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Offline bigron

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Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers
« on: June 01, 2011, 05:54:34 am »
South Asia
Jun 2, 2011 

Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers

By Karamatullah K Ghori

See Justice, not words, Target: Saleem, Why is he not alive? and Tributes to Saleem.

Where does one draw the line between a devoted journalist's right to sift the truth from fiction and report, and an assassin's bloodlust to silence him?

The kidnapping and murder of Asia Times Online's Pakistan bureau chief, Syed Saleem Shahzad, only days after he had exposed a possible link between al-Qaeda and Pakistani servicemen [1], in the macabre but gory drama of Karachi's apparently well-guarded naval-aviation base, Mehran, invaded on May 22 by a handful of terrorists, raises that obvious question.

I had written a piece for Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online on that incident and was informed that the article would appear on Thursday, May 26. But my take on the brazen development didn't appear because on the same day Saleem had filed a copious, ***two-part*** story on what had actually transpired and who might have been involved in that obvious breach of security at a prestigious naval base in the heart of Pakistan's largest city.

I felt sorry that my story had been killed, but appreciated the editor's compulsion for doing it. Saleem was the man on the spot, whereas I was a distant observer from thousands of kilometers away.

But how I wish, now, that Asia Times Online hadn't carried Saleem's no-holds-barred analytical expose of what is without doubt a cloak-and-dagger story of which we haven't, yet, seen all.

Saleem, 40, disappeared on his way to a television interview in Islamabad on Sunday evening. On Tuesday, police said they had found his body in Mandi Bahauddin, about 150 kilometers southeast of the capital. There were indications that he had been tortured. He is survived by his wife, Anita, and two sons aged 14 and seven, and a daughter aged 12.

Those assassins who've silenced him forever may not have read what he wrote. But once a man makes a blip on their radar, he stays there, in their gun-sights, until they get him. Saleem isn't the first, nor will be the last, Pakistani or foreign journalist whose life flame has been put out by the merchants of death who have apparently been roaming the land and plying their trade with virtual impunity. Pakistan had the most journalist deaths in the world in 2010 - 44 - and not one killer has been brought to justice.

Pakistan is "the world’s most dangerous country for journalists" the Paris-based press-monitoring group Reporters Without Borders said last month.

Human Rights Watch cited a "reliable interlocutor" who said Saleem had been abducted by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). "This killing bears all the hallmarks of previous killings perpetrated by Pakistani intelligence agencies," said a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in South Asia, Ali Dayan Hasan. He called for a "transparent investigation and court proceedings".

In mid-October last year, Saleem sent an e-mail to the editor of Asia Times Online, Tony Allison, which contained part of an exchange between Saleem and an official of the ISI. It read, "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."

Saleem told Allison that he specifically interpreted this as a direct threat. He had been summoned to ISI headquarters over the publication of an exclusive report that Pakistan had released the supreme commander of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, so that he could play a pivotal role in backchannel talks through the Pakistani army with Washington. (Pakistan frees Taliban commander October 16, 2010.)

The ISI demanded that Saleem reveal his sources, and also write a rebuttal. Saleem refused, to the obvious displeasure of the ISI officials who included Rear Admiral Adnan Nawaz and Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, both from the navy.

At this point, Allison suggested to Saleem that he lay low for a little while. His response was abrupt and summed up the man, "If I hold back and don't do my job, I might as well just make the tea."

Saleem began his journalistic career as a bit-part reporter in the early 1990s in the southern port city of Karachi covering the municipal beat. He began writing for Asia Times Online 10 years ago and through a doggedness and burning desire to get to the truth that became a hallmark of his career he became internationally recognized as a leading expert on al-Qaeda and militancy. His book Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 was released by Pluto Press last week.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on Saleem's killing, "The United States strongly condemns the abduction and killing of reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad. His work reporting on terrorism and intelligence issues in Pakistan brought to light the troubles extremism poses to Pakistan’s stability.” Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed sorrow and ordered an immediate inquiry.

Saleem's journey took him into the badlands that span the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the mountainous region that is home to militants of all shades. In November 2006 he was held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan for six days, but within days he was back in business, literally sweating, as he would joke, up and down the valleys of North and South Waziristan. (See A 'guest' of the Taliban Asia Times Online, November 20, 2006.)

