ISLAMABAD: Journalist bodies have demanded the Afghan government to immediately release Pakistani journalist Faizullah Khan, who had mistakenly crossed the Afghan border and was sentenced to four years prison sentence by the Afghan authorities.
“It is amazing that Pakistan is accommodating 3.5 million illegal Afghan immigrants; however, a journalist who mistakenly crossed the border was sentenced to four years in prison which is sheer injustice,” President Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Afzal Butt said on Thursday.
The sentence was announced on July 13 and was imposed by a military court in the eastern province of Nangarhar. Khan, who works for the Karachi based TV station ARY News, was arrested by the Afghan authorities in Nangarhar in April after travelling to Peshawar, in north-western Pakistan, to interview Taliban leaders and suddenly losing contact with his colleagues.
The Pakistani media reported his arrest in Afghanistan on May 5. Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) was subsequently said to suspect him of spying but no formal charge was brought against him. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urged the Afghanistan and Pakistan governments to act urgently for the safe return of the journalist.
Reporters Without Borders and a Pakistani press freedom organization, Freedom Network, have condemned the four-year jail sentence that an Afghan court has imposed on Pakistani TV reporter Faizullah Khan for illegally crossing into Afghanistan while researching a story on the Taliban.
The South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) Afghan chapter has been contacted in Kabul seeking help in the release of the Pakistani journalist. However SAFMA’s in-charge in Kabul has called for a letter from SAFMA office-bearers in Pakistan. Information Minister Pervez Rashid urged Karzai to issue a presidential pardon.
“I appeal to Afghan president Hamid Karzai to use his powers to pardon Faizullah Khan,” Rashid said in a press conference in Islamabad.
Rashid said Pakistan was also using diplomatic channels for the release of its journalist. “Both the Ministry of Interior and the Information Ministry have been pursuing this matter from day one when he was arrested,” he added. Rashid said Pakistan respected Afghanistan’s judicial system and was appealing verdict in an Afghan court. For all the aid and succour Pakistan gives Afghans and Afghan refugees the Afghan government should release the harmless Pakistani journalist who was only doing his job.