Peshawar journalists in agony for fallen friends and future
By Waseem Ahmad Shah
PESHAWAR: Journalists carrying the coffin of their fallen colleague, Asfandyar Chamkani, for burial on Sunday were weighed by the thought how many more such funerals lie ahead for the community.
Asfandyar`s death and injuries to several other media workers, among the scores of casualties in the twin blasts at Khyber Super Market last night, again highlighted the dangers that await journalists in just covering a violent event for the public.
With each passing day, it is becoming more difficult for journalists, both of print and electronic media, to continue with their professional duties.
Only a month ago, the journalists of Peshawar and adjoining tribal areas had buried their colleague, Nasrullah Khan Afridi. Terrorists had killed him deliberately by planting an explosive devise in his vehicle in the same vicinity.
Like previous cases of killings of journalists, his killers have still not been nabbed by the law enforcing agencies.
Since 2004, around 26 media persons have so far been killed in tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Sunday was again a hard day for media persons. Attending the last rituals of Asfandyar, they were also praying for early recovery of their injured colleagues. The midnight twin blasts, which devastated Khyber Super Market area along Bara Road in Peshawar Cantonment, left 33 persons killed and around 100 injured.
Several journalists including Bureau Chief of Dunya TV Safiullah Gul, a young internee Shafiullah, a sub-editor Barkatullah Marwat and an office assistant of The News International Mohammad Tufail, a cameraman of Khyber News Hashim Ali and Sheheryar and Riaz of Akhbar-i-Khyber were also among the injured.
The deceased Asfandyar was a struggling journalist, who remained attached with different newspapers in the past. Like scores of his other colleagues, he also used to stay in this area.
On Dec 22, 2009, he had survived a suicide bombing, which ripped through Peshawar Press Club. He received minor injuries in that occurrence. Few months ago he was hit by a speedy bus, fracturing one his legs. He remained hospitalised for several weeks and during that period he also lost his job.
But he was not fortunate enough to survive the late Saturday night bombing, which is one of the deadliest in the provincial capital this year. He was laid to rest at his ancestral village Nasirpur.
Khyber Super Market is known for its multi-storey plazas, which mostly provide accommodation to journalists, students and employees in different offices. Soon after the first blast of minor intensity people including journalists started gathering at the spot when another blast took place, which rocked the entire area.
The second blast left the nearby plazas badly damaged and also smashed windowpanes of several other buildings.
“We rushed to the spot soon after the first blast inside a restaurant. When we were about to reach there the major blast took place, leaving scores of persons killed and seriously wounded,” said Iftikhar Khan, a journalist working with News Network International and residing in same area.
He said that he saw several bodies and injured lying all along the place with some of the bodies charred beyond recognition.
“Following the second blast it was pitch darkness and people preferred to stay away from the spot fearing another blast might take place. I saw that the injured persons were groaning with pain,” said Jamaluddin Khan, a reporter of Urdu Daily Nawa-i-Waqat.
Meanwhile, Khyber Union of Journalists has condemned the blasts and called upon the government to take steps for protection of media persons.
In a press statement issued here, KhUJ president Arshid Aziz Malik and secretary general Yousaf Ali said that the area was dominated by newspapers and television channels offices. They said that some of the newspaper and television offices had received threats and the employees working there were asking their management repeatedly to shift the offices from the area but to no avail.