Murdered for exposing truth: Report alleges MQM of a Journalist’s murder in 2007 and calls for re-investigation

The local police department in Mirpurkhas initiated an investigation into Zubair’s murder but failed to identify a suspect.

Recently, press freedom watchdogs called authorities to re-investigate the 2007 murder case of a Mirpurkhas journalist Zubair Mujahid. To everyone’s surprise, the in-depth investigative report unveiled glaring irregularities in the original murder investigation conducted by the police.

The investigative report is titled “Breaking the Silence: An investigation into the murder of Zubair Mujahid”. The re-investigation of the case focused on exploring the possible involvement of the Mirpurkhas police and Muttahida Qaumi Movement in Zubair’s murder. The report has been published as part of an initiative, called “A Safer World for the Truth” launched by the Free Press Unlimited (FPU), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Details of Zubair Mujahid’s Murder

Zubair Mujahid was a journalist from Mirpurkhas whose stories exposed corruption and human rights abuses. His stories and columns were published in the Daily Jang in Karachi. Zubair was shot on the 23rd of November 2007 while he was sitting behind his colleague who was riding a motorcycle, going home from the office.

Investigation into the Murder

The local police department in Mirpurkhas initiated an investigation into Zubair’s murder but failed to identify a suspect. The second round of investigations was conducted by the Crime & Investigation Branch in Hyderabad, but this did not yield any results either. In the 13 years that have passed since the incident, no one has been convicted for Zubair Mujahid’s murder; the killers are still at large.

Re-investigation into the Case in 2021

To break the silence around Zubair’s murder, A Safer World for the Truth conducted its own investigation into the case. The press freedom watchdog’s investigation team reviewed the official police files and interviewed 20 witnesses intending to uncover new evidence to support the road to justice for Zubair. The investigation also included an analysis of Zubair’s publications before the murder and the threats he received in response to his writing.

Here are all the gory details of Zubair Mujahid’s murder case the re-investigation report revealed:

Mirpurkhas police should have been Prime Suspects

The investigation report revealed that Zubair Mujahid reported extensively on alleged wrongdoings of the Mirpurkhas police that occurred in 2007. The late journalist exposed several instances of police misconduct, including cases of alleged torture.

Some of these incidents were brought before the Supreme Court, leading to the eventual removal of several police officers from their posts. As these events unfolded, Zubair started receiving worrying threats from individuals within the Mirpurkhas police about his reporting. He was still receiving these threats a few days before he was murdered.

Considering this, it was unlikely that the police conducted an unbiased investigation into the journalist’s murder. According to the report, individuals within the Mirpurkhas police may have had a motive for murder and should have been considered as potential suspects.

Errors and Gaps in Police Investigations

After reviewing the official police files, the existence of several significant errors and anomalies in the investigations carried out by the Mirpurkhas police, and by the Crime & Investigation Branch in Hyderabad was concluded.

The most prominent investigating errors included: the careless handling of physical evidence (including the bullet and the bullet casing) and the apparent lack of forensic analysis that could have significantly advanced the investigation.

Threats from the MQM

The MQM’s armed wing was reportedly responsible for a large part of the political violence that took place in Sindh in 2007. The investigation report found indications that the MQM attempted to pressure Zubair into reporting more favorably about it. The report also documents threats that Zubair received from MQM members in the 1990s.

Cause for Re-investigation of the Murder

In light of these serious errors in the official murder investigation, the report concludes that a re-investigation of Zubair Mujahid’s murder is necessary to achieve justice for the journalist.

The report identifies two potential avenues for further investigation:

  1. The possible involvement of the Mirpurkhas police, as Zubair received threats in the period leading up to his murder indicating a strong motive for murder.
  2. The possible involvement of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in the murder as they were responsible for a large part of political violence in 2007.

In its recommendation, A Safer World for the Truth report called for re-investigation by an effective and impartial investigation team under the auspices of the Sindh High Court:

  • Article 199 of Chapter 1 of the Constitution grants Zubair Mujahid’s family the right to seek remedy when their fundamental rights are undermined.
  • In light of the errors and biases found in the official investigation, the High Court of Sindh has the jurisdiction to evaluate whether Article 10A of the Constitution – the right to a fair trial – has been violated.

The investigative report further recommends that the impartiality, effectiveness, and safety of the future investigation must be monitored by an independent mechanism and adequate protection of witnesses must be guaranteed. The new inquiry must explore the possible involvement of the Mirpurkhas police and the possible involvement of the MQM in the murder.

Disclosing police probes to family

The report details that the information regarding past investigation efforts must be disclosed to Zubair Mujahid’s family; the Crime & Investigation Branch in Hyderabad must inform the family about the efforts it made to find the perpetrators of Zubair’s murder.

Safeguard the Journalist Community

According to the statistics provided by the Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists, Pakistan has seen almost total impunity for the murder of journalists over the past decade. In conclusion, the report recommended that authorities must step up to provide justice for the journalists. The report calls for a special unit to be set up for investigation and prosecution of the unresolved journalist murders.

The report also called upon the international community to provide support to achieve justice for Zubair Mujahid and to strengthen Pakistan’s fight against impunity. According to the report, the international community must monitor progress on the re-investigation and if requested by the Pakistani authorities, resources and expertise must be made available to help resolve the murder.

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