The Swedish police have found the body of Pakistani journalist Sajid Hussain in a river two months after he went missing. Hussain's body was found in the Fyris River outside Uppsala in Sweden, where he had been living in exile.
Hussain had fled Pakistan in 2012 after getting death threats and lived in Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Uganda, before being granted political asylum in Sweden. He was the editor-in-chief of an ethnic Baloch news website, <em>Balochistan Times</em>, where he used to write on human rights violations, forced disappearances by the Pakistani army and drug smuggling.
The Swedish police has said that initial investigations do not suggest foul play.
However, Reporters without Borders (RSF), a France-based organization working on freedom for the media and pluralistic journalism, said that <a href="https://rsf.org/en/news/concern-about-pakistani-dissident-journalists-disappearance-sweden"><strong>Hussain's death could be related</strong></a> to the journalistic work that he was doing.
The Pakistani journalist was last seen boarding a train in Stockholm for Uppsala on March 2 to collect the keys to a new flat, but he did not get off the train in Uppsala.
Hussain's wife Shehnaz told Pakistani newspaper <em>Dawn</em> that before fleeing for Sweden, her husband had sensed he was being followed. She added that his house had been broken into at Quetta, Balochistan, and his laptop and papers were taken away. Fearing for his life, Hussain fled Pakistan after this incident.
Before escaping from his country in 2012, Hussain had been writing about organized crime in Balochistan province, which is caught in the throes of a long-running nationalist insurgency. The province, which shares borders with Iran and Afghanistan also has militants of various shades, besides the drug traffickers.
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The Baloch people have been seeking independence from Pakistan due to feelings of mistreatment and abuse. Many feel exploited as the region is rich in natural resources like minerals, oil and gas but remains one of Pakistan's most under-developed regions.
The Balochs nurse another grouse that Pakistan is developing their region in partnership with China but not sharing the profits. Baloch insurgents have attacked the strategically important Gwadar port numerous times, slowing down the progress of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Finding the situation alarming, Beijing had to force Pakistan to deploy special forces in Balochistan besides putting its own private security firms in the region.
Sunni militant groups based in Balochistan have allegedly carried out attacks on Iranian security forces, forcing Iran to take up the issue with Islamabad. Iran alleged that some of the attackers have been Pakistani citizens. Islamabad too has leveled similar allegations against Iran over militant attacks on its soil, allegedly by Iran trained groups.
As a journalist, Hussain was writing about all these issues—insurgency, forced abductions, drug cartels, militancy, which deeply offended the Pakistani army and intelligence. International human rights organisations have been claiming for long that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has a poor record of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/mar/29/balochistan-pakistans-secret-dirty-war"><strong>human rights violations</strong></a> and thousands of activists have been missing for years.
This incident will surely swing the spotlight on the Pakistani government for its repressive treatment of journalists and curbing the freedom of opinion and expression. This will also highlight the <a href="https://indianarrative.com/world/pakistani-state-deep-state-target-scribes-europe1472-1472.html"><strong>assaults Pakistani journalists</strong></a> have faced in several European countries recently.
Recently, the Imran Khan government sent notices to Pakistani journalist Gul Bukhari who is in hiding in the UK. Bukhari fears that she will be harmed and said that the Pakistani High Commission in London has been trying to trace her address. Like Hussain, Bukhari had been writing about the Pakistani intelligence services and writing about forced disappearances. She had been kidnapped one day after which she fled the country.
Pakistan is considered one of the <a href="https://rsf.org/en/news/two-pakistani-shia-journalists-abducted-two-days-apart-karachi"><strong>most dangerous countries</strong></a> in the world to be a journalist. It ranked at 142 out of 180 countries in the 2019 RSF Press Freedom Index..