Four armed men fired indiscriminately outside the entrance of the Express Media office on Friday, injuring two members of staff, one of whom is in critical condition.
The attack took place at 11:20 am when the armed men on two motorcycles sprayed around 20 bullets at the office building. The police have not yet been able to trace the group of culprits or ascertain their motive.
Raheela Zohair, who works at the marketing department of the Express Media group and Mir Ali, a security guard, were wounded, while several others who witnessed the attack were unhurt.
Mir Ali is admitted in the hospital and his condition is reported to be critical.
The bullets also hit the office’s building, the security kiosk, a car and several motorcycles.
The police reached the site 40 minutes after the incident even though both the Defence and Baloch Colony police stations were at a stone’s throw from the media office.
“I was checking the CNG level in the car when suddenly intense firing started,” said witness Imran Khan, an Express News coordinator. “The firing was so intense. Initially, we had no idea where it was taking place. As soon as I saw them (the armed men), I hid behind the car to save my life.”
“They seemed unprofessional though,” said Nasir Butt, an Express News reporter, as the perpetrators fumbled while trying to escape. One of the motorcycles came to a halt as soon as the attackers were fleeing that caused one of them to drop his pistol. After bump starting the motorcycle, the armed men finally escaped. “I wish I had a pistol so that I could retaliate (as they floundered),” added Butt. The armed men appeared to be young and were wearing shalwar kameez, reported witnesses. They escaped towards Baloch Colony road.
An investigation team headed by Deputy Inspector General (South) Dr Ameer Shaikh has been formed. The police have also released sketches of two of the armed men.
The initial investigation suggests that the culprits used 9mm pistols; the police have collected at least 38 empty shells from the site and sent them to the Sindh police forensic division. The police have also obtained the CCTV footage of the attack.
DIG Shaikh termed the incident a major attack on the media. “This incident was the first major attack on the media,” he said while visiting the site. “Nothing can be said about the group involved or the motive behind the incident until the investigation is finalised.”
“We cannot rule out any possibility,” said an investigation team member, SSP Tariq Dharejo. “It is confirmed, though, that this was a “warning”, but we don’t know from whom or about what,” he told The Express Tribune.
SSP Dharejo added that local criminal elements, banned militant outfits, including Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, could have been responsible. “Or it could be related to stories run by the Express Media group,” he speculated. “It is also possible that it could be linked to extortion.”
A police mobile has been deputed outside the Express Media office permanently to avoid any untoward incident.
No case was registered until the filing of this news story. Baloch Colony SHO Haq Nawaz said that as the culprits have not been identified yet, the case would be registered against unidentified armed men.
PM orders inquiry
Condemnations poured in from across the country as the government ordered a probe into Friday’s flagrant attack on the Express Media offices in Karachi.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed the authorities concerned to investigate the incident and submit a report at the earliest, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office. He also prayed for the early recovery of those injured in the dastardly assault.
President Asif Ali Zardari expressed solidarity with the Express Media and advised the concerned officials to ensure the security of media organisation and its employees.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari called the attack a ‘cowardly act’ and said that such assaults on the media, the fourth pillar of the state, were meant to harass journalists.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah directed the provincial police chief to investigate the incident. “This is not an attack on one particular media house. These elements have attempted to suppress the freedom of expression,” he said in a statement.
The chief minister directed the police to provide full security to the Express Media offices. DIG Ameer Ahmed Shaikh has been appointed as the inquiry officer.
Provincial Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, who visited the Express Media offices, said that some elements wanted to disrupt the law and order in the metropolis. However, he assured that such elements would be dealt with an iron fist.
Minister for Local government Owais Muzaffar, Senior Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Minister Excise and Taxation Mukesh Kumar Chawala also condemned the incident. Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain denounced the attack and demanded the government arrest the attackers.
In a statement he said that people from all walks of life were being targeted but no steps were taken by the government or the law-enforcement agencies against the criminals.
Altaf sympathised with those injured in the attack and demanded the government take action and provide security to the Express Media employees.
MQM politician Wasey Jalil visited the Express Media offices to express solidarity. He said that the attack should be condemned in the strongest words.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2013.