Shahzad Commission results marred by free ride for ISI
Government has to Take on Military and Intelligence Services and end Impunity
January 30, 2012 – The Pakistani government should redouble efforts to find the killers of the journalist Saleem Shahzad, following the failure of the judicial inquiry commission to identify those responsible, Human Rights Watch said today. The commission concluded in its January 10, 2012 report to the government that the police failed to question Pakistan’s military intelligence officials in its criminal investigation.
Shahzad, a reporter for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and for Adnkronos International, the Italian news agency, disappeared from central Islamabad on the evening of May 29, 2011. His body, bearing visible signs of torture, was discovered on May 31, near Mandi Bahauddin, 130 kilometers southeast of the capital. The circumstances of the abduction raised concerns that the military’s feared ISI agency was responsible. In June 2011, the Supreme Court, at the request of the government, instituted a commission of inquiry into the killing.
”The commission’s failure to get to the bottom of the Shahzad killing illustrates the ability of the ISI to remain beyond the reach of Pakistan’s criminal justice system,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government still has the responsibility to identify those responsible for Shahzad’s death and hold them accountable, no matter where the evidence leads.”
The ISI has a long and well-documented history of abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings of critics of the military and others. Those abducted are routinely beaten and threatened, their relatives told not to worry or complain as release was imminent, and then released with the threat of further abuse if the ordeal is made public. Pakistani and international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have extensively documented the ISI’s intimidation, torture, enforced disappearances, and killings, including of many journalists.
The five-member commission, which included two judges, two senior police officers, and one journalist, convened on June 21, 2011. Over six months it interviewed 41 witnesses, including Shahzad’s family members, journalists, senior ISI officials, and others. It also conducted an extensive examination of documents, including relevant emails, telephone records, and investigation reports, as well as reports by previous similar commissions.
Among those interviewed were Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch and Hameed Haroon, president of the All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) and publisher of the Dawn Group. Each had received emails from Shahzad in 2010 complaining of threats by ISI agents for his reporting on links between the ISI and al-Qaeda. On October 19, 2010, Shahzad sent an email to Human Rights Watch outlining his meeting with the ISI and asking for the email to be released ”in case something happens to me or my family in future.” Shahzad sent the same email and information about other threats to Haroon, and to colleagues at Asia Times Online.
ISI officials maintained to the commission that Shahzad had cordial relations with them until shortly before his killing. Despite strong indications of ISI involvement, the commission concluded that the Pakistani state, militant groups including the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and unnamed ‘foreign actors’ could all have had a motive to kill Shahzad on the basis of his writings.
”The commission appeared fearful of confronting the ISI over Shahzad’s death,” said Adams. ”Shahzad had made it clear to Human Rights Watch that should he be killed, the ISI should be considered the principal suspect. He had not indicated he was afraid of being killed by militant groups or anybody else.”
Human Rights Watch said that the investigation’s weakness was exemplified by the failure to interview another journalist, Umar Cheema, who was abducted, tortured, and then dumped 120 kilometers from his residence in Islamabad in September 2010. Cheema alleged that his abductors were from Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. It is inexplicable that the commission failed to seek Cheema’s testimony despite his very public allegations against the ISI and repeated offers to testify before the commission, Human Rights Watch said.
”At great personal risk, scores of journalists, human rights activists, and others presented themselves before the commission to offer accounts of ISI and military involvement in human rights abuses,” Adams said. “The commission repaid this courage by muddying the waters and suggesting that just about anyone could have killed Shahzad.”
The commission’s recommendation that all intelligence agencies should be made accountable through ”parliamentary oversight” and judicial redress should be promptly implemented by the government through appropriate legislation, Human Rights Watch said. The commission also recommended that ”the balance between secrecy and accountability in the conduct of intelligence gathering be appropriately re-adjusted” and a “statutory framework carefully outlining their respective mandates and role” be developed. It also urged that the intelligence agencies’ ”interaction with the media be carefully institutionally streamlined and regularly documented.”
