Pakistan and ISI: Another Journalist murdered
Pakistan and ISI: Another Journalist murdered
Xavier Patras William – Pakistan Correspondent
Modern Tokyo Times
Expressing an opinion and raising your voice in Pakistan is such a great crime for which you can even be tortured to death. Another victim of the deep state and just another “truth” was silenced. Investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad 40, Bureau Chief for the Hong Kong based Asia Times Online and correspondent for an Italian wire agency, had gone missing Sunday evening from Islamabad. Shahzad’s body was recovered from Head Rasul area in Mandi Bahauddin in the Punjab province, nearly 130 kilometers from Islamabad. Earlier, his car was recovered from the Sahara -i- Alamgir, about six miles from where his body was found.
Saleem Shahzad’s brother in law Hamza Ameer said, “Shahzad had been working for Asia Times Online for around 10 years. He was a very brave journalist. He was scheduled to appear on a talk show at a local news channel in Islamabad on Sunday evening, he left his residence in F/8-4 Islamabad around 5:30 pm, in a few moments his cell phone stopped responding, the news channel tried to contact him several times, as he didn’t show up. They tried to reach us and informed us that Shahzad didn’t reach the station.” Ameer further said, “We rushed to the Margalla police station and lodged a complaint about Shahzad’s mysterious disappearance.”
IG (Inspector General) at the Islamabad Police, Wajid Durrani, said, “After the lodging of the complaint about Saleem Shahzad’s disappearance, we started the probe. Initially it was revealed that his cell phone got turned off near his house in F/8-4 Islamabad, which indicates that he was kidnapped close to his residence. On Monday the Saddar Police Station in Sahara -i- Alamgir near Jhelum informed us that they have found Shahzad’s car which contained his ID (Identity Card) and other documents which confirmed that the car belongs to Shahzad. The police recovered his body from Head Rasul near Mandi Bahauddin. We informed the family and called them to identify the body, after confirmation the arrangements were made to shift the body to Islamabad. There were clear signs of torture on his body and the body was sent for a post mortem.”
A fellow journalist Omar Waraich said, “Shahzad had complained (that he) was receiving threats from the leading agency, the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence), for writing various articles on the agency’s activities. Shahzad was picked up just days after he wrote his last report, in which he made some explosive allegations regarding the PNS Mehran attack. He had claimed that the attack had been carried out by the 313 Brigade of Al Qaeda, headed by Ilyas Kashmiri, and was in retaliation for detention of navy personnel for alleged terrorist links. He had also claimed that it followed a breakdown in contact between the navy and Al Qaeda over this issue.”
Nasim Zehra, director of current affairs at Dunya News channel said, “On Sunday evening Saleem Shahzad was supposed to speak about the PNS Mehran attack and give a few details about his findings, he responded to a call at around 5:45pm and said that he was on his way.”
Human Rights Watch Pakistan representative, Ali Dayan Hasan, on Monday, alleged that Saleem Shahzad was abducted by the ISI and that they had documented similar cases of abduction and torture of journalists by security agencies.
Another fellow journalist from Islamabad said, “I am profoundly shocked. Bright, well-read, articulate, truthful, and committed to his profession, this is a huge loss. I suppose it would be too much to ask the authorities that the story of his murder be investigated and those found guilty should be punished. He was very excited about the launch of his first book, ‘Inside Al-Qaeda & the Taliban, Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11′.”
The post mortem report revealed that the cause of death was liver failure and ruptured lungs. There are 15 visible wounds on the body and the ribs are also broken. Najam Sethi an analyst and editor in chief of The Friday Times said, “Saleem Shahzad’s last story for Asia Times Online revealed how Al Qaeda had penetrated the Pakistan Navy. The police and the authorities are stressing that Shahzad was abducted by Al- Qaeda / Taliban operatives and they murdered him, I totally disagree with this theory, this is not the way the Taliban and Al-Qaeda operates. They immediately take their victim to North Wazistan or the Tribal areas, they interrogate and release a complete video showing the whole world that they have abducted someone on the charges of having ties with the United States and kill the person. In Shahzad’s case we don’t see any such activity. My experience points a finger at the intelligence agencies, the reason is that they abduct a person and interrogate him, torture him, and then release the person, as previously seen. During the interrogation the person is subjected to third degree torture. During the process it is difficult for the interrogators to determine how much torture a person can bear. The abductors were not aware of the fact that several years ago, Saleem Shahzad got into a fight and he was shot in the left side of his ribs. He ultimately survived, but his left ribs were weak. Another injury on his left side would have been fatal. The abductors severely tortured him, his left ribs were broken and his lungs collapsed. I have also experienced torture by the agencies back in 1999 and I barely survived a heart attack during the interrogation by the agencies.”
Shahzad Saleem has left a wife, two sons aged fourteen and seven, and a daughter aged twelve among the grieving. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, “We have formed a commission to investigate the matter and are probing the involvement of the ISI, the report will be made public very soon.”
Last September, Umar Cheema, an investigative reporter for The News, an influential Pakistani daily, was kidnapped, blindfolded, stripped naked and had his head and eyebrows shaved and was (viciously) assaulted. He was filmed in humiliating positions and dumped on the side of the road six hours later.
“If you can’t avoid rape,” one of his interrogators sneered during the ordeal, “enjoy it.” The perpetrators were never found, but when asked about his suspicions, Cheema said “I have suspicions and every journalist has suspicions that all fingers point to the ISI.”
These are not isolated incidents, there have been many cases of journalists being attacked and targeted for the kind of news coverage that is detrimental to the Pakistani government or army.
With regard to freedom of the Press, the organization Reporters without borders rates Pakistan 151 out of 178 countries. The numbers of journalists’ deaths have gone up in the last couple of years, with 10 of them being killed this year alone.
This year in January, Wali Khan Babar, a Geo News senior reporter, was gunned down in Karachi while in April, Abdullah Bhittani, a reporter was shot thrice in Rawalpindi but managed to survive.
Xavier Patras William is based in Pakistan and he is a writer and human rights activist.