Jan 18, 2012 - rant, TTP, USA    11 Comments

Another foul murder; RIP Mukarram Khan

On my way back home last evening, I received a text from my colleague that Mukarram Sahab has been shot and was taken to a hospital in Peshawar.  So stunned was I with the news that I did not realize when the signal turned green and only moved when the cars behind me honked. An hour later, I found that Mukarram Sahabb has succumbed to his injuries. 
Mukarram Khan Atif was a senior tribal journalist from Mohmand Agency and was killed on January 17th 2012 in a targeted attack after receiving repeated threats to his life. He was offering evening prayers in a mosque when he was shot in the head by two gunmen. 
I have known Mukarram Sahab for only a few weeks but he made a profound impact in that very short time. I am city girl, from Karachi, with my fair share of prejudices about the tribesmen and how they behave. Mukarram Sahab was one of those people who helped me in looking beyond the stereotype of a stern and unyielding tribesman with his intelligence, valour, grace, and self effacing sense of humour. He humanized the area and its people for me, a city dweller who only conjured up images of Hakimullah Mehsud and the likes in reference with the tribesmen from FATA. 
Mukarram Sahab had many interesting stories about his time as a reporter in the tribal region, be it about interviewing suspected suicide bombers, traveling to remote areas on foot for stories and sneaking into difficult areas as a goat shepherd. Back in 2001, Mukarram Sahab was taken hostage by Afghan Taliban along with a French and a Pakistani journalist. All three of them were charged with spying for USA by the Taliban government.  As none of the other two journalists could speak Pashto, he was asked to interpret for them by the Taliban government in Afghanistan. He said that he would do it but he would want to be paid for his services.  He actually managed to charge the Taliban govt. for interpreting for the two journalists in captivity. I asked him how he pulled off this incredulous feat and he said that he takes his work very seriously and believe in being paid for whatever he does.  I asked him to write all such fascinating stories and share it with the world.  Mukarram Sahab agreed and said that one day he would sit down and write. He kept an archive of all his radio reports for Deewa and thought that he would transcribe it all when he can spare the time. Unfortunately, he was killed by the TTP for not giving them enough coverage on those radio reports and the world will never know about his hard to believe escapades. 

Deaths and journalists’ murders are a sad reality in Pakistan, but what irritates me most is the way local media reports these incidents. Dawn, a supposedly responsible newspaper came up with the headline “Pakistani journalist working for US media shot dead. The News, a generally horrid newspaper came up with the headline “VoA journalist assassinated in Charsadda.” What are these reports trying to imply? That he was working for a US media house and in some way responsible for his own murder? Are we absolving his murderers of their brutality?  Does his employment for a foreign news organization make him less of a Pakistani or less of a human?  Mukarram Sahab was a Pakistani journalist working as a correspondent for Dunya TV and a stringer for VoA’s Pashto service Deewa Radio. It’s about time we claim our people and heroes and give them due credit for their courage, fearlessness, and bravery. 

Mukarram Khan Atif in Islamabad

Reporters Sans Frontier has declared Pakistan the most dangerous country for journalists second year in a row. I never thought that the first journalist to die this year would be someone I knew personally. Mukarram Sahab, you were a fine gentleman and a brave soul. May you rest in peace.
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  • Sad and utterly detestable, you’re lucky to have met him when you did and i just can’t stop thinking about all of his radio shows just lying in the archives, waiting.

  • How sad and horrible to lose to someone who made a huge impact on you, I am so sorry. I hope someone does gather up his material.May he rest in peace.

  • I’ve often wondered about the dangers you yourself must face. You are probably more courageous than I, in a much more open country.

    Take care, be safe.

  • We are proud of our Tribal journalist who,s working and bringing the reality in the fron of the world on the price of his lives.
    its also a shame for the authorities and Governament who are not abling to provide security to the ayes of the nation. God Bless mukkaram khan and all other were killed before.

  • Incredible loss for journalism and Pakistan. RIP Mr Atif

  • Tazeen, my heart broke.

  • Bonjour Tazeen,

    First I had to find out what means TTP and FATA. Is there any law in Sharia against use of abbreviations??

    There is not a single country I know that does not have to cope with problems. But at least here we try to come to grips with them, slowly and painfully but I am sure we’ll be able to turn our country around.

    But Pakistan? Will you ever again be a law abiding country, at least comparable to India? Willing and able to assess its problems officially and act against it?J?


  • this is extremeley horrible and sad …so very sad 🙁

  • Thank you for this post, Tazeen. One didn’t know about Mukarram Sb. Much respect to this fine gentleman. Pity about the reporting, per usual.

  • Very cruel indeed.

  • This is sad. The world needs more people like him.

    After having read this I can only think of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s immortal words:

    Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
    Where knowledge is free
    Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
    By narrow domestic walls
    Where words come out from the depth of truth
    Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
    Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
    Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
    Where the mind is led forward by thee
    Into ever-widening thought and action
    Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

    Hope and pray for the same – in the ‘land of the pure’ too.

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