He interviewed some of the most notorious militant leaders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, a major player in the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, and Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani militant who heads 313 Brigade, the operational arm of al-Qaeda. (See Al-Qaeda's guerrilla chief lays out strategy October 15, 2009.)

Killing, in cold blood a man of letters like Saleem amounts to an open declaration of war against the fundamental principles of Islam and defiance of the teachings of its Messenger, Prophet Mohammad, who bestowed the greatest honors on a seeker of truth by intoning that "the ink of a scholar's pen is holier than a martyr's blood".

The core problem in the context of Pakistan is the failure of the state as a whole - which includes its ruling elite, the military brass and civil society in general - to come to grips with the challenge of fundamentalists and their soul-comrades, the terrorists.

Except for a small segment of the intelligentsia bemoaning the debasing of Pakistan's moorings, there is hardly any backlash in evidence against the corrosive damage the fundamentalists are doing to its social order. The silence of the clergy against the defacing of Islam is simply deafening. Those few voices that articulated against terrorists have been brutally silenced.

The ruling elite has become almost irrelevant to the country's crying need for wise and enlightened leadership to arrest the inexorable slide into anarchy. Their sole concern is with remaining in power by any means, even if it means subcontracting Pakistan to a United States agenda.

The military leadership, on its part, has failed to check the spread of the festering cancer of fundamentalism and radicalism in its ranks - a damning legacy of General Zia ul-Haq's 11 years at the head of Pakistan, and then General Pervez Musharraf's rule until August 2008. Saleem's last contribution to Asia Times Online focused intently on this "black hole" of Pakistan.

And he paid for it with his life.

Pakistan's military brass remains hopelessly mired in its infatuation with parity with India in military hardware and it must therefore stay on the right side of US to keep its arsenal well stocked. Its latest decision to sign on to Washington's demand for military action in North Waziristan - a central piece of Clinton's visit to Islamabad on May 27 - is evidence of the US agenda in the region ruling the roost in Islamabad. A blitz in North Waziristan will, inevitably, lead to a more virulent terrorist backlash in the rest of the country and more spilling of innocent blood like Saleem's.

1. Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike Asia Times Online, May 27.

(Additional reporting by Asia Times Online.)

Karamatullah K Ghori is a former Pakistani ambassador. He can be reached at [email protected]

Offline bigron

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Re: Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2011, 05:58:36 am »
South Asia
Jun 2, 2011 

Justice, not words

See Pakistan: Silencing the truth-seekers, Target: Saleem, Why is he not alive? and Tributes to Saleem.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed deep grief and sorrow over the kidnapping and murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief, and ordered an immediate inquiry. The president stressed that his government firmly believes in freedom of the media and the promotion of democratic values.

These are honorable and noble sentiments that will resonate around the world. The trouble is, like an echo, the words will quickly fade, and most likely nothing will be done. It will be business as usual in a country that had the most journalist deaths in the world in 2010 - 44 - and four prominent newsmen killed this year for simply doing their job.

None of their killers has been brought to justice. Not one.

As long as this appalling record continues, and Pakistan mouths platitudes while its security apparatus - whether directly or though subcontracting - runs rampant, the country will never be viewed as a trusted partner, as the United States has learned over and over again in the 10 tortuous years that it has been forced into an embrace with Islamabad.

This is no small matter as the Americans try to extricate themselves from Afghanistan and deal with regional extremism. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to the heart of the matter in commenting on Shahzad's killing: "His work reporting on terrorism and intelligence issues in Pakistan brought to light the troubles extremism poses to Pakistan's stability."

The death of Shahzad, just days after he reported on al-Qaeda links deep inside the Pakistan navy, is a personal tragedy of immeasurable proportions, for his family, friends and colleagues. It is also a tragedy for the freedom of speech that is enshrined in the country's constitution, abused yet again by those who choose to kill rather than listen when they hear an unpalatable truth.

Shahzad never took sides, he often feared for his life, both at the hands of militants and at the hands of the state.

In this tragedy, President Zardari has an opportunity. He can bring Shahzad's killers to justice to redeem past wrongs, to take a giant step towards matching lofty rhetoric with deeds, to show to the world that Pakistan has the will to be a trusted partner in the international community.

