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منگل، 21 جون، 2011

Who killed Saleem Shahzad?

Immediately after the murder of Saleem Shahzad, print and electronic media in their comments blamed Inter Services Intelligence, simply on the basis of his email of 19th October 2010 sent to Human Rights Watch that he was threatened by the ISI on 17th October in a meeting at the ISI headquarters in Islamabad. From the write ups of Saleem Shahzad one can observe that he had contacts with Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. He had photo-session with Punjabi Taliban and others to prove that he had ingress in these organizations.

To lend authenticity to his reports, he often quoted unnamed officials of intelligence agencies. In Pakistan, not many people knew him as only a small minority reads Asia Time Online, and it was only after his murder that people were told that he was a renowned journalist. Of course, he was known in the US and the West, perhaps because he wrote what they wanted to read and said what they wanted to listen. It would be appropriate to produce a few excerpts from his articles to see if there was anything provocative for the militants’ organizations.

In his article published on 10th December 2010 he referred to the differences between Al Qaeda leaders: “Egyptian Saif-al Adel, a military planner, abu Hafs al Mauritani, once the chief of religious committee and Suleman Abu al Gaith who was former Al Qaeda’s Chief spokesperson had opposed the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US”. In another article carried by Asia Times Online in December 2010 captioned ‘Al Qaeda backs massive push in Swat’, he wrote: “Al Qaeda leaders have allocated Rs. 2 billion and a new training programme for 400 militants in Khyber Agency to start a full-blown insurgency in the Swat area of Khayber-Pakhtunkhwa…Lashkar Jhangvi has also become more discriminating by making well-planned attacks that included high-profile attack on Sri Lankan Cricket team”. On 2nd December 2011, he wrote: “Commander Ilyas Kashmiri is the mastermind behind recruiting, training and their launching operation. North Waziristan is also the base of the powerful Haqqani network of Jalaluddin and his son Sirajuddin”.

All journalists working in conflict zones have the risk to their lives. Whereas in wars between the two countries the battle lines are clearly drawn, in guerilla warfare during resistance against foreign domination the journalists have to get information from myriad groups. It is therefore difficult to have the perception of real danger while dealing with them. In Pakistan, many journalists have been killed over the years while performing their duties, but Saleem Shahzad’s murder has evoked worldwide condemnation. So much so that US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton condemned the kidnapping and killing of Saleem Shahzad in these words: “The United States strongly condemns the abduction and killing of reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad.

  •  Saleem Shahzad worked for Adn Kronos International and La Stampa, writing articles and books on the collusion between al Qaeda and Pakistani security and intelligence establishment. His work reporting on terrorism and intelligence issues in Pakistan brought to light the troubles extremism poses to Pakistan's stability.
In Pakistan, PFUJ condemned murder of Saleem Shahzad and staged rallies for setting up an independent judicial commission under the judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Though the government announced the commission nominating Justice Saqib Nisar as head of the commission, but PFUJ and Asma Jahangir President Pakistan Bar Council challenged the legality of the commission and filed petition in the apex court in this regard. Meanwhile, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) has said that the Pakistan army supports probe commission into the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad. According to a statement issued by the ISPR: “All the allegations being leveled against the ISI are baseless”. The ISPR said such allegations have been leveled against the ISI but proved false in the past. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday directed the government and police chiefs of Punjab province and Islamabad to submit detailed reports on the investigation conducted so far into Saleem Shahzad’s killing.

Unfortunately, before investigations, the ISI is being blamed by the media as well as members of civil society. Asma Jahangir President Pakistan Bar Council told reporters outside the apex court after filing the petition that there were charges that a “powerful federal agency” was involved in Shahzad’s death. Such powerful institutions needed to be controlled”. According to reports, Shahzad had sent an e-mail to Ali Hasan Dayan of Human Rights Watch in October 2010 referring to a meeting he had with two ISI officials, and asked Dayan that the e-mail be released if he or his family were harmed. Shahzad asked Human Rights Watch to make details of the meeting public “in case something happens to me or my family in future.” Two days after Saleem Shahzad’s murder, the ISI had refuted the allegations, but Hamid Haroon, the Dawn publisher rejected the ISI’s position and went on to “verify that allegations leveled by HRW at the ISI are essentially in complete consonance with the contents of the slain journalist’s e-mail.”

Anyhow, PFUJ and Human Rights activists have already declared the ISI as the prime suspect, which is not fair. They should wait for the outcome of the inquiry and verdict of the court. The commission and the court should also take into consideration the contents of his articles to see if some militant organization could have been responsible for his brutal murder. The problem is that some politicians and media men are taking advantage of the situation because as a result of 2nd May and 22nd May episodes Pakistan military and the ISI are on the receiving end. A renowned anchorperson Hamid Mir during a bleeper to a TV channel said that at least 10 journalists had informed him about the threats they received from the ISI. He then went on to say what can they do; they can kill us but we would expose the killers. Journalists should not pass judgments; they should act in a responsible manner, and wait for the report of the commission and court’s verdict. Last year, Hamid Mir had drawn flak from media colleagues who wanted him to clear his position about his telephonic conversation with Punjabi Taliban, after which Khalid Khwaja was killed.

Anyhow, this is not the time for adopting threatening postures towards each other, as today the nation is confronted with gigantic challenges, both externally as well as internally. Externally, a heady super power is sending ominous signals – the 2nd May incident was a prelude. Internally, the nation is hopelessly entangled in a vicious terrorism involving a variety of terrorist forces including foreign proxies, homegrown militants, sectarian fanatics, ethnic firebrands and criminal thugs.

All and sundry has to understand that Pakistan is a degenerated society because of inept leadership, and thus one would find rogue elements in all strata of society including political parties and other institutions including the undeclared fourth pillar of democracy. Let there be no sacred cows in any of its institutions – Parliament, judiciary, military. There should be across the board accountability, and structural reforms be made in all the institutions to eliminate corruption and misuse of power.

By Mohammad Jamil ( Pakistan Observer )
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