Pakistan: Police Handling of Whistleblower’s Death Sparks Public Outrage

    GovernanceAccountabilityPakistan: Police Handling of Whistleblower’s Death Sparks Public Outrage
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    Pakistan: Police Handling of Whistleblower’s Death Sparks Public Outrage

    Nazim Jokhio was killed for circulating on social media his posts on the illegal hunting of the endangered houbara bustard in his village by the Arab guests of a powerful tribal chieftain. The accused include members of the provincial and national assemblies.

    Public anger is brewing in Pakistan over the police letting off influential suspects in its investigations into the murder of a whistleblower at the farmhouse of a tribal chieftain and a ruling party lawmaker. This presents a challenge before the country’s newly formed government and its allies in Sindh province.

    Nazim Jokhio, 27, had objected to and stopped hunters looking for the houbara bustard in his village of Achar Salar Jokhio, about 50 km from Karachi. He made and circulated a video of his interaction.

    He was employed with Karachi city’s local government and has left behind four young children. He was popular among his social media followers.

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    In the days that followed, Jokhio was summoned by Jam Awais Gohram, the tribe’s chieftain, along with his brother and detained overnight at the farmhouse where he was beaten to death, according to reports. The cold blooded murder brought an agitated people on the streets, blocking the main highway connecting Karachi, and in turn, inviting media scrutiny.

    The police initially claimed that Nazim Jokhio died in a violent clash. But hours later, seeing the number of people on the streets swelling by the hour, the police made a turnaround saying that a body was found lying outside Jam’s house with marks of injuries, possibly due to torture.

    A hashtag ‘Justice for Nazim Jokhio’ too trended on microblogging social media, Twitter.

    Human life

    Nazim’s brother, Afzal Jokhio, told journalists that Arab hunters looking for the houbara bustard in the Karo Mountains arrived at their village, a forbidden area for hunting. Nazim tried to stop them and an altercation followed. In the following hours, Nazim uploaded a video of the hunters.

    “I got calls from Jam’s men demanding that my brother delete the video. I asked him to obey the Jam’s orders, but he refused,” Afzal was quoted as saying to by the local media.

    The brothers were summoned to Jam’s farmhouse where Nazim was thrashed by the chieftain’s henchmen.

    Afzal says he had pleaded for mercy for his brother – even saying that a human life was worth more than a houbara bustard.

    “I pleaded with folded hands before Jam and apologized. But Jam Sahib said no apology [would be accepted as] you people have insulted my guest,” Afzal told journalists.

    Nazim died in the wee hours next day.

    “When we got there in the morning, we were told that my brother was dead and we were not given his body.”

    Pressure to compromise

    The public pressure and the blocking of roads got an assurance of a fair police investigation by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

    The tribal chieftain, Jam Awais Gohram was arrested, but was later let off on bail. In the days to come, the family came under pressure to settle the matter outside courts.

    But as days passed, Jam Awais’ name was struck off from the documents presented to the local court.

    Nazim’s widow, Shirin Jokhio told a local TV reporter, “People of Sardar [Jam Awais Gohram] are threatening my brother in law Afazal Jokhio for settling through jirga and he was afraid of them, but I am not afraid of anyone.”

    However, Jokhio’s wife appeared in a video saying that she pardoned the accused. Critics, the media and larger civil society groups were quick to point out telling signs of pressure the young widow had come under.

    In a video message, Shireen Jokhio said she wanted to fight but had been left “all alone by her own people” adding that she had taken the decision to pardon out of compulsion and for the safety of her children.

    The family had accused Gohram, a member of the Sindh Assembly from former President Asif Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party. Fingers are now point to Zardari who is widely believed to have brought together the various political actors to form the present government in Pakistan.


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