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Pakistani intelligence behind the assassination of Baloch journalist

Social media activists, friends, and former colleagues of Hussain believe that his investigation reports against the CPEC, the Pakistani leg of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that cuts through Balochistan could have triggered his assassination

New Delhi:  International press freedom organization – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has held the Pakistani Intelligence Agency – Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) as being responsible for the death of journalist-activist Sajid Hussain.

The body of Hussain, the editor of the Balochistan Times news website, was found on 23 April from the main river in Uppsala, Sweden. He was last seen on 2 March after traveling there by train from Stockholm, 70 km to the south.

 Slain journalist Sajid Hussain

The 39-year-old Hussain was living in Stockholm after fleeing from Pakistan in September 2012. In 2017 he was granted political asylum in Sweden, following him receiving multiple death threats on his reporting exposing Pakistan and pro-Balochistan activists.

Speaking on Hussain’s mysterious disappearance and assassination, Head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk Daniel Bastard said that everything indicates that this is an enforced disappearance.

 “And if you ask yourself who would have an interest in silencing a dissident journalist, the first response would have to be the Pakistani intelligence services. In view of the nature of the articles published by Sajid Hussain, which often crossed the ‘red lines’ imposed by the military establishment in Islamabad, and all the other reasons for suspecting Pakistani intelligence,” Bastard said.

Echoing into the voice of Bastard, Head of Swedish branch of RSF Erik Halkjaer added that as long as a crime cannot be excluded, there remains the risk that his death is linked to Hussain’s work as a journalist.

“Sajid’s controversial profile meant it could not be ruled out that he had been abducted and killed at the behest of a Pakistani intelligence agency,” RSF underlined while urging the Swedish police to investigate the death of Hussain on the incidence-trajectory lined by Bastard.

While the Sweden police have ruled out the possibility of foul play in the death of Hussain, social media has erupted on the incident. Many have trained their guns on the role of ISI proxies in the incident.

“The ISI is targeting Baloch diaspora residing in foreign nations. Pakistani intelligence is attacking the diaspora from external,” said Dr. Arvind Kumar, Professor, and Head at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal University.

Dr. Kumar who is a polymath on international affairs added there is no dangling fact on the liberation of Balochistan. “The only question is how soon? Balochis are looking for implicit support from India. This land holds strategic importance for New Delhi, if we are to keep an eye on China and its CPEC,” Kumar said in his telephonic conversation with TheNews21.

Investigation Reports on CPEC – BRI

Hussain was an open critic of the Pakistani government, especially exposing the sufferings and crimes committed against Baloch people.

However, social media activists and former colleagues of Hussain believes that his words against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Pakistani leg of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that cuts through Balochistan could have been the deciding factor for his assassination.

Hussain exhaustively wrote on operations of drug cartels in Balochistan, human trafficking of young Baloch girls and various atrocities, crimes committed by the Pakistani army on the behest of Chinese interests. The aggressive push of Islamabad to implement BRI in Baluchistan, coupled with his current work on the human rights of Baloch people could have triggered a high valued hit on him.

Assassination History of Family-Friends

According to reports, Hussain was the nephew of slain senior Baloch nationalist leader Shaheed Ghulam Mohammed Baloch. He along with other senior members of the Baloch National Movement (BNM) party were arrested by security agencies on 3 April 2009 on alleged charges of promoting and supporting terrorism and anti-state activities.

While the charges of terrorism against them were dropped by the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Turbat, all the senior members of the BNM were brutally murdered by unknown assailants. Their remains were found 40 km away from their hometown.  

Hussain’s friends from the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) also suffered a similar fate. Records show that two of his friends from BSO – Hakeem and Faisal were found dead due to unnatural causes. Hakeem died after been injected with a high-dose of poison, while Faisal was sprayed with bullets by a death squad.

Echoing many such atrocities suffered by the Baloch nationals, a representative of the Baloch Human Rights Council, Ghuram Ghani Baloch claimed that these are the fruits of Pakistan’s ‘kill-and-dump’ policy in the region.

While highlighting the role of free and fair media to develop a region, Ghuram said that Pakistan regards journalists penning the truth of Balochistan as traitors. He cited the example of journalist Hamid Mir, who exposed crimes of the Pakistani army and Islamabad-sponsored terror attacks on Balochistan, and was then shot almost six times by a death squad in the city of Karachi.

“Pakistan has banned freedom of speech and expression in Balochistan. Harsh measures on Baloch journalists and media personnel are actioned by Islamabad,” Ghuram said while turning the needle of suspicion on Pakistani Intelligence for playing the hand behind Hussain’s assassination. The Baloch national, currently residing in a European nation also expressed concerns about the apathy shown by the United Nations (UN) towards Balochistan. While requesting the UN to take cognizance of the human rights violations in Balochistan, he regarded that freedom is the only silver bullet to all the issues grappling his motherland.

China’s Guard Against CPEC

The controversial CPEC is a part of Beijing’s monstrous Belt and Road Initiative. China intends to connect its less-developed Xinjiang region in the west with that of Gwadar in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

The CPEC foresees the creation of the road, rail and pipeline links that will cut several thousand kilometers off the route to transport oil from the Middle East to China, while bypassing their mutual rival, India. The project upgrade stretches 3,000km from the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabia Sea to China’s western city of Kashgar.

The strategy with this link is to avail China an unchecked and free access to the Arabian Sea – to corner India from the west through the land and water.

However, China’s CPEC has been a recipient of insurgency attacks and threats from ethnic militant groups from Baloch lands. Thus, to counter the ethnic aggression and opposition, China weaponized Pakistan to take action against militant groups, including religious outfits

Since its unveiling in 2015 – China has always had its guard up when it came to CPEC.

Recent satellite imagery of Gwadar shows that the tinsel coastal city has now being turned into a Chinese military garrison. No journalists – national or foreign are allowed to conduct any kind of reporting or media-related sourcing activity in the area. Foreign journalists visiting Gwadar are not allowed to enter the port city without “No-Objection Certificates” (NoCs). Locals who visit other areas of Pakistan are regularly asked to show their national identity cards to step back inside their own hometown.

However, exceptions are made for Chinese state-owned media agencies. Beijing has been broadcasting and advocating investments in CPEC through documentaries aired on various Chinese government-run television news channels and digital portals.


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