By doing so, he will also be paying the highest respect to a fellow Pakistani who gave up his life in the pursuit of truth.

Offline bigron

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Re: Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2011, 06:03:33 am »
South Asia
Jun 2, 2011 
Target: Saleem

By Pepe Escobar

See Pakistan: Silencing the truth-seekers, Justice, not words, Why is he not alive? and Tributes to Saleem.

Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) deserves a medal of honor. Quite an intel op; whether it did it directly, subcontracted by military intelligence or through ''rogue'' elements, it has set the bar very high.

After all, when a Pakistani journalist - not a foreigner - writes that al-Qaeda is infiltrated deep inside the Pakistani military establishment, one's got to act with utmost courage.

So you abduct the journalist. You torture him. And you snuff him. Target assassination - the low-tech version. After all, if the Pentagon can drone their way to tribal heaven - and get away with it - why not join the fun?

Saleem was a brother. In the aftermath of 9/11 we worked in tandem; he was in Karachi, I was in Islamabad/Peshawar. After the US ''victory'' in Afghanistan I went to visit him at home. He plunged me into Karachi's wild side - in this and other visits. During a night walk on the beach he confessed his dream; he wanted to be Pakistan bureau chief for Asia Times, which he regarded as the K2 of journalism. He got it.

And then, years before ''AfPak'' was invented, he found his perfect beat - the intersection between the ISI, the myriad Taliban factions on both sides of AfPak, and all sorts of jihadi eruptions. That was his sterling beat; and no one could bring more hardcore news from the heart of hardcore than Saleem.

I had met some of his sources in Islamabad and Karachi - but over the years he kept excavating deeper and deeper into the shadows. Sometimes we seriously debated over e-mails - I feared some dodgy/devious ISI strands were playing him while he always vouched for his sources.

Cornered by the law of the jungle, no wonder most of my Pakistani friends, during the 2000s, became exiles in the United States or Canada. Saleem stayed - threats and all, the only concession relocating from Karachi to Islamabad.

Now they finally got him. Not an al-Qaeda or jihadi connection. Not a tribal or Taliban connection, be it Mullah Omar or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. It had to be the ISI - as he knew, and told us, all along.

So congratulations to the ISI - the ''state within the state''. Mission accomplished. 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His latest is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at [email protected].

Offline bigron

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Re: Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2011, 06:12:16 am »
South Asia
Jun 2, 2011 

Why is he not alive?

By Susan Marie

See Pakistan: Silencing the truth-seekers, Justice, not words, Target: Saleem and Tributes to Saleem.

What is truth? According to Merriam-Webster, truth is defined as: fact, the body of real things, an idea that is true or accepted as true, and reality. What then is a journalist? A journalist is a writer who aims at a mass audience through the medium of journalism. Journalism is writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or a description of events without an attempt at interpretation. This means a journalism is a writer who writes truth without personal opinion based upon fact and reality.

Journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad was the Pakistan Bureau Chief of Asia Times Online, covering issues of global security, focusing on al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Shahzad has reported on Islamist movements, taking him to Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.

Saleem introduced the world to al-Qaeda and Sheikh Essa. His interviews included: Taliban commanders Sirajuddin Haqqani and
Qari Ziaur Rahman, and Ilyas Kashmiri, who leads 313 Brigade, the operational arm of al-Qaeda.

On May 20, 2011, 11 days before his untimely death, Saleem's new book was released: Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 through Pluto Press in the UK. On May 4, Shahzad wrote of the death of Osama bin Laden.

In November of 2007, Saleem constructed a brief on Pakistan Security Research Unit (PSRU) entitled: The Gathering Strength of Taliban and Tribal Militants in Pakistan. The brief focused on extremism, terrorism, nuclear weapons, internal stability and cohesion, and was a useful resource for anyone interested in the security of Pakistan.

To quote Saleem: "The unending Pakistan/NATO/US military operations in the tribal areas, which are seen by Taliban and tribal groups as being fought for a complete victory and without a will for political reconciliation, have radicalized Pakistan's North West Frontier Province."

"After 9/11, a very rustic religious zeal and the Taliban's affinity with Pakistani tribal groups was the reason behind providing shelter to the Arab-Afghan Diaspora in South Waziristan and North Waziristan, but Washington-sponsored Pakistan's half-hearted military operations in 2002-03 united some of the force in a shared war of retribution."


