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Pakistan 30 January 2003

Murdered journalist’s family gets compensation


A traditional assembly (jirga) awarded damages of 1.65 million rupees (more than 25,000 euros) on 28 January to the widow and five children of murdered journalist Sahid Soomro, a third of it as special compensation for "killing a journalist."

The presumed killers, Wahid and Mohammed Ali, appeared before the jirga, in Kandhot, in the southeastern province of Baluchistan, after being cited by the brother of Soomro, who was murdered last October. Influential figures in the region had advised the family to take the case before a jirga rather than a conventional court.

The assembly was chaired by a senior member of the Sundrani tribe, Sardar Sunder Khan Sundrani, assisted by former member of parliament Illahi Bux Soomro, local journalists and other local figures. Disputes and crimes, including murders, in this region of Pakistan are usually dealt with by traditional courts so as to avoid too severely punishing the accused.


Journalist fatally shot in front of his house

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the murder of journalist Shahid Soomro, in front of his house in Mirzanpur, near the southeastern Pakistani city of Kandhkot, during the night of 20-21 October.

"In the light of this cold-blooded assassination of a journalist, we cannot fail to be concerned about the conception certain political party supporters have of what constitutes freedom of expression" said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to federal interior minister Moin-ud-din Haider. "This crime must be solved urgently or those responsible may escape punishment."

Soomro, who worked for the Sindi-language daily Kawish, was called out of his house by the killers, said Ahmed Raza, correspondent of the Daily Times in Hyderabad. When he emerged, they tried to kidnap him, but he resisted and they shot him before fleeing in a car. He died of serious stomach wounds on his way to hospital.

It is thought articles he wrote during the election campaign may have triggered his death. Police have arrested Mohammad Ali Bijarani and are seeking four other suspects, including Bijarani’s brother Wahid and another man, Mohammad Bajkani.

The Bijarani brothers belong to a family of influential local politicians. Another brother, Mir Mehboob, was recently elected to the provincial assembly for Kandhkot, and an uncle, Mir Hazzar Khan Bijarani, is a former federal minister and has been elected as a member of the national assembly on the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians ticket. Soomro, who was 26 and had a wife and two children, had written articles about Mir Mehboob.

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