Wana correspondent missing in Islamabad
ISLAMABAD: Nov 20: Dilawar Khan Wazir, Dawn’s correspondent in South Waziristan, who also worked for the BBC Urdu service, went missing from Islamabad on Monday afternoon.His younger brother Zulfiqar Ali, a final year student at the International Islamic University, told Dawn that after meeting him on Monday, Mr Wazir said he was returning to Dera Ismail Khan, but since then he had been untraceable. The mystery surrounding his disappearance was compounded when Mr Ali was approached by a few people who wanted to take him to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) on the pretext that Mr Wazir was admitted there following a road accident. Already suspicious of such activities since their younger brother had been kidnapped and killed in Wana earlier this year, Mr Ali was advised by friends not to accompany the men.Instead, they called on Mr Wazir’s mobile phone and someone who identified himself as Doctor Jamshed from Pims said the journalist was admitted to the hospital. However, subsequent events proved that neither Mr Wazir had been brought to Pims nor anyone by the name of Jamshed worked in the hospital.
Both the BBC and Dawn have approached several government officials, expressing serious concern over the circumstances in which Mr Wazir went missing, but he has remained untraceable. During the day when a number of journalists tried to piece together the events, they were informed by police that no accident had been reported from Pirwadhai area, from where Mr Wazir was reported to have been taken to the hospital. Security officials said a large-scale hunt had been launched to trace the whereabouts of the missing journalist. Mr Ali said he had serious concerns about the manner in which Mr Wazir had disappeared. He said the people who had approached him at the university hostel looked suspicious.Some students at the hostel said the people who wanted to take Mr Ali with them had gone there in a Suzuki hi-roof, having the registration plate AJKE 3498. Even after Mr Ali had refused to accompany them to the hospital, they remained outside the hostel for some time, and left only when they were convinced that he would not leave the place.
When contacted, Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said he was not aware of the development, but promised to order an investigation. Later, the interior secretary and other officials called the Dawn office and held out the assurance that all possible efforts would be made to track down the missing journalist. Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah said the additional inspector-general of police, Islamabad, had been assigned the task to investigate the matter. The journalist fraternity, including their unions, were concerned because of the past history, where journalists had gone missing and later it had been discovered that they had been picked up by one intelligence agency or the other. Fears about threat to Mr Wazir’s life also appeared real as he had escaped attempts on his life in the past while reporting for Dawn and the BBC from Wana.A bomb exploded outside his house in Karikot, South Waziristan, on Dec 16, 2005.
His younger brother, 14-year-old Taimur Khan, was kidnapped by unknown people on Aug 29 this year and his body was found the following day with torture marks. Mr Wazir had moved to Dera Ismail Khan last year, following the death of two fellow journalists, Allah Noor Wazir and Amir Nawab Khan, in Wana on Feb 7, 2005. Mr Wazir, who was travelling with them, had escaped unhurt. They were returning from Sara Rogha after covering the signing ceremony of a peace agreement between the government and militant commander Baitullah Mehsud. Mr Wazir has since been living mostly in Dera Ismail Khan for security reasons, occasionally visiting his native Wana. Mr Wazir had visited the Dawn Peshawar office two days ago, but our correspondent from the NWFP capital says he did not mention anything about any personal rivalry or any immediate threat to himself.