What Saleem is presenting is an investigative document based on historical fact and research without imbuing it with his own opinion. What then again is truth? The body of real things. A journalist? A writer who aims at an audience with a direct presentation of fact without adding his own opinion.

On May 31, 2011, Saleem Shahzad was found dead. Syed Saleem Shahzad went missing on Sunday, after he left his home in the capital to take part in a talk show, but never arrived. He disappeared two days after writing an investigative report in Asia Times Online that Al-Qaeda carried out last month's attack on a naval air base to avenge the arrest of naval officials arrested on suspicion of al-Qaeda links (see Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike, Asia Times Online, May 26).

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists and Democracy Now have issued public statements regarding the abject horror over one man's death. In 2006, Saleem was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan, yet he remained alive.

Refer to Saleem's 2007 brief: "As Western-backed military operations continue, Taliban numbers are rising steeply and their confidence is growing. They have even been joined by some Pakistan Army officers who have resigned from the Pakistan Army."

He continued with: "The Taliban are planning to take the war to Pakistan and Afghanistan's major cities and to build an Islamic Emirate. The more the US-backed war is prolonged, the more sophisticated the Taliban will be in their strategic development."

Read the above sentence again.

And again.

That was 2007.

The Associated Press of Pakistan reports: "President Asif Ali Zardari expressed his deep grief and sorrow ... The President expressed his determination to bring the culprits to justice. He said the present government firmly believes in freedom of media and promotion of democratic values."

The constitution of Pakistan states in the preamble: "Therein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality."

In Part II: Chapter 1: Fundamental Rights: Article 19: "Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of, or incitement to an offence."

Read that again.

After Saleem's body was found some six miles (10 kilometers) from his car, an initial exam found signs of torture, but autopsy results were pending.

Article 5: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

Saleem Shahzad was a journalist in the truest sense. He presented fact without his own opinion. Why then is he not alive?

Article 19: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Saleem Shahzad is survived by his wife Anita and three children. Purchase his book Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 through Pluto Press to further his work in journalism and assist his family in their time of such unnecessary loss.

Susan Marie Public Relations, Think Twice Radio, New York, USA


Offline bigron

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Re: Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2011, 06:18:48 am »
South Asia
Jun 2, 2011 

Tributes to Saleem

See Pakistan: Silencing the truth-seekers, Target: Saleem, Justice, not words, and Why is he not alive?

Saleem Shahzad was among the finest of journalists. I'm sure I join legions of his readers in enormous gratitude for the light he shed and the clarity of his analysis. His murder, seemingly at the hands of the corrupt Pakistani state, is a terrible outrage. If there is any way readers of Asia Times can support his family and honor his memory, I trust you will let us know.
Bill Andriette
United States

The death of Saleem is tragic. He had become a good friend of mine as he was yours over a long period of time. Shocking! He wrote no more in his last article on Asia Times than a number of writers wrote in the local papers: that the Mehran attack was an ''inside job''.
Apart from our personal loss, Saleem was an investigatve journalist of high caliber and we will all miss reading him.
Zahid U Kramet

One feels so helpless to see a fellow journalist meeting this kind of a violent end. In our part of the world, the Asia Times stories from Pakistan often found their way into the mainstream media, thanks to Syed Saleem Shahzad's fearless reporting. His stories were always keenly followed...
Please accept my deep condolences, my thoughts go out to his young family. We, journalists here from the SAARC countries, are trying to do something to bring pressure on the authorities there to take tangible action. But then whatever you do, you don't get a journalist like him everyday...
Santwana Bhattacharya

I wish to express my deep sorrow at the death of Saleem Shahzad and offer my condolences and sympathies to his widow, two children and his entire family. It is indeed a very sad news and a blow to free speech, expression and truth. He was a brave and honest journalist who never shunned from finding the facts and exposing them to the public.
I have been a an admirer of his plain, simple and honest way of writing for years and on many occasions agreed and also disagreed with him on many issues, but with great respect for his point of view. He will be tremendously missed not only on Asia Times Online, but also in the Pakistani media.
May Allah bless his soul with Jannah-al-Firdaus and give his widow and children courage and penitence to endure his profound loss and demise. Ameen
Saqib Khan
United Kingdom

