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Pakistani Journalist Explains 'Painful Decision' To Apply For Asylum In U.S.

A Pakistani journalist of Baluchi origin has described how the disappearances and deaths of colleagues back home prompted him to make the "painful" decision to apply for political asylum in the United States, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.

Malik Siraj Akbar was granted political asylum in the United States earlier this month while on a fellowship at Arizona State University.

Malik Siraj Akbar
Malik Siraj Akbar
Malik told RFE/RL on November 17 that he decided to apply for asylum after he began receiving information from his native province of Baluchistan in western Pakistan that many of his friends and colleagues had disappeared and were later found dead with gunshot wounds.

"The conflict has been going on for eight or nine years now. Many human rights activists, journalists and democracy fighters in Baluchistan have been under pressure all this time. But in the last 15 months, the situation became even worse," Malik said.

"Many Baluchi journalists disappeared and were subsequently found dead. Nobody was held accountable for that, and therefore there is every reason to suggest that the government was involved in the abductions and killings."

Malik added that Baluchistan was currently not a safe place "where a person can pursue the career of journalist." He said the government in Pakistan tried to depict professional journalists in Baluchistan as enemies and criminals, although they simply try to perform their job in an unbiased and fair way.

Malik also said that "unfortunately, not all the stories and ordeals faced by journalists and human rights activists in Baluchistan get out to the outside world," although international human rights watchdogs and the Committee to Protect Journalists have been trying to inform the international community about the situation there.

Malik used to work as the editor of "The Baloch Hal," Baluchistan's first online English-language newspaper, which was often critical of the Pakistani government. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority banned "The Baloch Hal" one year ago.

Read more in Pashto here

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