As Human Rights Watch states, “the onus is on the ISI to prove that it was not holding him in illegal detention, and that its personnel were not responsible for his death.” Will it be “rogue elements” of the ISI who turn out to be behind the murder, or just “miscreants?” Or, since conspiracy theories abound, the CIA, Mossad, or India? “Journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad’s body found,” by Saeed Shah for McClatchy Newspapers, June 1:
The tortured corpse of a prominent Pakistani journalist, who had told friends he feared that the country’s military intelligence agency would kill him, was found Tuesday, two days after he disappeared.
With unparalleled sources among Islamic extremists, including al Qaeda, Syed Saleem Shahzad, 40, often produced stories that embarrassed Pakistan’s military and its Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, known as the ISI. But he also could have angered a faction of the increasingly fractured Islamist movement in a country where journalists are often targeted by both the government and extremists.
Shahzad’s last story, intended to be the first of a two-part series, detailed al Qaeda’s infiltration of the Pakistani navy and said that a recent attack on a naval air base in Karachi was al Qaeda retaliation for the navy’s detention of several suspected al Qaeda sympathizers in its ranks. He also reported that the navy was in direct talks with al Qaeda over its concern that the arrests would lead to a backlash. Shahzad was killed before the second part of the series was published.
Shahzad, who often interviewed Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in their hideouts, told a McClatchy Newspapers reporter last month that he was visited by officials from the ISI every second or third day, asking about his stories. He was buoyed, at the time, by the launch of his book, “Inside al Qaeda and the Taliban,” published this month by Pluto Press.
In October, Shahzad had sent an e-mail to the group Human Rights Watch, “in case something happens to me or my family in future,” detailing how he was called into the offices of the ISI after publishing a story saying that Pakistan had quietly freed Mullah Bahadar, the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban who was arrested in February 2010.
“Human Rights Watch is clear about the fact that Saleem Shahzad was under threat from the ISI,” said Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch. “Given that Shahzad alleged in his lifetime that he had been threatened by the ISI, and given that we believe that the allegation was credible, the onus is on the ISI to prove that it was not holding him in illegal detention, and that its personnel were not responsible for his death.”
An official of the ISI, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, described the allegations as “rubbish.”