The killing of Syed Saleem Shahzad is very sad and tragic news. All sympathies and feelings are with the deceased family and Asia Times Online. I personally condemn this incident and all other similar incidents where the voice of truth has been suppressed.
I pray for the martyred journalist, May his soul rest in peace Amen.
Malik Ayub Khan Sumbal

I just came to know of the tragic news about Syed Saleem Shahzad. I join you in sharing the grief. Shahzad was a colleague who made us all feel proud that we were somehow associated with him as a family member.
Having lived in Pakistan, I have often wondered how he could take such immense personal risks. It has been an extraordinary sense of dedication of the highest order.
M K Bhadrakumar

I am deeply sorry to hear about the murder of Saleem Shahzad. I would like to say that his murderers will be brought to justice, but in pitiful Pakistan that seems to never be the case.
Saleem was an intensely courageous journalist whose body of work exposed the immense complexity of that deeply troubled country. His stories will be sorely missed and Pakistan is even worse off without such a bold risk-taker traversing its militant intellectual badlands.
Derek Henry Flood

I would also like to express my sympathies after hearing of the death of your bureau chief in Pakistan. Terrible, terrible news. I sincerely hope you can continue to provide some of the most courageous reporting in the world.
Christopher Johnson

I just wanted to express my condolences and regret at the death of Syed Saleem Shahzad. It's very sad news indeed. He was a damn fine journalist, fearless in his reporting and very approachable as a person. I've followed his work at Asia Times for years - it was insightful and penetrating, and he beat just about every major news organisation in the depth and detail of his coverage.
In fact, I put his name forward to a publisher in London who was planning an Asian paper and said that if he wanted the paper to stand out then Saleem must be one of the contributors.
It's truly sad and disturbing.
Steve Bell
United Kingdom

I am writing from the English Centre of PEN, the worldwide association of writers, to express our sincere dismay and condolences at the death of Syed Saleem Shahzad.
We, together with Syed’s publisher Pluto Press, will be delivering a letter to the Pakistan Embassy here in London, demanding a full investigation and justice for Saleem.
Robert Sharp, English PEN
United Kingdom

Please accept my heartiest condolences over the sad demise of Mr Shahzad, your Pakistan correspondent.
M Abeer Khan

I was sincerely saddened to hear the news about longtime Asia Times Online contributor Syed Saleem Shahzad.
David Simmons

I am furious and horrified to learn of the murder of Saleem.
David P Goldman
United States

Saleem's death is a huge, huge loss to all of us. A really nice chap, honest, brave and hardworking. I will miss reading his insights into Pakistan.
My deepest condolences to his family.
Sudha Ramachandran

I'm really saddened to have learned about Saleem's murder. He was a brave man, and a real reporter. It was easy to admire him and I am sorry for your loss.
Charles McDermid

I am writing because I was saddened to hear that one of your respected journalists was murdered in Pakistan. Please know that the staff of Asia Times, the late Saleem Shahzad and his grieving family are in my prayers.
Gary Glennell Toms

Please accept my condolences on your loss by this terrible murder. This is horrifying and appalling.
Brian Cloughley


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Re: Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers
« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2011, 07:09:38 am »
After Repeated ISI Threats, Journalist Turns Up Dead in Pakistan

Disappeared Journalist Found Dead in His Car

by Jason Ditz, May 31, 2011

Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, an investigative reporter with a long history of work embarrassing to the government, had confirmed recently that he was threatened by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency officials who told him his reports were “detrimental to Pakistan’s national interests.”


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Re: Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2011, 07:14:22 am »
Dead Pakistani Journalist Claimed Ties Between Military, Islamic Militants

By James Rupert - Jun 1, 2011 3:01 AM GMT-0300 .

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the killing of a Pakistani journalist who a human rights group said had reported threats from intelligence officers over his coverage of alleged links between the military and Islamic militants.

“The United States strongly condemns the abduction and killing of reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad,” Clinton said in a statement issued by her office. “His work reporting on terrorism and intelligence issues in Pakistan brought to light the troubles extremism poses to Pakistan’s stability.”