”ISI abuses will only stop if it is subject to the rule of law, civilian oversight, and public accountability,” Adams said. ”It is the government’s duty to insist on such accountability and the military’s duty to submit to it. The ISI needs to stop acting as a state within a state.”
Human Rights Watch expressed grave concern that the commission found it appropriate to recommend that the ”press be made more law-abiding and accountable through the strengthening of institutions mandated by law to deal with legitimate grievances against it.
”It is perverse to use an investigation into the killing of a journalist as a way of limiting press freedom,” said Adams.
Pakistan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. At least 10 journalists, including Shahzad, were killed in 2011. In January 2011, a Geo TV reporter, Wali Khan Babar, was fatally shot in Karachi shortly after covering gang violence in the city. In May, the president of the Tribal Union of Journalists, Nasrullah Khan Afridi, was killed when his car blew up in Peshawar; the provincial information minister described the act as a “targeted killing by the Taliban.”
In August, two men on a motorcycle shot to death an Online News Agency reporter, Munir Ahmed Shakir, after he covered a demonstration by Baloch nationalists in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan. In November, the body of Javed Naseer Rind, a sub-editor with the Urdu-language Daily Tawar, was found with torture marks and gunshot wounds in Khuzdar town. On January 17, 2012, Mukarram Khan Atif, a reporter for the Voice of America, was killed by the Taliban in the Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Brig. Gen. Zahid Mehmood of the ISI told the commission that the ISI/ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations) and other agencies ”should stop patronising and protecting ‘favorite’ journalists.” Government payoffs to journalists not only distorts the news reaching the public, but the withdrawal of such patronage and “protection” can result in threats and violence, said journalists who spoke to the commission. Human Rights Watch called on the government to pass legislation to prohibit the country’s security and intelligence agencies to end the practice of the ISI and other agencies planting agents in media organizations or providing secret payments to journalists to write or not write stories.
”Journalists are under attack from all directions inPakistan, including by the military,” saidAdams. ”This murderous free-for-all will only end when the government can protect journalists from militants and its own intelligence agencies. Arresting the killers is the best way to do that.”
Shahzad, an expert on Islamist militancy, had just published a book, Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11. He had been invited to discuss the contents of his report about a May 22 attack in which 10 people died on PNS Mehran, a naval-base inKarachi, by militants linked to al-Qaeda.
“All aspects of this crime, including the possibility of links to the ISI, need to be independently investigated and prosecuted,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The ISI and other military and intelligence-related agencies have long been beyond the reach of the regular criminal justice system. To ensure this investigation can follow the evidence wherever it leads, an extraordinary mechanism with the full support of all state institutions needs to be created.”
Shahzad had previously complained of threats by ISI agents for his reporting on links between the ISI and al-Qaeda. In October 2010, Shahzad sent an e-mail to Human Rights Watch outlining a recent meeting he had with the ISI and asking for the e-mail to 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.” (The email is attached below).
On October 19, 2010, Shahzad sent an email informing Human Rights Watch that he had been threatened by the ISI at an October 17 meeting at the ISI headquarters in Islamabad with the Director-General of the Media Wing of the ISI, Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir, and another ISI official, Commodore Khalid Pervaiz.
Shahzad wrote that the meeting ended with the following comment from Rear Admiral Nazir, which Shahzad construed as a death threat:
I must give you a favor. We have recently arrested a terrorist and recovered a lot of data, diaries and other material during the interrogation. The terrorist had a list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know.
Shahzad sent the same email and information about other threats to Hameed Haroon, publisher of the daily Dawn and president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, and to colleagues at Asia Times Online.
All those who spoke to Shahzad at the time including professional journalists and Human Rights Watch understood that a threat had been made to his life through the statement quoted above.
In order to place the threat on record, Shahzad wrote an account of the meeting and emailed it to the recipients.
