The Obama administration believed Syed Saleem Shahzad’s killing was ordered by Pakistani intelligence, and Pakistan angrily denied the outgoing Joint Chiefs chair’s allegations that Islamabad sanctioned the killing.
Shahzad’s final article was on failed talks between the Pakistani navy and al-Qaeda, which sought to secure the release of al-Qaeda-linked naval officers. He then disappeared. The most curious evidence of high-ranking involvement that has been made public has been the fact that Shahzad’s cell phone records were completely wiped from from 18 days before his death to the time he disappeared. Your garden variety criminal thugs can’t pull that off.
“Pakistan probe draws a blank on journalist killing,” from Agence France-Presse, January 13:
An investigation into the killing of a Pakistani journalist who reported that Islamist militants had infiltrated the military has not been able to find his murderers, an official report shows.
Saleem Shahzad, a 40-year-old father of three, vanished in May last year after leaving his home in Islamabad to appear on a television talk show, two days after writing an article about links between rogue elements of the navy and Al-Qaeda following an attack on a naval base.
The journalist, who worked for an Italian news agency and a Hong Kong-registered news site, told Human Rights Watch he had been threatened by intelligence agents.
The Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, Pakistan’s main spy agency, has denied as “baseless” allegations that it was involved in his murder.
A government commission set up to investigate the death and comprised of senior judges, provincial police chiefs and a journalist representative was unable to trace Shahzad’s killers, said its concluding report released Friday.
The report said the inquiry had met 23 times and interviewed 41 witnesses, as well as examining a large batch of relevant documents.
In concluding remarks, the report said that Shahzad’s death should be examined in the context of the “war on terror”.
“The Pakistani state, the non-state actors such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and foreign actors” could all have had a motive to commit the crime.
But “the commission has been unable to identify the culprits”, it said.
The report said investigators would continue to look into Shahzad’s death, while his family would be given generous government compensation.
His relatives had demanded a full investigation but have not apportioned blame for his killing, which came five years after he was briefly kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan and accused of being a spy.
Shahzad’s widow would be given three million rupees ($33,000), a government teaching job near her home and his children would be given free education, she said.
Shahzad’s body was found south of the capital, bearing marks of torture.
Two days earlier he had written an investigative report in Asia Times Online saying Al-Qaeda carried out a recent attack on a naval air base to avenge the arrest of naval officials held on suspicion of Al-Qaeda links.
The US military’s then top officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, said Pakistan authorities may have sanctioned Shahzad’s killing.
The accusation was a major setback for relations between the United States and Pakistan, coming shortly after US troops killed Osama bin Laden in a covert raid in the garrison city of Abbottabad.
The commission also made recommendations to the press and intelligence agencies to be more “law abiding and accountable” in future and suggested the creation of a human rights ombudsman.
According to press watchdog Reporters Without Borders, Pakistan was the deadliest country for the media in 2011 with at least eight journalists killed in connection with their work.