A journalist’s murder settled with blood money — Remembering Shahid Soomro

Pakistan Press Foundation pays tribute to daily Kawish journalist Shahid Soomro who was murdered in front of his house on October 20, 2002. Suspects in Soomro’s case were presented before a court however the matter was resolved in a settlement between the two parties. Soomro’s family withdrew the case after being paid Rs1.6 million.

As we commemorate Soomro’s work on his death anniversary, his case also highlights a trend that is often seen when a journalist is murdered in Pakistan — the payment of blood money to conclude a case. While a victim’s family may have no other alternative due to possible security concerns and financial pressures, this trend is also a reflection of the lack of legal support of families of murdered journalists. In the presence of effective bodies, strong action and support, families may not need to accept settlements.

On October 2, 2002, a correspondent in the town of Kandhkot Soomro,26,  was shot dead in front of his house. He was shot in the abdomen at around midnight, when he tried to resist five men who wanted to kidnap him.

He was allegedly killed in revenge for his reporting during the recently concluded election campaign.

According to Soomro’s colleagues, his reporting had angered a recently elected member of the provincial assembly from Kandhkot Mir Mehmood Bijarani. Colleagues said Soomro had received death threats.

According to details, the two brothers of the MPA-elect Bijarani, Waheed Ali Bijarani and Muhammad Ali Bijarani, and their three accomplices arrived at Soomro’s house at midnight and called him to come out of his home. When he came out, the assailants tried to kidnap him. They shot him with Klashnikov and TT pistols when he resisted and then escaped in a car.

Soomro was taken to hospital in critical condition but died on the way to the hospital.

According to Kandhkot Police Station Head Moharrar Imdad Chandio, police had arrested the culprits and presented them in a sessions court. However the issue was resolved between both parties and the victim’s family withdrew the case after receiving the Rs1.6 million.

Soomro’s cousin Saud Alam Soomro said that his family had settled the matter over monetary compensation. Influential people in the area had suggested that the matter be resolved by a jirga, he said. On October 28, 2003 a jirga awarded damages of Rs 1.65 million to Soomro’s widow and five children.

Larkana Press Club President Zafar Ali told PPF that it was very unfortunate that the blood of journalists goes in vain because of the culture of blood money, adding that families of murdered journalists accept the blood money due to pressure from influential persons, who make it difficult for them to live if they reject the blood money.