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FILE: Zulfiqar Mandrani

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for a special independent team to investigate this week’s “shocking murder” of a Pakistani journalist, saying there is “every reason to doubt” local police claims that it was a so-called honor killing.

The body of Zulfiqar Mandrani, a reporter for the Sindhi-language dailies Kawish and Koshish, was found on May 26 in the town of Dodapur in southeastern Sindh Province with two bullets in the head and marks of torture across his back.

The same day, police in the nearby city of Larkana announced the arrest of two suspects, who allegedly confessed to killing Mandrani for reasons of “honor.”

However, the journalist’s father filed a complaint with the police on May 28 naming several different suspects, including a police officer, said to be linked to a local drug trafficker, RSF said in a statement.

Mandrani, who had been investigating the activities of this drug trafficker, received death threats from the suspects before his murder, the father was quoted as saying.

“The initial findings reported by the local police are clearly unreliable because everything is being done to ensure that those behind Zulfiqar Mandrani’s murder get off scot-free,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that the death of a journalist who was murdered because of his reporting is being passed off as an honor killing,” Bastard said, calling on the chief minister of Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, to send an independent team from Karachi to investigate the case.

RSF said the perpetrators of a murder in Pakistan can escape criminal justice if they can pass it off as an “honor killing” because a village assembly of elders, or panchayat, may then try the case. Then, the perpetrators could avoid punishment if they obtain the family’s forgiveness, by paying financial compensation if necessary, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog added.

Mandrani is the second journalist to be killed in Sindh Province since the beginning of the year.

The body of Aziz Memon, who also worked for Kawish News Network, was found in a canal near his hometown of Mehrabpur with wire tied around his neck in February.

Pakistan is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

FILE: Sajid Hussain

Two months after his unexplained disappearance, a Pakistani journalist who had been critically reporting on the separatist insurgency and Pakistani military counterinsurgency operations in the restive southwestern province of Balochistan has been found dead in Sweden.

In a statement updated on May 1, Swedish police said they have identified a body found in a river in the city of Uppsala as Sajid Hussain, who disappeared in early March.

The police said that an autopsy has been conducted and investigators are now waiting for certain answers from the analysis. "The autopsy has led to the conclusion that suspicion of a crime has decreased, but still some police investigation actions will be taken,” the statement noted.

In Stockholm, Hussain’s friend Taj Baloch confirmed that his body had been discovered by police in the city of Uppsala.

“The body is in police’s possession. We do not know much about the physical circumstances of the body,” he said. “Police will hand over the body after postmortem. That may take a week or more. The process is likely to start on Monday [May 4].”

Balochistan Times, the website Hussain edited, also announced his death on May 1. The website covers the two-decade-long separatist conflict in his native Balochistan. Thousands have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced by in the region due to separatist attacks, sectarian violence, and operations by Pakistani security forces.

Hussain disappeared on March 2 and was last seen at a gas station in Uppsala city, police had said earlier.

Abdullah Abbas, a human right activist and family friend of the deceased, said the police had discovered an unidentified dead body from a river in Uppsala on April 23.

“After a week of investigation, they confirmed to the family on Thursday [April 30] evening, that it was Sajid’s body,” Abbas said. “We do not know anything so far, and cause of his death remains unknown to us. We also do not know when he actually died.”

Hussain’s family and Pakistani and global rights watchdogs had demanded Swedish authorities investigate his mysterious disappearance. They are now demanding that authorities investigate his death.

“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 Sweden, on May 1.

Hussain’s family had said previously that he left Pakistan in 2012 after facing death threats because of his reporting. After living in the Middle East and Africa for years, Hussain arrived in Sweden in September 2017 to seek asylum.

His reporting was mainly concentrated on the continued unrest in Balochistan. He documented human rights abuses, including forced disappearances.

Kiyya Baloch, a freelance journalist, reports on the insurgency, politics, militancy, and sectarian violence in Balochistan.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story had an error in translating a Swedish police statement. It has been updated with the accurate translation.

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