On this day, a decade ago on June 11, 2011, twin blasts in Peshawar killed 39 people and injured over 100 others. A journalist was killed on the spot in the explosion while eight others were injured, one of whom succumbed to injuries and passed away just days later on June 17.
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) remembers journalists Asfandyar Abid Naveed and Shafiullah Khan who lost their lives as a result of the deadly blast. We also pay tribute to all the media personnel, who at frontlines of such attacks, often themselves become the target.
A low-intensity blast caused by a small explosive planted in a toilet of a restaurant at 11:45pm on June 11 drew rescue workers and police to the scene. As the offices of several electronic and print media were also located in the densely populated area and, journalists who work and reside there also rushed to the spot. A few minutes later, a large explosion rocked the area when a man on a motorbike detonated his suicide vest, causing a high number of casualties. The second blast left the nearby plazas severely damaged and smashed the window panes of several other buildings. Police investigators believed the first low intensity bomb was planted as a trap to target mostly the police and journalists who were expected to come to the site of the explosion.
The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had denied responsibility for the attack.
Daily Akhbar-i-Khyber reporter Asfandyar Abid Naveed, 35, died on the spot as a result of the blasts.
Naveed had previously survived a suicide bombing that ripped through the Peshawar Press Club on December 22, 2009. He had also previously been struck by a speeding bus, resulting in fractures on one of his legs. Following that incident, he was hospitalized for several weeks and lost his job. Naveed had just recently started his position at Akhbar-i-Khyber when the blast took place and claimed his life.
Aside from Naveed, seven others were injured in the blasts — Dunya TV bureau chief Saifullah Gul, Dunya TV reporter Imran Bukhari, The News sub-editor Barkatullah Marwat, Geo TV reporter Qazi Fazlullah, AVT Khyber cameraman Hashim Ali, a trainee reporter at The News, Peshawar Shafiullah Khan and two reporters for the daily Akhbar-i-Khyber, Sheheryar and Riaz, were among the injured.
Khan, 28, succumbed to his injuries and passed away on June 17.Speaking to PPF, Khan’s brother Azizullah said that it was his deceased brother’s first job after he completed his degree in journalism from Gomal University in Dera Ismail Khan. He said that Khan’s family did not file a separate criminal complaint regarding the attack as it was a bomb blast and not a targeted killing therefore the family had not planned to pursue the case.
Resident editor of The News Raheemullah Yousufzai told PPF that Khan was a young energetic soul who was enthusiastic and eager to learn new things but unfortunately, he had died in the blast.
Gulberg Police Station Mohrar Miraj said that the case was presented under the unknown category in Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) as none of the accused have yet been identified.
Khyber Union of Journalists President Fida Khattak said they request the government to arrest those behind the attack and demand justice for all those who lost their lives in the blast.
Speaking to PPF, some of the injured shared how surviving the blasts had changed how they work. Geo TV reporter Fazlullah said he has become more alert, adding that he has always maintained a distance which was why he was less severely injured when the first blast occurred in Peshawar in 2011. He said he maintained that distance because twin blasts were often anticipated in the city. Fazlullah believed that organizations must arrange safety training workshops for their reporters and camera persons so they can better handle such situations.
Marwat who has since started his own newspaper Pakhtunkhwa Bulletin while also working at The News, said the incident had affected his mental health, adding that seeing bodies and people crying for help was something unforgettable. He emphasized the importance of maintaining safety first. Bukhari who still works at Dunya TV said that the incident had affected him, adding that everyone belonging to journalism and working in field had seen many blasts and bodies which damages their mental health. However, he said that unfortunately no one pays attention to that, and they work continuously regardless of the risks to mental and physical health.
He believed that young reporters sometimes put themselves in danger to get exclusive footage and breaking news, a culture he said employers should discourage.
Ali who is now working with Deeva TV said that following the incident he maintained a distance while covering such incidents by getting footage and trying to leave the site of the incident as soon as possible.