Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad: Pakistan's intelligence service is implicated

Many journalists have been killed in Pakistan, so the murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad can be considered more of what we have seen there for so many years. It was only last year that Pakistan was declared the most dangerous country on earth for journalists. But what makes his murder so much more heinous is that he was last seen in the custody of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. This is an outfit that Shahzad’s research could never trust because he was trying to declare to the world what the ISI and other secretive elements of the government were doing. That he died in their hands reveals what they are: A brutal gang all their own; as some have said, “A state within a state.” Note that it was not enough to silence him; not enough to kill him: they had to brutalize him, pulverize his body. Such is in store for anyone who want to reveal what the ISI is doing.

Is the pen really mightier than the sword? I would hope so. I deeply admire the courage of many Pakistani journalists who continue to describe the world as they find it, in a country so threatening to those who would purvey the truth as they as they best can. It’s a dangerous place and what they do is a dangerous game. It is easy to criticize journalism, especially in retrospect, but at least such courageous people are out there, digging around to find out what is really happening, not just what those in power want tell the world in their own interest.

We grieve not only for Mr. Shahzad and his family, but also for the many other journalists who must be terrified by his murder. And we grieve for the Pakistani people. No one deserves the kind of government they have. I have despaired of writing one more time that Pakistan is the most dangerous place on earth. Its government is inept, weak, subject to the intimidating pressures of its own military-industrial complex, which is notoriously duplicitous. The Pakistani people don’t deserve such leadership, and yet they continue to be endlessly subjected to it; to a misinformed – no, a deliberately dis-informing – government.

And what hope is there for a realistic and fair solution to the Afghanistan war as long as this Pakistan regime has an influence on the issue?

Some links to recent reports:
Carlotta Gall in the New York Times
Pakistani Journalist Who Covered Security and Terrorism Is Found Dead.
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. … 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. … 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. . . .

Al Jazeera:
… Syed Saleem Shahzad had earlier told a rights activist he had been threatened by the country's intelligence agencies. He was found dead on Tuesday, and police said his body showed signs of torture. Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan representative for Human Rights Watch, said Shahzad had told him that he was under threat by Pakistan's military intelligence agency. "He told me he was being followed and that he is getting threatening telephone calls and that he is under intelligence surveillance," he told Reuters news agency. "We can't say for sure who has killed Saleem Shahzad. But what we can say for sure is that Saleem Shahzad was under serious threat from the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and Human Rights Watch has every reason to believe that that threat was credible." … His death underscores the dangers of reporting in Pakistan, which in 2010 was called the deadliest country for journalists.

Foreign Policy Online:
Pakistani police yesterday found the body of kidnapped journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad in a canal in the Mandi Bahauddir area of Gujarat district southeast of the capital Islamabad, from where Shahzad had been kidnapped on his way to a TV interview nearly two days before (NYT, ET, Tel, LAT, BBC, Reuters, Daily Times, WSJ, AJE, AFP). Shahzad's body reportedly bore extensive signs of torture, including broken ribs and wounds to his face, abdomen and internal organs (AFP). He was buried today in Karachi, his hometown (AP). Suspicion for the kidnapping and killing has fallen on Pakistan's intelligence services, who according to Human Rights Watch researcher Ali Dayan Hasan had threatened Shahzad as recently as last October (Post, Reuters, The News). Hasan told reporters Monday that he had been able to confirm through anonymous sources that Shahzad was in the custody of the intelligence services (NYT). Shahzad wrote a story Friday for the Asia Times alleging that al-Qaeda was responsible for last week's attack on a Pakistani naval base after Shahzad said navy officials refused to release sailors arrested for their alleged links to al-Qaeda.

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