Authorities in Sindh province, Pakistan, must immediately launch a credible investigation and apprehend those responsible for the killing of journalist Ajay Lalwani, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
Lalwani, a local general news correspondent for the privately owned Urdu language Daily Puchano, died yesterday after suffering three gunshot wounds on Wednesday evening in Sukkur, in northern Sindh Province, according to Imdad Soomro, a correspondent of national English daily The News, who saw Lalwani in the hospital before he died, and Ashiq Jatoi, editor of the Daily Puchano, both of whom spoke to CPJ over the phone.
Jatoi said Lalwani was sitting in a barber shop in the Salehpat area of Sukkur when two motorcycles and a car with four passengers drove by and opened fire, striking Lalwani in the stomach, arm, and knee. He was taken to Civil Hospital in Sukkur where he later died due to blood loss, said Jatoi.
A police report posted on Twitter by Pakistan National Assembly member Lal Malhi said the journalist was fired upon by “unknown culprits” on a motorcycle; in the report, Ifran Ali Samo, Sukkur’s senior superintendent of police, announced the formation of a team to investigate the killing.
Jatoi told CPJ he believes that the killing was related to Lalwani’s reporting, citing past threats against the journalist, though he did not provide further details. Jatoi also cast doubt on the impartiality of the investigative team, citing a history of tension between the local police and journalists.
“Police in Sindh province must waste no time investigating the killing of journalist Ajay Lalwani and apprehending those responsible,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “It’s critical that the investigation be led by officers who are able to maintain public confidence, given the long the history of tensions between local journalists and the police in Sukkur.”
As CPJ has previously documented, journalists in Sukkur have repeatedly held demonstrations against police to protest the filing of anti-state charges against journalists who report on alleged corruption; sometimes these demonstrations are met with police violence.
On March 15, police lodged terrorism charges against journalists covering recent protests against the police, according to The News and a police report CPJ reviewed.
According to Jatoi and Soomro, Lalwani was an active participant in the Sindh Journalist Council, an organization of local journalists that has engaged in such demonstrations.
A message sent via a messaging app to the spokesperson for the Sindh Province police seeking comment was not immediately answered. Samo, the police superintendent, did not respond to a message sent by messaging app seeking comment. He also did not answer a phone call.
Pakistan has long been a deadly country for journalists. In 2020, it ranked ninth on CPJ’s annual Global Impunity Index, which assesses countries where journalists are murdered regularly and their killers go free, with 15 unsolved murders.