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Irshad Mastoi: A murder shrouded in mystery

Pakistani journalists chant slogans during a demonstration to condemn a suicide bombing in Quetta that killed dozens of people including some journalists, in Karachi, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016
Pakistani journalists chant slogans during a demonstration to condemn a suicide bombing in Quetta that killed dozens of people including some journalists, in Karachi, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016

AP Photo/Shakil Adil

The following statement was originally published on pakistanpressfoundation.org on 28 August 2016.

Yesterday, 28 August, marks the second anniversary of the murder of Irshad Mastoi, an assignment editor at ARY News, bureau chief at Online news agency and secretary-general of the Baluchistan Union of Journalists. Mastoi was murdered along with his two colleagues Abdul Rasool Khajjak, a trainee reporter, and Muhammad Younas, an accountant. According to the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), these murders remain shrouded in mystery despite the passage of two years.

On 28 August 2014 at 7:45 pm, Mastoi, Khajjak, and Younas were working in the office when two men armed with 9mm pistols barged into the office and shot them several times in Quetta, the capital city of Baluchistan province.

Khajjak and Younas died on the spot. Irshad was injured and died on route to the Civil Hospital in Quetta. The initial examination showed that the media workers suffered bullet wounds in the chest and head.

Mastoi's colleagues believe he was murdered because of his article on the eve of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti's 8th death anniversary. However, some of his close friends suspected the involvement of a politico-sectarian party in his killing because he did not publicize the party's press releases and statements.

On 29 September 2014, Home Minister of Baluchistan Sarfaraz Bugti announced the formation of a tribunal of enquiry consisting of Justice Muhammad Hashim Kakar of the Baluchistan High Court (BHC). The commission report was sent to both the Baluchistan chief minister and the chief secretary but it has not been made public.

On 2 September 2015, Sarfaraz Bugti announced the arrest of two suspects, Shafqat Ali Rodani [alias Naveed] and Ibrahim Nachari [alias Shah Jee], and presented them before the media. The minister said that the accused were affiliated with separatist militant group, Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA).

According to the government the accused were not only responsible for murdering Mastoi and his colleagues but were also involved in thirty bomb explosions and a series of targeted killings in Quetta and other parts of Baluchistan.

The videotape of the confession of the accused was also played in the news conference.

However, local journalists in Baluchistan pointed out a number of serious contradictions in the confessions of the accused that cast serious doubt on the authenticity of their statements.

On 13 October 2015, an investigation team of the Quetta police force raided the houses of militants Rodani and Nachar in Mustang district of Baluchistan province, and both the accused were killed in the encounter.

Mastoi's family do not believe they were the actual killers. According to Mastoi's cousin Sarang Mastoi, the government ended the case by killing militants that were unimplicated in the murder.

Shahzada Zulfiqar, President of the Quetta Press Club, has called on the government to lift the confusion caused by the contradictory confessional statements by ordering a reinvestigation of the case. He also called on the government to create a safe environment for the family members and colleagues of Mastoi and other murdered journalists in Baluchistan to be able to record their statements and give evidence without fear.

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