Asad Kharal, a Pakistani investigative journalist was assaulted by unknown persons in Lahore, the capital city of Punjab province on the night between 5 and 6 June 2018. He received multiple injuries and was rushed to a hospital. In his tweet Kharal said: “I have been attacked by some person wearing masks, I am in hospital.” Kharal, who is also an anchorperson at BOL TV, is known for his stories about corruption in Pakistan.
Superintendent of Police (SP) Cantonment Lahore Bilal Zafar said they have received a complaint that some unidentified men had allegedly tortured Kharal. He said police are probing the matter.
The incident was widely condemned by media organizations, political parties and civil society.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) expressed grave concerns over the violent attack on Kharal, as well as the alleged abduction of a columnist, Gul Bukhari, also from Lahore on the same day. “[Both incidents have] similar patterns and indicate the involvement of ‘unknown persons’ behind these incidents,” the PFUJ statement said.
PFUJ President Afzal Butt and Secretary General Ayub Jan Sarhandi, in their joint statement, said that the police have failed to arrest the culprits. They demanded the government constitute a judicial commission to inquire into these incidents. The PFUJ leaders called upon all human rights organisations to take notice of such targeted attacks carried out by ‘unknown persons’. Moreover, the union made an appeal to the Supreme Court to take a suo motu action against the ‘unknown actors’ who are “trying to suppress freedom of expression provided [for] under the constitution”.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the incident and asked the Inspector General (IG) of Police to submit a report on the incident within 24 hours.
The Caretaker Federal Minister for Information, Broadcasting, National History and Literary Heritage Syed Ali Zafar strongly condemned the attack on Kharal. In a statement, the minister said freedom of expression was a fundamental right and protection of this right was a constitutional obligation. The minister directed the concerned authorities to fulfill their responsibilities in this regard in accordance with the law. The minister prayed for Kharal’s early recovery.
British-Pakistani commentator briefly abducted in Lahore, Pakistan
Gul Bukhari, a contributing writer of the daily The Nation, who is known for her criticism of Pakistani security agencies, was intercepted by some unidentified persons in the Cantonment area of Lahore, while she was on her way to appear on a TV show on Waqt News Channel, the night of 5 June. She returned home in the early morning as the abduction lasted a few hours.
Her husband Ali Nadir said in a WhatsApp message that Bukhari left for the office at 10:40 and was apparently picked up on the way. “It seems to be plain clothes people but we don’t have any more info,” he siad.
The PFUJ expressed grave concerns over the incident. The abduction of Bukhari, aged 52, who is also a British national, also caused concern in the UK Government. The British minister Mark Field wrote in a Twitter post on Wednesday “Deeply concerned by reports of the abduction of British-Pakistani journalist Gul Bukhari in Lahore, Pakistan, last night. Relieved that she has now been released.” “The UK strongly supports freedom of expression which is a cornerstone of democracy,” he added. Earlier during the day, the British High Commission in Islamabad also expressed concerns over the columnist’s abduction and said it was reaching out with consular assistance.