PPF remembers media workers Ejaz Raisani and Muhammad Sarwar lost on the frontlines

On September 3, 2010, two media staffers — Samaa TV camera operator Ejaz Raisani and Aaj News driver Muhammad Sarwar — were killed in a suicide attack on a procession in Quetta, the capital city of the Balochistan province that claimed the lives of at least 64 people and  over 160 injured in the blast. The procession was organised by the Shiite Imamia Students’ Organisation to mark Al Quds Day to express solidarity with the Palestinians.

On the fateful day, the journalists were covering a protest march when the suicide bomb went off, which was then followed by shooting. The people participating in the procession then started firing, triggering chaos and panic. People fled or lay on the ground to avoid the gunfire. Several people, including journalists, were injured as a result of the shots.

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) commemorates the lives of the two media staffers who lost their lives in the incident and recognizes their role on the frontlines. The incident also left several media workers injured thus highlighting the need for media on the frontline to be provided with the necessary safety equipment.

Of the two media workers who lost their lives, Sarwar died on the spot after being struck by bullets while Raisani was injured in the blast receiving two bullet wounds. Three days later, on September 6, he died.

Speaking to PPF, Sarwar’s brother Anwar said Sarwar was the only breadwinner of their family as Anwar was studying at the time. Anwar said that Aaj News had provided them with a lot of help at the time. However, he was unhappy with the investigation process and the government’s support.

Aaj News Quetta Bureau Chief Mujeeb Ahmed said that Sarwar was passionate about his work and drove safely. He said Sarwar was away from the zone but due to the firing, died on the spot.

Samaa TV Quetta Bureau Chief Jalal Noorzai said that Raisani was died and a reporter Noor Elahi Bugti were injured in the incident. He recalled that Raisani was “very passionate and hardworking.

According to Noorzai, Raisani was the only breadwinner of his family and the network has helped his family by bearing his children’s expenditures. Initially they were given Rs1 million and they continued to pay Raisani’s salary to his wife.

Quetta Press Club President Khaliq Rind said that he had good working relations with Raisani who he described as “very enthusiastic and dedicated to his work [at a] young age”.

“His death was a major loss [to the] media community,” he said.

Media workers injured

Several other journalists were injured including a reporter for Samaa TV Noor Elahi Bugti, the bureau chief for ARY News Mustafa Tareen, a camera operator Aminullah Mengal, a camera operator for Express News Shahid Mukhtar, a reporter for Express News Irshad Mastoi, camera operator for Geo News Imran Mukhtar, and camera operator for Dawn News Fateh Shakir.

Angry protestors had also fired gunshots at the Direct Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) vans of the TV channels Aaj News, Dunya TV, Express News and Dawn News.

Bugti told PPF that he was injured on his head and arm. He was initially treated at CMH after which he was treated at Civil Hospital for 12 days According to Bugti, there were no safety precautions or life jackets available at the news organisation at the time which he believed was the reason cameraman Raisani had died and that he was injured. He said that it was the practice at the time and many journalists died while reporting in Quetta.

Now Bugti is the AbbTakk News Bureau Chief and he makes sure that all precautionary equipment is available for every cameraman, reporter and other crew members.

Another of the injured media workers, Mengal said that he received minor injuries in the incident and his left arm was still not fully functional. Mengal was treated at the CMH for a day but his employers ARY News supported his treatment at Aga Khan University Hospital. Two months after the incident, Mengal rejoined work. He continues to work as ARY News Quetta as a senior cameraman and now with complete safety precautions.

Injured in the incident, Shakir who is now Balochistan Union of Journalists General Secretary and 24 News senior cameraman said that no safety measures were taken at the time. After the incident, Dawn had provided them with life jackets. However, at his current employers, 24 News, no one is following such measures for safety.

Shakir said that after the incident the fear of [losing] his life has become permanent.

He advised young journalists that they are going to report and cover the news and shouldn’t become the news story themselves.

“First think of your families and follow all basic security measures,” he said, adding that he was disheartened when his employer organisation had not supported him. He said that they had not covered either medical or other expenses.

Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) suicide wing Qari Hussain had said the attacks had been carried out by Taliban suicide bombers. However, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi also claimed responsibility for the attack and had said a 22-year-old suicide bomber Rashid Moaawia carried out the attack.

Then Balochistan home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said that the organisers of the procession had been alerted to the threat.

Bomb disposal squad officials said the device packed 15 kilograms of explosives. The impact of the blast smashed windows of a number of shops and buildings. All shopping centres and business establishments shuttered down after an angry mob set several vehicles on fire and ransacked some shops.

According to The Express Tribune, police had taken 20 suspects into custody and then Balochistan chief minister had formed a judicial tribunal to investigate the attack.

City Police Station Head Moharar Shabbir told PPF that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was responsible for the attack but no one was arrested from the militant group. He said that police had arrested the organisers of the protest rally. Later, however, the Anti-Terrorism Court in Quetta had closed the case and granted them all bail.

Translation