Shahzad, a correspondent for the Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI) and Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, disappeared May 29 after reporting that last week’s guerrilla attack on a Pakistani naval base was retaliation for alleged Navy arrests of officers suspected of involvement with al-Qaeda. Three calls to Pakistan’s military spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, were unanswered yesterday.

“Shahzad received repeated threats from ISI or other Pakistani intelligence agencies” following earlier stories about military links to extremist groups, said Ali Dayan Hasan, a Pakistan-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York. ISI is the abbreviation for the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

Disappeared in Islamabad

Shahzad disappeared in the capital, Islamabad, while driving a few kilometers from his home to the studios of Dunya Television for a program on which he was to discuss alleged links between Pakistan’s armed forces and extremist groups, said Nasim Zehra, the current-affairs director at the channel.

His body was found outside Jhelum, a city 120 kilometers (75 miles) southeast of Islamabad, Dunya and other Pakistani news channels reported. The body was retrieved from a canal about 10 kilometers from where his car was found, Asia Times reported.

An initial examination of the body showed possible signs of torture, the Associated Press reported, citing a police official. AKI cited an unnamed doctor who conducted an autopsy as saying that Shahzad appeared to have been beaten to death. He was 40 years old, and is survived by his wife, two sons aged 14 and seven, and a daughter aged 12, according to the websites of AKI and Asia Times.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has ordered a probe into the killing, GEO channel reported. Clinton said the U.S. supports the investigation.

‘Most Dangerous Country’

Pakistan is “the world’s most dangerous country for journalists” the Paris-based press-monitoring group Reporters Without Borders said last month, citing 14 killings of journalists within 13 months. The group ranked Pakistan 151st out of 178 countries it rated for the overall degree of press freedoms.

The Pakistani military’s three decades of covert aid to Islamic militant groups has raised tensions this year with the U.S., notably since the American commando raid that killed al- Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in an army-dominated town 50 kilometers from the capital. The White House withheld all information from Pakistan on the raid because it feared that some Pakistani officials would tip him off.

Shahzad specialized in reporting on intelligence and security issues, and this month published a book on the recent evolution of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He reported to Human Rights Watch that ISI summoned him to a meeting in October after he published a story saying the agency had released the number- two Taliban leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, after arresting him last year, Hasan said in a phone interview.

Shahzad “told me the ISI officers demanded to know the source of his story and when he refused, the meeting ended with what constituted a threat,” Hasan said.

“In the months since then, he told me that he still was receiving threatening phone calls and was being followed,” Hasan said. “He felt he was in danger.”

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rupert in New Delhi at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg in Hong Kong at [email protected].


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Re: Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2011, 07:22:37 am »
31 May 2011 Last updated at 22:00 GMT

Saleem Shahzad: Pakistan journalist courted danger

Saleem Shahzad was feared abducted after he went missing on Sunday

Two Pakistani journalists pay tribute to their late colleague, Saleem Shahzad. They recall a resourceful investigative reporter whose scoops raised hackles among Pakistani intelligence - and may have ultimately cost him his life.


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Re: Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2011, 06:03:35 am »
South Asia
Jun 4, 2011 
Demands for justice

By Mohammad Ahmad

Calls for a thorough and impartial probe into the torture and killing of Asia Times Online's Pakistan bureau chief Syed Saleem Shahzad intensified in foreign capitals on Thursday, while across Pakistan protests were staged and black flags flown by civil rights and journalist groups.

United States Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Thursday that an investigation into Shahzad's murder must "hold those responsible accountable and deter another crime against members of the press ... His death is a blow to Pakistan's fragile democracy".

His remarks echoed earlier calls from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom and Italy for a full, independent investigation into the killing.

The badly beaten body of Shahzad was found on Tuesday in a canal in Mandi Bahauddin, about 150 kilometers southeast of the capital, two days after he went missing on his way to a television interview. The 40-year-old married father of three was buried in his hometown, Karachi, at a service in Qayyumabad graveyard on Wednesday attended by hundreds of friends, relatives, political figures and colleagues.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Wednesday that a police investigation would be launched into his death with a reward of nearly US$30,000, while Information Minister Firdous Aashiq Awan said a joint investigative committee would be established.

