The body of missing Pakistani journalist and editor-in-chief of Balochistan Times — Sajid Hussain was found dead by Swedish authorities in a river near the city of Uppsala. This was nearly two months after the disappearance of Sajid Hussain.
Police authorities verified that the body found was of Sajid Hussain and are yet to confirm the exact cause of his death. However, Reporters without Borders (RSF), a press freedom organization have pointed the finger of suspicion at Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI whom they believe to be behind the abduction.
Earlier in the day, Arif Wazir, the leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) was killed after being attacked a day ago outside his home in Wana, South Waziristan. The attack on Arif Wazir also drew immediate condemnations from Amnesty International.
The Pakistani journalist had been critical of the Pakistani Army’s counterinsurgency operations in the southwestern province of Balochistan.
Sajid (39) was a prominent journalist from Balochistan province and had to leave Pakistan in 2012 because authorities did not like his reporting of documented human rights abuses, including forced disappearances in the uneasy Balochistan region.
After living in the Middle East and Africa for years, Hussain arrived in Sweden in September 2017 to seek asylum. Before his escape from Pakistan, Hussain’s wife had said that her husband had a sense that he was being followed.
She also told that Hussain’s house in Quetta was also ransacked and his laptop other documents were reported missing.
Balochistan Times has extensively reported on the two-decade-long separatist conflict in Balochistan where thousands have died, disappeared or displaced due to operations by the Pakistani security forces.
Hussain was last seen boarding a train to Uppsala from Stockholm but was never reported to deboard at Uppsala. He is also said to have been planning to bring his family to Sweden and had enrolled for a Masters degree in Iranian languages at a university in Uppsala, according to reports.
Sajid’s family has refrained from accusing anyone and has asked media and readers to avoid speculation pending police investigation, according to Balochistan Times.
Global watchdogs have demanded an investigation into the death of Hussain. “As long as a crime is not excluded, there is still a risk that his death could be related to his job as a journalist and editor-in-chief for the Balochistan Times,” said Erik Halkjaer, president of Reporters Without Borders.
Daniel Bastard, the Asia Pacific head of Reporters Without Borders, said that Hussain could be a victim of enforced disappearance, given the circumstances of his case and testimony by his family and colleagues. He added that suspicion automatically points towards Pakistan’s security agencies as they have an interest in suppressing the dissident journalist.
In fact, the case of Hussain is just one out of the many who have disappeared or had to flee Pakistan. Hussain’s uncle Ghulam Mohammad Baloch was killed in 2011 while heading a nationalist movement.
In February, Ahmad Waqass Goraya, a Pakistani blogger living in Rotterdam, was allegedly attacked and threatened outside his home at the behest of by two personnel of Pakistan intelligence agency.
Baloch human rights activist Rashid Hussain has been missing ever since he was abducted in the United Arab Emirates allegedly by the secret security officials of United Arab Emirates.
Another known Pakistani human rights activist, Gulalai Ismail currently exiled in the US who expressed her condolences on the death of Hussain said that she too escaped Pakistan fearing for her life but could not disclose all the details regarding her travel as it would jeopardize the lives of many. She only said that she did not fly to the US.
Many Balochistan leaders such as Gulzar Imam of the Baloch Republican Guard, Khalil Baloch chairman of Baloch National Movement and Dr. Allah Nizar Baloch, head of Balochistan Liberation Front all have been living in exile.
Pakistan ranks 145 in the latest world press freedom index. In 2019 four journalists and a blogger were killed in connection with their reporting of Balochistan.
Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province bordering Afghanistan and Iran and has been in the midst of nationalist insurgency since the last 15 years and has witnessed the disappearance of thousands political activists.