Commodore Pervaiz was recently appointed the new commander of the Mehran naval base in Karachi, the subject of Shahzad’s last story for Asia Times Online, in which he alleged that al Qaeda had attacked the base inKarachi on May 22, after talks with the military to release two naval officials accused of militant links broke down.
Later, Shahzad informed Human Rights Watch of two other instances where he felt threats were made to him by or on behalf of the ISI by people who identified themselves as belonging to the agency.
Shahzad’s wife, Anita Saleem, informed Human Rights Watch of her husband’s disappearance on May 30, according to her husband’s instructions. She told Human Rights Watch that she had received an anonymous phone call saying that Shahzad would be released the same evening. Credible sources also told Human Rights Watch that Shahzad was in ISI agency custody and was expected to be released in the evening of May 30. However, despite repeated inquiries, Human Rights Watch received no official response from the government ofPakistanabout Shahzad’s whereabouts or well-being. When Shahzad failed to reappear, Human Rights Watch notified the Pakistani and international media.
On June 1, the ISI issued an unprecedented statement through an anonymous spokesperson to the state-controlled Associated Press of Pakistan. The ISI official denied that any threat had been made to Shahzad, stating that,
“The reported e-mail of Mr. Saleem Shahzad to Mr. Ali Hasan Dayan of HRW” was “being made the basis of baseless allegations leveled against ISI.”
The following day, Haroon, the Dawn publisher, rejected the ISI’s position and went on record to “verify that allegations levied by HRW at the ISI are essentially in complete consonance with the contents of the slain journalist’s e-mail.” Haroon added that he wished to “state on the record” that the late journalist confided to him “that he had received death threats from various officers of the ISI on at least three occasions in the past five years. Whatever the substance of these allegations, they form an integral part of Mr. Shahzad’s last testimony. Mr Shahzad’s purpose in transmitting this information to three concerned colleagues in the media was not to defame the ISI but to avert a possible fulfillment of what he clearly perceived to be a death threat.”
The ISI has a long history of abducting critics and others, then engaging in threats and beatings, telling relatives or others that they should not worry or complain as their loved one would soon be released, and then releasing the person with the threat of further abuse if he or she made the abductions and mistreatment known. Pakistani and international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have extensively documented the ISI’s intimidation, torture, disappearances, and killings of those who earn its ire, including journalists.
“Given the threats from the ISI alleged by Shahzad and a long pattern of similar cases involving ISI, there is good reason to suspect the ISI’s involvement in his abduction and death,” Adams said. “If the ISI is committed to respect for human rights and the rule of law, it should welcome an independent investigation so that abusive elements can be rooted out and held legally accountable. It is time that the military and ISI agencies understood that this kind of behavior is both abhorrent and unacceptable.”
The statement by the Pakistani interior minister, Rehman Malik, that the government would investigate possible ISI involvement in Shahzad’s abduction and killing was a positive step, Human Rights Watch said. The investigation should be conducted promptly and transparently, and the government should follow all possible leads, Human Rights Watch said.Pakistan’s government has not held any military or ISI personnel accountable for serious and ongoing human rights abuses.
Human Rights Watch called upon the international community to insist on a successful investigation into Shahzad’s killing by taking this case up not only with the civilian government but also with the army and ISI, with which they have close and longstanding contacts.
“While their calls for justice are positive, it is time for Pakistan’s defense and ISI partners such as the United States and United Kingdom to make clear to the army and ISI chiefs that it will not be business as usual until Shahzad’s killers are identified and brought to justice,” Adams said. “If the government does not set up such an investigation or the military and the ISI fail to cooperate, Pakistan’s partners should call for an independent international investigation to ensure that Shahzad’s death does not become yet another example of impunity in Pakistan.”
