A journalist’s encounter with murder and life

Witnessing a murder and having to break the gruesome story to the world is an experience that Hafiz Iqbal never wants to go through again.

By (Asma Ali Zain)

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Published: Sat 30 Oct 2010, 9:07 AM

Last updated: Thu 23 May 2024, 10:13 AM

On August 15, two teenaged brothers, Mughees and Muneeb, were brutally battered to death with metal rods and wooden sticks by a frenzied mob in broad daylight, claiming them as dacoits, in Sialkot, Pakistan.

The incident that shocked the world exposed the callousness of authorities that egged the crowd on doing this crime. The boys were hung upside down and the crowd allegedly stoned them to death.

A series of life-threatening events followed Hafiz Iqbal, a reporter of Dunya TV, after he broke the story and he had to seek refuge in Dubai. He is also the first Pakistani journalist to be summoned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan as a key witness.

“It was an experience that I never want to go through again,” he said in an interview with Khaleej Times. Recounting the incident, Iqbal said he was too shocked to react initially. “I reached the venue when the boys were semi-conscious. I was too shocked to react but when I did, I was violently pushed back by the crowd,” he recalled.

“I sensed I would also get a beating if I tried to intervene. My next thought was to film the event since my journalistic instinct said that it needed to be recorded.”

Iqbal managed to shoot three four-second clips which showed the local head of police being a witness to the beatings before he was spotted by the crowd. A full-fledged TV footage, that also included mobile camera clippings, was shown just after 7am. “It was then hell broke loose.”

“The police was already threatening me. And the other media too wanted details,” he said. Iqbal claims his investigative reporting also showed that the boys were not dacoits but were victims of a larger conspiracy and rivalry. Following the reporting, over 15 people were arrested including police officers.

“We could not find any weapons near the bodies so we asked the police how they knew the murdered boys were dacoits,” explained Iqbal.

It was also on Iqbal’s reporting that a judicial inquiry was ordered and he was given 24-hoursecurity. The Punjab government took notice of the incident only when the story was picked up by the international media. “Authorities put all the pressure they could on me by setting up base outside my house and intercepting my calls,’ he alleged. Also for the first time in Pakistan’s history, police officers were put under house arrest.

“My role in the case was also questioned. But the original footage of the incident is proof enough that I was just doing my job,” he said.

According to Iqbal, ‘agencies’ are still monitoring each of his moves. “I have been stopped from appearing in court and have been beaten up twice as a warning. But this will not stop me from highlighting the truth,” he said.

The case is still pending in court. However, after the life-threatening attacks, his family and friends pleaded with Iqbal to leave Pakistan and seek refuge in Dubai.

“I am not going to stay here for ever,” said the young man. “I still have lots of stories waiting for me at
home though I know I may lose my life once I go back.”

“How can I talk about freedom and not believe in it myself,” he added.


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