SHABQADAR: When Mehboob Shah Afridi died in a suicide blast on January 19 in Jamrud, Khyber Agency, he became the 14th journalist from the tribal areas to lose his life while in the field since 9/11. Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the world and the situation is far more volatile in Fata.
Apart from working for Aaj TV, Mehboob Shah was on a mission to unite the split Tribal Union of Journalists. He was the president of the Khyber Agency unit of the body and remained general secretary of the union till 2013. For his efforts at unifying the warring factions, the journalist visited Mohmand and Bajaur on December 18 and 19, 2015.
In 2004, Pakistani forces started the military offensive against extremist elements in South Waziristan Agency and journalists in the tribal belt have been collateral damage in the war on terror ever since.
It might have started earlier, some as disappearances, but it went on the record in 2005. The first to lose their lives were Allah Noor Wazir and Amir Nawab who were slain in Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan, after covering an agreement between security forces and a local militant commander. At the end of the same year, Naseer Khan became the third victim when he was killed in December by unidentified men in Darra Adam Khel, FR Kohat.
The fourth to fall prey to violence was Hayatullah when he was abducted in North Waziristan and later killed. His murderers remain unknown to-date.
Fast forward to 2008 and Dr Noor Hakeem Khan from Bajaur Agency was the fifth media representative to lose his life while covering a polio campaign in his native land in 2008.
Ibrahim khan was also murdered in Bajaur the following year when he was returning home after interviewing a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander.
The next two were from Mohmand Agency, Abdul Wahab Khan and Pervaiz Khan Mohmand, both of whom died in a bomb blast in December 2010 in Ghallanai. Following their tragic demise, Nasurullah Khan Afridi from Khyber Agency also died in a blast as a bomb had been planted in his car in Peshawar Cantt. Journalist Shafiullah Khan Orakzai was murdered in Hangu.
Mukaram Khan Atif of Mohmand Agency was killed in Shabqadar, Charsadda as he said his prayers in January 2012. In 2013, Malik Mumtaz Khan of North Waziristan was killed in his native tribal agency while on the way home and 2015 saw Zaman Mehsud killed in Tank, South Waziristan.
The last to lose his life was Mehboob Shah Afridi in Khyber Agency
When asked, founding member of the Tribal Union of Journalists and media veteran Selab Mehsud told The Express Tribune TTP only claimed responsibility for killing two journalists, Mukarram and Zaman, or those killed in bomb blasts which the militant outfit took credit for. In all the other cases, the murderers of the media persons have yet to be identified.
He said authorities had not provided any compensation to the families for which the deceased were sole bread earners in many cases. Mehsud added even international organisations working for the welfare of journalists failed to provide any assistance to the families of slain media men or raise their voice for security and compensation. The lives of journalists continue to remain under threat – with impunity.