For more information, please contact:
In London, Ali Dayan Hasan (English, Urdu): +1-917-519-7194 (mobile); or firstname.lastname@example.org
In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-7908-728-333 (mobile); or email@example.com
In New York, Elaine Pearson (English): +1-212-216-1213; +1-646-291-7169 (mobile); or firstname.lastname@example.org
In Washington, DC, Tom Malinowski (English): +1-202-612-4358; or +1-202-309-3551 (mobile); or email@example.com
APPENDIX: OCTOBER 19, 2010 EMAIL
FROM SALEEM SHAHZAD TO ALI DAYAN HASAN
From: Saleem Shahzad [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 19 October 2010 12:54
To: Ali Dayan Hasan
Subject: Fw: For the record Dear Hasan,
I am forwarding this email to you for your record only if in case something happens to me or my family in future.
— On Mon, 10/18/10, Saleem Shahzad <email@example.com> wrote:
Meeting details as on October 17, 2010 at the ISI headquarters Islamabad between DG Media Wing ISI, Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir and Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Bureau Chief Pakistan for Asia Times Online (Hong Kong). Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, the Deputy Director General of Media Wing ISI was also present during the conversation.
Agenda of the meeting: discussion on Asia Times Online story published on October 15, 2010, titled Pakistan frees Taliban commander (see http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LJ16Df02.html).
The meeting discussed the following issues.
1-Syed Saleem Shahzad told Rear Admiral Adnan that an ISI channel leaked the story. However, he added that story was published only after a confirmation from the most credible Taliban source. Syed also explained that DG ISPR was sent a text message about the story, but he did not respond.
2- Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir had the view that story caused a lot of embracement for the country but observed that issuing a denial from the government side is no solution. He suggested Syed Saleem Shahzad should write a denial of the story.
3- Syed Shahzad refused to comply with demand and termed it impractical.
4-Rear Admiral Adnan was curious to know the source of the story as it is a shame that information would leak from the office of a high profile ISI service.
5- Syed Shahzad called it an ISI leak but did not specify the source.
6-The conversation was held in an extremely polite and friendly atmosphere and there was no mince word in the room at any stage. Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir also offered
Syed Saleem Shahzad a favor in following words:
“I must give you a favor. We have recently arrested a terrorist and have recovered a lot of data, dairies and other material during the interrogation. The terrorist had a hit list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know,”
“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.” –Pastor Martin Niemöller, 1945.
This is one more of the mysterious abductions and extrajudicial killings that have been taking place inPakistanon a regular basis. This extrajudicial killing after disappearance is just one of many hundreds that have taken place in the past years and a clear demonstration of the total collapse of the rule of law in the country. The citizens have no rights or freedom of expression and media personnel are being terrorised into silence. The tolerance at the state level has reached the point where journalists are intimidated and murdered if their stories touch on any subject that might be considered sensitive by the invisible intelligence agencies.
The country has become a state where even a small voice of dissent is unacceptable to those who are truly in power. This is not the elected government but rather the armed forces and intelligence agencies who have ruled for 34 out of the 63 year history of the country and continue to rule today.
He is the 70th journalist to meet this fate since the year 2000.
Many other civilians have also been abducted and disappeared and their numbers are counted in the thousands. The state has failed to recognise these large scale abductions and killings and take any effective action to prevent them from occurring. In fact, the popular perception is that these abductions and killings take place with the knowledge of the country’s intelligence services and other authorities.
Saleem Shahzad was shocked by many of the happenings related to security operations and was engaged in exposing these through his journalism. He was a committed journalist who defended the freedom of expression and called for accountability and protection for the people. It was his commitment to truth and the belief of his own duties to his community that cost him his life.
As in all such occasions there are calls for investigations and the prosecution of the offenders. However, as the government lacks any kind of commitment to ensure justice there is hardly any possibility of the discovery of the perpetrators of this heinous crime. It is the duty of the international organisations of journalists and those who are committed to the freedom of expression to make the call for an investigation louder and to intervene in order to prevent further killings.
