The murder of Geo News reporter, Wali Khan Babar, though very unfortunate however is also quite intriguing. On the day of his murder, Wali went to cover a police-led operation in Pehlwan Goth and later filed a report the same day. The report mentioned the alias of the leader of one of the feuding groups (‘Chief’), which offended the said group to then plan and execute his murder later in the day. The same day, the accused, as we have been told, followed the reporter all the way from his office onI.I.Chundrigar Road, when he was heading home toNorth Nazimabad, and finally chose Liaquatabad Supermarket as the actual location of murder and that also right in front of the Liaquatabad Supermarket Police station. A policeman witnessed the murder, saw the murderers get off from motorcycles (riding which they committed the murder), get into a car and flee. The policeman managed to note the registration number of the car. It was primarily using this registration number that the police were able to nab 5 of the 18 accused murderers. Now let us examine this report a bit dispassionately.
- As accepted by the organization Wali worked for, he was assigned to cover KESC and had no connection with crime reporting. For suspicious and yet unexplained reasons, he was, unlike his normal assignment, sent to cover a police-led operation in Pehlwan Goth on the day of his murder. The report he filed, or was made to file, only mentioned of one of the feuding groups in Pehlwan Goth, i.e. Mudassir Chief Group and not of the other Bangash group backed by ANP. Later we were told that Wali was murdered by elements belonging to the Mudassir chief group for mentioning the alias of their leader (chief) in his report, even though such identity of Mudassir chief is nothing secret and almost everyone across Pehlwan Goth/ Gulistan-e-Jauhar knew about the identity of these two groups. If you were to look at the subject report that Wali filed, no real negative connotation was made but merely a mention of ‘Chief’ (in fact, the report indirectly suggested that there was no harm made to the other feuding group when Wali says that the operation did not see any success and only the arrest of the father of the ‘chief’ was made). However, surprisingly, the very mention of the word (Chief) was offensive enough for the Mudassir chief group to plan and commit the murder within a few hours from the appearance of the report. Quite amusing logic indeed, but what is more important is how Wali, in disregard to his KESC assignment, was sent to cover the Pehlwan Goth operation? As a possibility worth examining, one can assume that the person/s responsible for sending him to Pehlwan Goth did indeed know that he will be killed. In other words, such people may just be part of the conspiracy for Wali’s murder. Ask any crime investigator you can connect to and he will certainly tell you that not only is this aspect of the murder not ignorable but in fact is material enough for the murder probe to start from this very point as to why he was, out of turn, sent to cover the Pehlwan Goth operation that reportedly became the reason for his murder. However, quite interestingly, the police investigation seems to have completely and very conveniently ignored this aspect of the case.
- What further strengthens the possibility of an inside involvement in Wali’s murder is the reporting that happened on the channel, Wali was associated with, immediately after the murder when at least two people (one allegedly directly responsible for sending him to Pehlwan Goth) immediately started indirect & unqualified finger-pointing at the MQM by over-emphasizing the place of murder being Liaquatabad and by literally and quite dramatically crying out that Wali was a local of Karachi so should have been spared – the emphasis on Liaquatabad and the accompanying reference to the pukhtun identity of the reporter was thus seemingly meant to indirectly reference on the MQM in total disregard of all journalistic principles as no investigation had been done till then.
- Then, as per the police, 18 people were involved in murder of Wali Babar. In other words from the point the report was filed in the evening to the time of murder, the murderers were able to make a sophisticated plan involving 18 people in a matter of a few hours, follow Wali all the way from I.I.Chundrigar Road to Liaquatabad carrying sophisticated weapons (despite knowing that the police is after them in connection with the Pehlwan Goth operation) and commit the murder. 18 people to kill one single unarmed, un-secured individual? 18 people (on the run from police from the Pehlwan Goth operation) assembled in a matter of hours, plan made, deployed, executed? Difficult to believe indeed!
- Then as is being accused, the target killers belonged to MQM and as sophisticated as these target killers were, they were somehow stupid enough to choose Liaquatabad as the place of murder when they could have chosen many other locations especially since they were following Wali all the way fromI.I.Chundrigar Road. Stupid because, almost with a suicide tendency, they picked a location for murder that is a stronghold of their party and thus provide the basis for immediate finger-pointing at it. Normally, sophisticated murderers, that Wali’s murderers are alleged to be, would commit a crime in a manner that they are either not traceable or at least difficult to trace. But in this case, surprisingly, the killers seemed to have been actually wanting of being traced and for their party to be disgraced. It may also be noted that the distance between I.I.Chundrigar Road and Liaquatabad Supermarket (the actual place of murder) is almost as if traveling from one end of a normal city to the other – and yet the target killers somehow and for some strange reasons specifically chose Liaquatabad to commit the murder and that also right near a police station.
