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Another Journalist Silenced

May 31, 2011

Photo: Guardian

I got the news of disappearance of Asia Times Online Pakistan Bureau Chief, Saleem Shahzad, yesterday via Twitter because the mainstream media allegedly didn’t bother to run even a news ticker. The only show that raised the voice against his disappearance was Bolta Pakistan.

Today, I woke up with the news of his killing. It was indeed terrible to know that he got killed in less than two days of his disappearance. His abduction was said to be carried out in response to this article. The international advocacy group Human Rights Watch, said that Saleem Shahzad was believed to be in the custody of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence. Ali Hasan Dayal, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, released an email to FiveRupees blog which the slain journalist had forwarded to Hasan after being summoned to ISI headquarters to discuss the contents of his article. Saleem Shahzad had warned that his life was in danger from ISI. Hasan commented on his killing that, “This killing bears all the hallmarks of previous killings perpetrated by Pakistani intelligence agencies.”

The abduction of journalists is not a new phenomenon. In 2005 a journalist from Waziristan, Hayatullah Khan was abducted and killed upon making public the photographs of the pieces of US fired missile. In September 2010, Umar Cheema the senior investigative journalist of the The News International was abducted, tortured and humiliated but was released later on. He blamed his abduction on ISI.

When the disappearance of Saleem Shahzad came to my notice, given the previous two cases of abduction, I was divided about the end result. I wished that he return safe and sound but an unknown fear lingered as well that what if he couldn’t make it. Unfortunately, he couldn’t. Saleem Shahzad was abducted from Islamabad when he was going to take part in a talk show on Dunya TV. His body was found in Mandi Bahaudin while his car was found in Serai-Alamgir.

Although the investigative journalists are more at risk but overall Pakistan has been declared a deadliest country for journalists by an international group Reporters without Borders.

Saleem Shahzad was the third journalist to lose his life in the course of work this year. The first victim of violence was the young journalist of Geo News, Wali Khan Babar, who was shot dead by an unknown gunmen while on his way back home. The second one to lose his life was a tribal journalist Nasrullah Afridi, who got killed by an explosive planted in his car on the Bara Road, Peshawar on May 10. That is in addition to those countless killings of journalists and members of political parties in Baluchistan who disappear regularly without trace or are later found dead.

The disappearance and killing of Saleem Shahzad is chilling reminder that whoever dare to go against the country’s most powerful organization will be picked up and silenced. Guardian newspaper writes, ” He [Saleem Shahzad] had interviewed some of the most notorious leaders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, a major player in the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, and Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani militant who works for al-Qaida.” The investigative news reports filed by Saleem Shahzad reveal what a courageous journalist he was. May he rest in peace.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Umesh permalink
    June 2, 2011 3:15 am

    Unfortunately link to article is disabled. Seems the acess is blocked…
    Can you reproduce the article?

    Umesh B- Mumbai-India

    • June 2, 2011 10:25 am

      Are you talking about the last article by Saleem Shahzad that he authored for Asia Times?

  2. June 2, 2011 10:01 am

    A great loss indeed. He was a true brave journalist.

    The area in which he has been murdered is known for harboring Shiite militants with ties to Iran. Mandi, where his body was found, is notorious for hosting secret training camps that have the covert support of some members of the ruling PPP government, which has a strong shiite cadre.

    Saleem had recently done a story on retired Pakistani soldiers being hired by Bahrain government. Given the reports emerging from Syria, where Iranian revolutionary guards, Hezbollah, and other shiite outfits are said to be helping Bashar thugs in killing unarmed protesters, it is possible if some of the muscle power is being provided by shiite groups in Pakistan. Remember, Iran wields strong influence in Pakistan through its proxy groups. And Shahzad might be working on this. He was known for his in-depth stories and had sources in many militant groups, of all sectarian persuasions.

    ISI of course remains the main suspect but given the mess that is Pakistan; we cannot ignore other possibilities.

  3. June 3, 2011 6:23 am

    May his soul rest in peace!

    In your post you wrote that …”The disappearance and killing of Saleem Shahzad is chilling reminder that whoever dare to go against the country’s most powerful organization will be picked up and silenced”….this make me wonder how Aysha Siddiqa (Defense Analyst)
    has been able to say, write and talk about this most powerful organization?

    It also sheds lights on who talks and with what background?

    Neverthless, the most cowardly things happen in Pakistan in the political scene!

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