The rule of law in Pakistan is getting severely undermined and that the very meaning of the law is losing its significance in the country. Life is becoming more and more senseless each day as the citizens can do nothing else except to watch helplessly the kind of kidnappings, killings and disappearances that take place almost daily.
Shahzad’s post-mortem report showed multiple injuries throughout his body. “Liver failure and ruptured lungs could have caused his death,” said an official, confirming there were as many as 15 visible wounds on his body. His ribs were also broken. He thus was subjected to severe torture which might have caused his death.
His mutilated body was found in the suburbs of Mandi Bahouddin, 160 kilometers from the place of his abduction
It is widely suspected that Shahzad was abducted by members of the country’s intelligence agencies shortly after he published an article linking the Pakistan Navy with Al-Qaida. Two days before his abduction he told his friends that he had been receiving threatening calls from intelligence officers because of the article which had been published in Asia Times Online.
While the ISI and intelligence agencies are suspected as being responsible for Shahzad’s disappearance and death the government cannot be absolved of its responsibility.
Following his abduction on May 29 no action was taken to locate him, investigate the abduction or close the exit points of Islamabad. This is yet another example of the government turning a blind eye to the actions of the security forces and the blanket impunity they are offered.
The announcement by the government of an inquiry into Shahzad’s killing holds no hope for his family and friends as it is unlikely to be unbiased or in any way fair. The results of such inquiries will invariably show that he was killed in a terrorist action and no responsibility will be laid at the feet of the intelligence agencies. Or, if by some miracle some intelligence officers are actually named they will be offered impunity by the inquiry as the blame will be transferred to the terrorists. As normally happens, the inquiry may well discover that certain intelligence agents were present however, no evidence will be produced that they were responsible for his death.
Shahzad’s abduction and death should be seen, not in the light of an isolated incident, but rather as part of an attempt to silence anyone who is considered to be a threat.
By merely ordering a puppet inquiry into the matter the government will not serve the purpose of justice and truth which the Pakistani nation desperately needs at this moment when all the venues of justice, accountability, fair trial and transparency are nowhere to be seen.
Alaiwah joins Saleem Shahzad’s family in praying that God may grant his soul peace.
President of newspapers’ society confirms that Saleem Shahzad was receiving threats from ISI
Mr. Hameed Haroon, the chief executive officer of the Dawn, and the president of the All Pakistan Newspaper Society, an organization of owners of the print media, has confirmed that Saleem Shahzad had received threatening messages from the ISI on at least three occasions. Shahzad had not only informed his employer, the Asia Time Online but also Mr. Haroon and other friends of these threats.
This statement from Mr. Haroon refuted the charges of the ISI official that the accusation of the involvement of the ISI in Shahzad’s murder was baseless. Shahzad told Mr. Haroon in an email after a meeting on October 18, 2010, in which military and navy officers were present, that he was being pressurised to disclose his source of information about the release of a notorious Taliban commander from Pakistani custody.
The confirmation from a media house owner that Shahzad was under threat from the ISI is enough to expose the workings of the invisible intelligence agencies for the intimidation and murder of citizens in general and journalists in particular. The statement from the ISI was merely an attempt to cover up its common practice of threatening anyone it sees as a potential risk. It is no secret that every investigative journalist is expected to disclose the source of their information to the military run intelligence services.
Open and fair trials and the rule of law are now subjected to the requirements of what is perceived to be national security. The government is in a deep state of denial when it comes to confronting the armed forces or the intelligence agencies for acts of forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture in custody.
The concept of an open trial in Pakistan no longer exists if there is any hint that the subject of the trial may involve ‘national security’. There is simply no chance of a trial taking place or, if by some chance it does actually begin, evidence is suppressed in the interests of this national security. The statement by the ISI official that the organisation had nothing to do with Shahzad’s murder was not given with the intention of creating discussion, it was, as far as the ISI is concerned.
