Roots of Impunity – The Murder of Wali Khan Babar

Roots of Impunity

1. The Murder of Wali Khan Babar

On January 13, 2011, Wali Khan Babar, a 28-year-old correspondent for Geo TV, was driving home after covering another day of gang violence in Karachi. Babar was an unusual face on the airwaves: Popular and handsome, he was a Pashtun from Zhob in Baluchistan near the border with Afghanistan. For Geo, it was a rare boon to have a Pashtun in Karachi, and so the station planned to send him abroad for training to become an anchor.

Pashtuns, represented by the Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party, and Muhajirs, represented by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, have been enmeshed in violent attacks and counterattacks at a level not seen since the 1990s, and Babar was passionate about covering and stopping them. For a time, he was able to mingle easily among the competing forces. He reported on clashes, extortion, drug dealing, and land grabbing. He knew he was in treacherous water, but he was optimistic and, as he told one of his colleagues, he thought he could forge a truce between the ANP and MQM. But lately he was nervous. He told his boss that the MQM was after him. He told a Pashtun colleague that he thought people were following him home and watching his movements. “I get phone calls every day with threats,” said a Geo supervisor, “and unfortunately we didn’t realize the gravity of why he was saying that.”

The day before, on January 12, 2011, Mohammad Shahrukh Khan, aka Mani, was ordered to follow Babar home, but he couldn’t find the reporter. Mani, a young Muhajir and MQM member, had worked in his father’s paan and confectionary shop until he got involved with the MQM’s Faisal Mota, a community organizer and squad leader. Once Mani joined the MQM he did various jobs—selling cigarettes, brokering, election campaigning. On January 13, he got another call from Mota, who told him to go back to Geo offices where another MQM comrade would give him a car to follow Babar.

Mani arrived outside the offices of Geo around Asr, the afternoon prayer. Two MQM guys named Zeeshan and Liaqat were already there and gave him the keys to a silver Suzuki, parked behind Babar’s car. They had put a 50-rupee credit on Mani’s mobile and told him to call when Babar pulled out. Around 8:30 p.m., Babar got in his car and began his drive home. Mani called Zeeshan: “He’s leaving.” He then called his boss, Faisal Mota, who kept him on the phone to narrate the exact route—through the Saddar area, by the lines for cricket, past the post office and the Esso station. And then suddenly there was Zeeshan. Babar was stuck in traffic in Liaquatabad, an exclusively Muhajir neighborhood, with Mani behind him. Zeeshan, wearing a cap, went in front of Mani up to Babar’s car, raised a black pistol, and fired six or seven times through the window. We know all this from Mani’s videotaped confession, which can be found online.

Mani panicked and fled. He called Faisal Mota. What’s going on? By the time he got to Faisal Mota’s house several MQM guys were already there—men with names like Waseem Commando and Shahid Commando. Zeeshan arrived soon after and then Mota walked in. Mota told Mani to relax and say not a word, but Mani left the next day for Lahore, where he stayed for two months. Upon his return to Karachi he went to Mota’s office in Gulshan. By now the police were on to them, and Mota ordered them to head to Hyderabad where Liaqat, another plotter, was in hiding. It was too late. Shortly after they left Mota’s office, Mani and four others saw the police moving in. A firefight broke out. Somehow Mota, the ringleader, got away.

On April 7, 2011, the police held a news conference announcing the arrest of Mani and four others. Twelve days later, stories began appearing in Pakistan Today with details of the murder culled from the suspects’ statements to a Joint Investigation Team. According to the team’s report, Mota had apparently received the assassination order around January 1 from Agha Murtaza, a South Africa-based MQM operative who investigators said has controlled several hit cells for years. Mota had convened a meeting at his house on January 7 and assigned different MQM members to monitor Babar at various locations, including the reporter’s residence and a Peshawari ice cream shop near the reporter’s house.

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A million postcards addressed to the PM’s Office in New Delhi have been sent by Sindhi-speaking residents of India to demand a Sindhi language channel at Doordarshan TV

A million postcards to save a language

By Manoj R Nair, Hindustan Times

Since March 2012, thousands of postcards addressed to the Prime Minister’s Office in New Delhi have been sent from cities and small towns in the country that has Sindhi-speaking residents. These handwritten messages postcards, which have the names and telephone numbers of the senders, have one

demand: a Sindhi-language television channel from government-run broadcaster Doordarshan.

Tens of thousands of these cards have been posted from Mumbai too. One group – the Bandra-based Friends of International Sindhis – collected Rs. 60,000 at their Diwali function in 2012 and purchased 1,20,000 postcards priced at 50 paise each.

Sindhi is one of the languages listed in the 8th schedule of the constitution, but with no linguistic state of their own to keep it flourishing, the community worries that the tongue is hurtling towards extinction.

Asha Chand, secretary of Sindhi Sangat, a Mumbai-based group explains why they are worried about their mother tongue’s future. “How do you learn a language? It is by hearing someone speak it. Children learn a language by hearing their parents talking it. But, when a large number of Sindhis have stopped speaking the language, how will they pass it on to their children?” she asked.

After they migrated to India after partition, Sindhis set up newspapers and schools in their language. But, as newer generations shifted to schools in English and other languages, these newspapers and schools have declined or closed down. For instance, the K J Khilnani School in Mahim, which is situated next to large housing colony of Sindhi-speakers, once held classes in the language. The school has now switched to the English medium and few children from the housing colony study there.

Continue reading A million postcards addressed to the PM’s Office in New Delhi have been sent by Sindhi-speaking residents of India to demand a Sindhi language channel at Doordarshan TV