Outside the Express Media office, a reporter was about to leave to cover a meeting of the newly-elected President Mamnoon Hussain when gunfire echoed the area. “It happened so fast,” he recalled. “Bullets were being sprayed at us. It was only God who saved us.”
On Friday morning, the Karachi office of the Express Media group came under attack when four men on two motorcycles opened fire, injuring a guard and an employee of the marketing department.
This reporter, along with a driver and another employee were standing outside the office when they saw armed men open fire. As soon as they fired the first few shots, the men hid themselves behind a white Alto car to protect themselves in case of any retaliatory fire.
The reporter, who covers mostly religious parties, saw one of the men dropping his 9mm pistol. “They were clean-shaved and were dressed in white shalwar kameez,” he recalled. Once they managed to hide themselves, the armed men fired at an employee’s car injuring her. Later, they aimed for the security guards who were sitting inside their small enclosure outside the building’s entrance - the horrifying saga lasting nearly four minutes.
Though two police stations are located near the Express office off Korangi Road, and reporters had informed them immediately about the incident, the police turned up 40 minutes later. This delay inadvertently allowed the miscreants a significant head start as they sped off on Expressway towards Baloch Colony.
Security guard Shahzad, who was also on duty, explained they had no time to retaliate due to the heavy firing. Pointing to the shattered glass outside the small security cabin where his colleague Mir Ali was shot in the back, he said: “When the firing was taking place, I tried to take everyone inside and close the doors so that the criminals would not get inside.” According to Shahzad, Ali had recently joined and Friday was the fourth day of his duty.
The marks left by the bullets were marked by the police and the area was cordoned off. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS
The security guard also showed the concrete blocks outside the office that bore three bullet marks. Meanwhile the car that protected Butt and his colleagues has been left severely damaged due to the firing.
The coordinator for Express News, who was standing with the reporter, said he has never seen an incident in the six years he has been with the organisation. “The government has failed to stop target killings,” he pointed out. “What will it do for our protection? Of course my family is worried.” He was grateful there were fewer employees outside the office at the time otherwise there would have been casualties.
The injury of marketing employee, Raheela Zohair, has left her colleagues upset. On her way back from Jinnah hospital where Zohair was being treated, a visibly shaken Misbah Shafique said that she entered the office minutes after the firing took place. “I had just kept my bag on the table when I heard gunshots. We ran to the window but could not see anything.” Misbah then ran downstairs and met Raheela, who was bleeding.
“Raheela thought that some glass had pierced through her back and that was why she was bleeding,” she recalled. “When I saw two bullet holes in her back, I figured she was shot.” With no ambulance arriving on the spot, she and the other colleagues took her to the hospital where she received stitches and was discharged after first-aid.
Demanding safety from the government, several journalists felt there should be a police picket outside the office of every media house. “With threats looming around by extremists, militants, gangsters and even political parties, we demand the government give us protection,” demanded one senior journalist of the organisation.
Currently, the police have deployed a mobile van outside the office and erected yellow tape around the crime scene but journalists feel there should be a permanent solution to tackle the law and order situation as employees have been mugged in the surrounding areas in the past.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2013.
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