Two weeks after the abduction of journalist Hayatullah Khan in Pakistan’s northeastern Tribal Areas, his two young sons and daughter have appealed to his kidnappers to free him. In demonstrations by Khan’s family and the Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ) on 17 December in Mir Ali (in North Waziristan) and today in the city of Peshawar, the authorities were urged to make an effort to save Khan’s life. Reporters Without Borders supported their call.
“The kidnappers must heed the appeal of these children who have been without a father since he was taken on 5 December,” the press freedom organisation said. “The federal government must adopt energetic measures to bring this disturbing and mysterious abduction to an end.”
Khan’s eight-year-old daughter, Naila Hayat, and her brothers, Hamran, 5, and Fareshta, 6, were at the head of a demonstration by family members and Khan’s colleagues. The children carried a placard with the words: “Give us our father back.”
A demonstration by journalists led by TUJ president Sailab Mehsud called on the government to step up its efforts to find Khan alive. “Journalists are the victims of a catastrophic security situation in the Tribal Areas,” he said.
The TUJ and the Khyber Union of Journalists (based in the Peshawar region) have joined forces to wage a campaign for Khan’s release and are planning to go to Islamabad. “We will continue to demonstrate until he is free,’ the organisations said.
Khan is the North Waziristan correspondent for two dailies, Ausaf and Nation, and a photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA). There are conflicting claims about the identity and motives of his kidnappers. His family suspect the authorities were behind his abduction. One of his brother told Reporters Without Borders that Khan told him the day before his abduction: “If anything happens to me, the government must held responsible.”
A Peshawar province official told a delegation of journalists on 14 December that arrests had been made in the case and that Khan’s release was just a matter of days.
Four days before his abduction, Khan investigated the death in North Waziristan of Hamza Rabia, a leading Arab member of Al Qaeda, taking photos which cast doubt on the official account of Rabia’s death and which indicated that he was in fact been killed by a US-made missile.