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Friday, March 28, 2014

Attack on Pakistani Journalist Kills His Driver

As my colleague Declan Walsh reports on Twitter, a liberal Pakistani writer and broadcaster narrowly survived a gun attack that claimed the life of his driver on Friday night in the city of Lahore.

The outspoken critic of the Taliban, who writes as Raza Rumi, explained in a brief update on Twitter that gunmen had opened fired on his car near the city’s Raja Market. He reported later that his driver was fatally wounded and his guard was also injured.

According to The Express Tribune, a local newspaper, at least 11 shots were fired at the journalist after he left a nearby television studio where he had anchored an Urdu-language discussion of the day’s news on the program “Khabar Sey Agay” that touched on Pakistan’s strict blasphemy law and threats from Islamist militants.

An account of the journalist’s remarks during the Thursday night broadcast on the show’s English-language Twitter feed suggested that he struck several notes that extremists might have found objectionable.

At the start of the show, he raised recent threats from Islamist militant threats against Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son and political heir to Pakistan’s former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, and mentioned that a string of other liberal politicians had also been killed by militants.

He went on to criticize the authorities for sentencing a Christian man to death for blasphemy on Thursday but failing to prosecute rioters who burned 200 Christian homes.

Later, he reminded viewers that Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had laid out a vision of a secular state in a speech on Aug. 11, 1947, three days before the nation was born out of the partition of India.

The program was broadcast on the Express News channel, part of a media group that publishes an Urdu-language newspaper and an English daily, The Express Tribune, and has been subjected to repeated attacks by militants.

Nadeem Paracha, a columnist for another liberal daily, Dawn, pointed out that news of the attack barely featured on rival, “reactionary” news channels that give sympathetic coverage to the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups.

Raza Rumi, known as a consistent critic of extremism in Pakistani life, published a travelogue about visiting the Indian city of Delhi last year. In a discussion of how the book came about posted on his Daily Motion channel, the author explained that when he wandered through Delhi, it seemed to him that “the common and shared past and present was far more potent and real than the imagined hostilities and otherness” he was expected to feel as a Pakistani.