The rule of law inPakistan is at the mercy of the armed forces. It is, as in the case of open and fair trials, exactly what they say it is.
The statement of the ISI will dominate the inquiry into Shahzad’s murder simply because the government has no will power to question it.
Human Rights Watch had already raised the alarm over the disappearance of the 40-year-old father of three, citing a “reliable interlocutor” who said he had been abducted by ISI.
“This killing bears all the hallmarks of previous killings perpetrated by Pakistani intelligence agencies,” said a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in southAsia, Ali Dayan Hasan. He called for a “transparent investigation and court proceedings”.
A senior ISI official told the Associated Press that allegations of the agency’s involvement were absurd.
Shahzad, who worked for the online service Asia Times Online and the Italian news agency Adnkronos, vanished two days after publishing a story allegingPakistanmilitary officials had been in secret negotiations with al-Qaida.
The story claimed that the terrorist group had attacked the Mehran naval base inKarachi on 22 May after talks with the military to release two naval officials accused of militant links broke down. The naval base assault was a humiliation for the Pakistani army, which battled for 17 hours against at least four heavily armed men who blew up two US-built surveillance planes and killed 10 soldiers. On Tuesday, Pakistani media reported that military intelligence had picked up a retired navy commando and his brother inLahore in connection with the raid. The raid came after unprecedented criticism of the army for theUS raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and WikiLeaks disclosures that showed army complicity with the CIA drone programme.
He had previously warned of threats to his life from ISI, according to Human Rights Watch. Last October, after he was summoned to ISI headquarters to explain a story, he sent an email to be released in the event of his death, Hasan said.
The email recounted a meeting with two senior ISI personnel who questioned him over a story about Mullah Brader, a Taliban commander captured inPakistanwith American help months earlier.
The two ISI officials named in the article, Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir and Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, were naval officers. Shahzad claimed that Nazir warned the journalist that he might find himself on a “terrorist hit list”. “If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know,” he reportedly said. Last week, Pervaiz was made commander of the Karachi naval base that was attacked.
“We believed [Shahzad's] claim that he was being threatened by the ISI was credible and any investigation into his murder has to factor this in,” said Hasan.
As a reporter, Shahzad was known for delving deep into the murky underworld of Islamist militancy. He had interviewed some of the most notorious leaders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, a major player in the Taliban insurgency inAfghanistan, and Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani militant who works for al-Qaida.
He had just published a book called Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11.
Zaffar Abbas, editor of Dawn paid tribute to Shahzad as “a fine reporter, one of a breed of Pakistani journalists who really believe in investigative journalism”. In the light of the death, he is was looking at scaling back his own paper’s coverage. “I am seriously considering the entire process of reporting, and to what extent I can put my own team at risk. It is becoming increasingly dangerous for people to openly report, whether militants or security agencies are involved.”
PM Gilani expressed his “deep grief and sorrow” over Shahzad’s death and ordered an inquiry, saying that “the culprits would be brought to book at every cost”.
Hopes for any inquiry, however, were low. Although the ISI technically reports to Gilani, it is in reality controlled by the army chief, General Kayani. Although accused of numerous human rights abuses over the years, serving ISI officials have never been prosecuted.
Cricketer turned politician Imran Khan termed Shahzad’s death a “heinous crime” but avoided mention of the ISI, instead blaming the “servile policies [of] a corrupt and inept government”.
Pakistanis the world’s most dangerous country for journalists, according to Reporters without Borders, which says that 16 journalists have been killed in the past 14 months.
Last September Umar Cheema, another investigative reporter, was abducted from Islamabad for six hours and tortured before being released. He said he suspected that his kidnappers belonged to the ISI.
The statement is reproduced below and in full, issued today by the President of the All Pakistan Newspaper Society:
A leading newspaper publisher in Pakistanand the president of the nationwide newspapers body has reacted sharply to charges by the ISI that allegations by Human Rights Watch of the intelligence agency’s involvement in the murder of Pakistani journalist Salim Shahzad were “baseless” .
