces and put them in a gunny bag and no one will make any fuss,” Shaikh quoted the caller as saying to him.
“For the first time I realised that this was serious and informed my office as the caller had even threatened to blow that up as well,” he told me.
After discussing with his family, Shaikh decided to sell the house and moved to Islamabad six months back. The callers contacted him there twice.
However, after a few months things started settling down and Shaikh, who had spent his entire life reporting from Karachi, decided to return.
I met him about a week back and said I was extremely unhappy he had made this decision. However, he was confident that the danger was over. On Monday night as he crossed the road near his house in Gulistan-e-Johar, he was hit by a car. Some witnesses reportedly said that it looked deliberate.
The Karachi Union of Journalists, a body affiliated with the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, expressed its concern over the mysterious death and has demanded an inquiry. Shaikh was an active member and had served as president of the APP union.
Pakistan is among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists with 85 deaths in 10 years.
Will there be a proper investigation into this event or will his file, like that of all murder cases of journalists, be closed?
The writer is the former secretary general of the PFUJ and director of current affairs at ExpressNews