- The strategic cost of murdering a reporter and that also of the largest and most influential TV channel is certainly very high. As media-sensitive as politics has become in Pk, it is assumably nothing less than a suicide for a political party to be even remotely connected with such a crime unless it has very strong reasons to do so – strong enough for the party to overlook the tremendous risks and costs associated with such crime. One fails to understand what potential benefit or threat could have compelled MQM to direct such a crime and that also at a place where the imagination will immediately reach out to them as the suspects. There is no report ever filed by the slain reporter against the interest of MQM nor was he some high-profile investigative reporter who could be assumed to be sitting on some breaking report adverse to the party’s interests. In any ways, he was assigned to KESC.
- What makes the murder story further intriguing is that it was committed right in front of a police station, PS Liaquatabad Supermarket. Since this was a planned murder therefore we can easily assume that the murder happened in front of the PS by design and not by coincidence. Now, if the accused murderers were from the Mudassir chief group then they had only in the evening escaped from a police operation and police were in fact out in the city searching for them. Therefore, for them to feel the comfort in committing such crime right in front of the PS seems rather impossible. Similarly, MQM men could not be assumed to have the luxury to commit the crime in front of a police station as we have been told time and again that police has captured many target killers belonging to MQM. Only someone with the assurance that he will not be captured can feel at ease in committing a pre-meditated murder in front of a police station. Or given the disturbing news circulating across the city that killers have been spotted fleeing, after committing target killings, in police vehicles or as per other news of being provided protective cover by the police at time of commission of killings, it is entirely possible that the murderers of Wali Babar may just have come out of the PS Liaquatabad Supermarket itself. And murderers relating to only one party can be assumed to have such affinity and lack of fear from the police, which is indeed the party in control of the police.
- Then another interesting element of police story is how a policeman witnessed the murder, saw the murderers climb into a car from motorcycles and flee and yet the policeman considered it sufficient to note the registration number of the fleeing car and didn’t bother either chasing the car or firing at it. Also the said location (Liaquatabad Supermarket) and time of the murder (evening rush time) raises its own questions as if you were to visit this location in the evening, traffic jams are a normal occurrence here at such rush time. For the killers to commit the crime here on a jammed road and then be stuck in the traffic jam (as the investigation report says that the killers escaped on car and not on foot) and yet be sure to be able to escape is indeed difficult to believe.
- Lastly, the tax evasion and bank loan default cases of the said media group, Wali was associated with, are also important to be considered as a backgrounder to this murder. Both these cases are reportedly of an ‘open-and-shut’ nature; add to this the animosity of the government towards this group and one fails to understand as to why the government opts to merely talk of such cases and does not ensure their perusal. The government’s strategy here seems similar to its approach in regards to the pending cases against Nawaz Sharif in NAB. Despite having direct control of the NAB, the PPP government stays away from opening these cases and yet throws the entire blame of non-prosecution on the judiciary in order to strengthen its claim of a biased judiciary. Similarly, the government stays away from any material action against this media group and only suffices to talk of them. The strategy with both Nawaz Sharif and this media group therefore seems to be of having a sword hang over the head of both of these entities and use cases to blackmail them and extract desired action where necessary. For the media group, a case is already in process with SHC and reports indicate that the government is using it to blackmail the media group. Another blackmailing chip is the closure of two of the channels of the group at a time when they were to air a cricket series they had paid handsomely to win rights of.
The simultaneity of 1) these cases and 2) Wali Babar’s murder, glaringly ‘motivated’ police investigation, the extraordinary follow-up granted to it by the group (not done in case of other reporters of the group killed in the past), the indirect finger-pointing at the MQM as well as almost all of a sudden publishing of ‘yet to be confirmed’ JIT reports does indeed provide ample ground for smelling a conspiracy and for establishing a direct connection between 1) pending cases against the media group and 2) Wali’s murder and subsequent, immediate and unqualified outburst against the MQM.
Important: After many quarters raised similar objections (as mentioned afore) on the investigation, the authorities changed the entire story of the murder in the final JIT report and instead said that the murder was planned 12-13 days before the actual murder (as against saying earlier that it was planned the same day following the Pehlwan Goth operation). The change in story seems to be purposed to rescue the media group ,Wali worked for, as the initial investigation details indirectly and unintentionally suggested involvement of the group in the murder. Also, it seems purposed to counter glaring flaws in the initial report including those mentioned afore.