Pakistani journalists have been given permission to carry weapons after the killing of a correspondent working for an Italian news organization, the interior minister said.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters that orders had been approved to permit journalists to carry small arms with them for self-protection.
Journalists would be issued licenses to carry weapons with them, his spokesman said on Wednesday.
Afzal Butt, the head of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, mocked the offer. “It’s the responsibility of the government to protect us,” he said. “We are reporters, not soldiers.” The government said a few months ago that it was considering allowing journalists to carry weapons after a rise on attacks against reporters. Permission was allowed after the journalism community became enraged over the killing of Syed Saleem Shahzad, whose body was found on the bank of a canal in the eastern province of Punjab with a bullet wound and marks of torture.
Shehzad, who worked for the Adnkronos International news agency, went missing on Sunday in Islamabad on his way to take part in a debate on a local television show.
His friends and some rights activists have pointed the finger at the country’s prime spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The military establishment was believed to be unhappy with a recent article by Shehzad in which he charged that al-Qaeda carried out a May 22 attack on a naval base in Karachi after talks with the navy failed to free officers held on suspicion of having contacts with the terrorist organization.
In the attack, about four gunmen raided the PNS-Mehran naval aviation base, where they killed 10 security personnel and blew up two surveillance aircraft, causing embarrassment to the military.