It has come to my notice that a spokesman of ISI while speaking to the official national news agency in Islamabad yesterday has questioned the “baseless allegations” leveled by Human Rights Watch on the basis of an E mail from Salim Shahzad, the Bureau Chief of the Hong Kong based Asia Times Online, in their possession . Mr Shahzad was murdered three days ago near Islamabad after being abducted by unknown persons.
“I wish to state on record that the e mail in the possession of Mr Ali Dayan, the monitor for Human Rights Watch (HRW) stationed in ,Lahore Pakistan, is indeed one of the three identical E mails sent by Mr Shahzad to HRW , his employers (Asia Times Online) and to his former employer, myself . I also wish to verify that allegations levied by HRW at the ISI are essentially in complete consonance with the contents of the slain journalists E mail “
“In their denial issued Wednesday an anonymous spokesman from the ISI has questioned the “baseless allegation” leveled against ISI by Mr Dayan of HRW. I wish to state on the record for the information of the officers involved in investigating journalist Salim Shahzad’s gruesome murder, that the late journalist confided to me and several others that he had received death threats from various officers of the ISI on at least three occasions in the past five years. Whatever the substance of these allegations , they form an integral part of Mr Shahzad’s last testimony. Mr Shahzad’s purpose in transmitting this information to three concerned colleagues in the media ,was not to defame the ISI but to avert a possible fulfillment of what he clearly perceived to be a death threat. The last threat which I refer to was recorded by Mr Shahzad by e mail with me, tersely phrased as “for the record”, at precisely 4.11 am on October18,2010, wherein he recounted the details of his meetings at the ISI headquarters in Islamabad between the Director General- Media Wing (ISI) Rear- Admiral Adnan Nazir, with the Deputy Director General of the Media Wing, Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, also being present on the occasion.
The ostensible agenda for this meeting was the subject of Mr Shahzads’s story of Asia Times Online with respect to the Pakistan government freeing of senior Afghan Taliban commander, Mullah Baraadar. Mr Shahzad informed the senior officials that he story was leaked by a intelligence channel in Pakistan, and confirmed thereafter by the ” most credible Taliban s source” . The senior officials present suggested to Mr Shahzad that he officially deny the story, which he refused to do, terming the official’s demand as “impractical”
The senior intelligence official was “curious” to identify the source of Mr Shahzad’s story claiming it to be a “shame” that such a leak should occur from the offices of a high profile intelligence service. Mr Shahzad additionally stated that the Rear -Adimral offered him some information, ostensibly “as a favour ” in the following words : ” We have recently arrested a terrorist and have recovered a lot of data, diaries and other materials during the interrogation. The terrorist had a hit list with him. If I find your name on the list I will certainly let you know.”
Mr Shahzad subsequently confirmed to me in a conversation that he not only interpreted this conversation as a veiled threat to his person. He also informed me that he let an official from the ISI know soon thereafter that he intended share the content of this threat with his colleagues ..
As President of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and as head of Pakistan’s leading media group I consider the the security of journalists to be of paramount importance. At present the APNS has officially committed itself to the creation of a national body for the investigations of serious threats to the lives of journalists, a body which the Committee to Protect the Journalists in New York, and other leading organizations in the Pakistani press and human rights bodies have promised to lend vigorous support to. Pakistan has one of the high rates in the world for journalists killings and such an environment is inimical to the functioning of democracy. The government and the intelligence agencies should take the investigation into Mr Shahzad’s murder seriously and examine his last testimony closely.
Whether the Oct 18th incident itself or his last article in the Asia Times Online, that alleged Al-Qaeda penetration of the security curtain for Pakistani Naval establishment inKarachi hastened his murder is for the official investigation to uncover. And nobody not even the ISI should be above the law”.
ALL PAKISTAN NEWSPAPERS SOCIETY