The recent murder of Asia Times Online Bureau Chief Syed Saleem Shahzad dramatically highlighted the hazards facing Pakistani journalists reporting or commenting on terror. Now there is another Pakistani journalist facing threats because of his writing. It is Mr. Musa Khan Jalalzai, an Afghan based in London, who is a columnist for the Daily Times published in Islamabad. Mr. Jalalzai has produced dozens of books related to Afghanistan and Pakistani terror groups to his credit and because of his wide contacts in both countries is recognized as an authority on the subject.
It might be recalled that according to an article in The New Yorker Shahzad was tortured and killed by the Pakistan army which was extracting information from him regarding the whereabouts of Al Qaeda operative Ilyas Kashmiri. According to the article Pakistan conveyed the information to US authorities and subsequently Kashmiri was killed. Shahzad was by no means a terrorist but a passionately dedicated reporter covering terror outfits in the region. In the line of such duty journalists inevitably make contacts with dubious sources they protect to keep the information flowing. But the governments are equally dedicated and leave no stone unturned to eliminate enemies. That is why if The New Yorker article is correct, Shahzad was tortured to death and Kashmiri was killed. Clearly there is need for the government and journalists to determine ground rules that may avert such tragedy as befell Shahzad.
Like Shahzad who wrote a revealing book that provoked his enemies, Mr. Jalalzai too very recently has authored two controversial books, Punjabi Taliban: The future of Civil War in Pakistan, and Civil War and the Partition of Afghanistan. These books have inflamed sections among the terrorists and Mr. Jalalzai for the past few months has been regularly receiving death threats. He wrote to the British Home Secretary seeking protection. It is hoped that he is adequately protected. For prime targets neither distance nor location proves insurmountable barrier for terrorists. One hopes that Pakistani journalists who are performing their duty with integrity, courage and candour continue to maintain their tempo. History surely will thank them.