Pakistanis looking for news about the killing of two Chinese nationals by the Islamic State in Balochistan were surprised when they didn’t find any mention of the development in the country’s leading newspapers on Friday morning.
The issue was apparently blacked out after editors and reporters of the country’s Urdu and English newspapers were told by the powerful security establishment late on Thursday not to carry any news on the killings.
On Thursday, the Amaq news agency claimed the IS had killed the two Chinese nationals, hours after the Pakistan Army issued a statement about a “successful” three-day operation against IS-linked terrorists in Mastung area of Balochistan.
Though the operation was conducted during June 1-3, the army released details only five days after it was completed. The army said it killed 12 terrorists and destroyed their hideouts within caves in Mastung region.
The army’s statement was followed by Amaq’s claim that IS fighters had killed the Chinese nationals in Mastung. Some Pakistani social media users questioned whether the army had revealed details about the operation because it had possibly learnt about the death of the Chinese.
The Chinese nationals – a man and a woman – were kidnapped from the Balochistan capital of Quetta on May 24. At the time, no one had claimed responsibility for the abductions.
Soon after the claim from Amaq, the Pakistan Army forced the media not to carry the story about the deaths of the Chinese. Sources said army officials told the editors and reporters that such a news report would be “disrespectful” to the Chinese.
The front pages of all newspapers made no mention of the executions though the anti-IS operation featured on the front pages of The Express Tribune and The News. On Friday, the websites of the newspapers reported in an oblique manner on the killing of the Chinese, using copies from international news wires or quoting Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson as saying that the Chinese nationals were “likely dead”.
Sources said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s presence alongside President Xi Jinping at the SCO Summit in Astana could have prompted the media blackout.
Others noted that the Pakistan Army had been pushing for a code of conduct following the inquiry into Dawn journalist Cyril Almeida’s report last year on differences between the civilian government and the military on countering terror groups.
When the two sides settled their differences over the “Dawn Leaks” issue last month, the civilian government had agreed to frame a code of conduct for the print media, especially on issues of national security.