Pakistani and international groups have condemned an attack on Pakistani journalist Absar Alam, who was shot by unknown assailants outside his home in Islamabad on April 20, and demanded that the perpetrators be punished.
A prominent media voice, Alam is being treated after being rushed to a nearby hospital, but doctors say his injuries don't appear life-threatening.
In a video shot from inside a vehicle and shared on social media on April 20, Alam said a bullet had hit him in the stomach.
The Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) has urged Pakistani authorities to conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the shooting and to hold those responsible to account.
“Today’s shooting of journalist Absar Alam highlights the dangerous climate that all members of the press face in Pakistan if they dare to criticize the country’s powerful military,” Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, said. “The perpetrators in this attack, as well as anyone involved in its planning, must be swiftly identified and brought to justice.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also strongly condemned the “assassination attempt” on Alam. “HRCP sees such cowardly acts of violence against journalists as an assault on an already muzzled media,” it said.
The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) called the attack on Alam a "terrorist" act after which authorities should take immediate action against the culprits.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) also strongly condemned the attack on Alam and demanded arrests.
“It seems that deep state is at large against journalists community who are victims of rising crime and terrorism,” a PFUJ statement said on April 21. “Such incidents cannot deter the journalists community for raising the voices against lawlessness and freedom of press in the country.”
Alam is a former editor of the English-language newspaper The Nation and former chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.
He is a well-known critic of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies’ alleged interference in political affairs as well as what he calls an “unannounced ban on free media."
Media rights group Reporters Without Borders ranks Pakistan 145th out of 180 countries on its World Press Freedom Index.
It blames Pakistan's "all-powerful military intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)," for abductions, torture, and judicial harassment of journalists.
On April 18, Alam had posted a tweet in which he alleged the current ISI chief, General Faiz Hameed, had, in 2018, attempted to pressure Alam in his capacity as chairman of regulatory authority PEMRA.
Direct criticism of the country’s powerful military, which has directly ruled the country for roughly half of its 74-year history and remains in control of many aspects of governance, is rare in Pakistan, particularly the naming of generals in any allegations of wrongdoing.
Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad condemned the incident and ordered an investigation.