Pakistani journalist who had been threatened by ISI is murdered

Below are two stories on the murder of Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad. The first is from Pakistan Press Foundation, dated May 31, and the second, more detailed article is from the June 1 New York Times. Everyone believes he was killed by the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI.

31 May 2011
Body of missing journalist found with torture marks
SOURCE: Pakistan Press Foundation

(PPF)—On May 31, 2011, the dead body of Syed Saleem Shahzad, 40, Pakistan Bureau Chief of “Asia Times Online” and South Asia Correspondent for Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI), was found in a canal, some 150 km from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, from where he was abducted two days earlier. His body is reported to bear marks of torture.

He was abducted at around six pm on May 29, while he was on his way to participate in a television talk show to discuss his investigative report published on May 27 for “Asia Times Online” which said that al-Qaeda had launched a deadly assault on a naval base (Pakistan Naval Station Mehran) in Karachi, the headquarters of the navy’s air wing, on 22 May because talks had failed over the release of several naval personnel arrested on suspicion of links to the militant group’s affiliates.

Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch said that Shahzad had previously warned that his life was in danger from the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence agency). In October 2010, Shahzad sent Human Rights Watch an email saying he was afraid he would be killed by the ISI, Hasan claimed.

President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani issued routine statements expressing deep grief and sorrow and ordered an enquiry into the kidnapping and murder of the journalist. Previous enquiries into the murders of journalists have not been made public and it is not clear if the fate of this enquiry would be any different.

Shahzad leaves behind his wife and three children.

Here is the New York Times piece:

Pakistani Journalist Who Covered Security and Terrorism Is Found Dead

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—A well-known Pakistani journalist has been found dead after being abducted over the weekend in an upscale neighborhood here and receiving repeated threats from Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency.

The journalist, Syed Saleem Shahzad, 41, wrote predominantly about security and terrorism issues for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and the Italian news agency Adnkronos International. He disappeared Sunday evening in the center of this capital just two days after writing an article suggesting that a militant attack on the navy’s main base in Karachi on May 22 was carried out because the navy was trying to crack down on cells from Al Qaeda that had infiltrated the force.

Pakistan’s armed forces, specifically the navy, have been highly embarrassed by the 16-hour battle that ensued at the base when six attackers climbed over a wall and blew up two American-made naval surveillance planes. Ten people were killed in the attack, and American and Chinese technicians working on the base only narrowly escaped injury as they were driven out through a hail of bullets.

A former navy commando, Kamran Malik, was arrested Friday, along with his brother, in a sweep by Pakistani intelligence agents in connection with the attack.

Coming soon after the American raid on May 2 that killed Osama bin Laden, which caught the Pakistani Army and Air Force flat-footed, the attack on the naval base has shocked the entire country. The armed forces chiefs have been deeply angered by the humiliation they have suffered from both episodes, and in particular the many questions raised about their competence by Pakistan’s increasingly rambunctious news media.

Journalists reacted to Mr. Shahzad’s death on Tuesday with horror and said the military and the chief intelligence agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, were sending a warning to others.

Mr. Shahzad’s body was found Monday about 100 miles from his abandoned car and was identified from photos by his family on Tuesday. Pictures of his body shown on television revealed that his face had been severely beaten.

Ali Dayan Hasan, the country representative for Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, said his abduction and killing bore all the hallmarks of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. “It is quite clear by his own account and from his reports that they were deeply unhappy with his reporting,” Mr. Hasan said.

Mr. Shahzad had been receiving threats from the ISI for about three years because of his reporting, which often relied on sources inside the intelligence agencies and inside the Taliban and other militant groups. Mr. Hasan said he had managed to confirm Monday that Mr. Shahzad was being held by the ISI.

Mr. Shahzad moved from his hometown, Karachi, to the capital several years ago after receiving threats. In October, he was called in by senior ISI officials, who delivered a clear death threat to him if he did not reveal his sources on a recent article he had written, Mr. Hasan said.

According to Mr. Shahzad’s own written account after the encounter, the two officials were naval officers, Rear Adm. Adnan Nazir, the director general of the media wing of the ISI, and his deputy, Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, who has just been appointed to replace the commander of the Mehran naval base in Karachi after last week’s attack. Calls to the ISI and the military press office for comment went unanswered.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani expressed deep grief over the death of Mr. Shahzad and ordered an immediate inquiry into his kidnapping and death, the government news agency Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Mr. Shahzad was driving to a television studio on Sunday evening to be interviewed about his latest article when he was abducted. He never arrived for the interview and did not return home afterward. His wife called Mr. Hasan at Human Rights Watch because he was one of the people Mr. Shahzad told her to contact in the event of his disappearance.

Mr. Hasan said he was able to establish that Mr. Shahzad was being held by the ISI through senior government officials and unofficial channels. He was told that Mr. Shahzad would be released Monday night, but in fact it seems he was already dead by then.

Mr. Shahzad found himself, like a growing number of Pakistani journalists, caught between the intelligence agencies, which act outside the law in detaining and pressuring journalists, and increasingly ruthless militant groups, Mr. Hasan said. “It makes it very dangerous to report between the two,” he said.

Pakistan became the deadliest country in the world for journalists last year as eight journalists were killed there in the course of their work, the Committee for Protection of Journalists reported. Six of the eight were killed in suicide bombings or cross-fire as the insurgency has intensified in Pakistan, but journalists have also suffered beatings, disappearances, and threats from the military and intelligence service as well as from militant groups.

An award-winning investigative reporter, Umar Cheema, was kidnapped and beaten over six hours on the outskirts of Islamabad last September. Mr. Cheema had written several articles for The News, a prominent daily, that were critical of the army. He blames the ISI, which is an integral part of the military, for his abduction.

“This is the law of the jungle, of armed actors who can kill you or hang you upside down until you are dead, and one of them is a state body, and that is appalling,” Mr. Hasan said.

Still, Mr. Shahzad was undaunted. A young reporter, Ihsan Tipu, who worked with Mr. Shahzad, said he consulted him just days ago about the dangers of reporting in Pakistan. “He said, ‘Don’t quit, look at me, I have faced threats and I am still reporting,’ ” he said.

Salman Masood contributed reporting from Islamabad, and Waqar Gillani from Lahore, Pakistan.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 02, 2011 09:04 AM | Send

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