However, previous enquiries into the killings of Pakistani journalists have not been made public, with not a single killer facing justice over the estimated 251 journalists murdered in the country in the past decade. Malik has hinted that "personal enmity" could be behind Shahzad's death, while a police squabble over jurisdiction already threatens to delay the case.

"Tracing the killers behind the murder of the journalist is a very difficult task and investigation will take a long time to complete," a police official told local media.

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) issued a rare rebuttal on Wednesday to what it described as "baseless" media claims that it had targeted Shahzad for assassination in response to his May 26 article "Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike", which exposed links between al-Qaeda and Pakistan's navy.

The renowned journalist had warned Asia Times Online and a human-rights activists last October that the ISI was on his trail over an exclusive report that Pakistan had released the supreme commander of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Denying the allegations, the ISI said it would "leave no stone unturned in helping to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice", in a story carried by the state-owned Associated Press of Pakistan. However, the chief of a prominent journalist body and members of the press contested the agency’s remarks.

"The late journalist confided in 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 Shahzad’s last testimony," president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, Hameed Haroon in a statement issued on Thursday.

Najam Sethi, an analyst and editor in chief of The Friday Times, has also rejected police allegations that the Taliban were involved in the abduction.

Those insurgents usually "take their victim to North Waziristan or the tribal areas," he told Asia News. Once in their stronghold, "they interrogate and release a complete video showing the whole world that they have abducted someone," but this did not occur in the case of the journalist. "My experience points a finger at the intelligence agencies," Sethi said.

He added that Shahzad's torturers may have not intended to kill him. "Several years ago, Saleem Shahzad got into a fight and was shot in the left side in the ribs. He ultimately survived, but his left ribs were weak. "Another injury on his left side would have been fatal," which is what happened.

Pervaiz Shaukat, president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), told London's Independent that he had spoken to Information Minister Awan and asked that the government establish a commission headed by a supreme court judge to investigate. "There are protests across the country. For three days we will be flying black flags," he said. "We have lost six journalists this year already. It’s a very serious situation in Pakistan."

The PFUJ also announced that country wide demonstrations will continue on Friday in protest against Shahzad's murder. The Express Tribune has reported that the journalists' body held protests on Thursday in Sindh and Hyderabad, where journalists, cameramen and photographers convened at the press club to vent their concerns. In Sukkur, the local union of journalists said state terrorism will not be tolerated, accusing state agencies of being involved in the murder. In Quetta, the Balochistan Union of Journalist (BUJ) staged a protest outside the Quetta press club.

In an editorial, The New York Times said Shahzad knew he was a marked man, and paid tributes to Shahzad’s courage in covering issues relating to national security and terrorism. "ISI Chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, and his boss, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief of staff, must personally pledge a robust and transparent hunt for whoever was responsible ... For the sake of justice, and the shredded credibility of Pakistan’s government, his [Shahzad's)]murderers must be found quickly and held accountable."

Offline bigron

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Re: Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2011, 06:08:46 am »
South Asia
Jun 4, 2011 

Who killed Syed Saleem Shahzad?

By Amir Mir

LAHORE - In the shadowy world of Pakistan, journalists can be reasonably sure of living until the next morning when their byline appears. From there on, you don't know who might take affront to your report, abduct, torture or even kill you. This is the essence of the tragic story of Syed Saleem Shahzad, 40-year-old Pakistan bureau chief of Asia Times Online, whose mutilated body was found in a canal 150 km away from Islamabad on May 31.

Shahzad went missing on the evening of May 29, just two days after the article "Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistani strike" was published.     The article stated that al-Qaeda was engaged in negotiations with the Pakistan Navy for the release of naval personnel incarcerated for alleged links to the terror outfit. The report said the navy had agreed to free them only on the completion of their interrogation, a term al-Qaeda rejected. The audacious attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi on May 22, Shahzad's story claimed, was an outcome of the breakdown in the navy-al-Qaeda negotiations, thereby testifying to the militant-military nexus.

Shahzad's post-mortem report, prepared by a team of three doctors, found the journalist died soon after he was kidnapped. Dr Farrukh Kamal, who headed the autopsy team, said, "There were at least 17 wounds, including deep gashes... The ribs from the left and right sides seemed to be hit with violent force, using a blunt object. The broken ribs pierced Shahzad's lungs, apparently causing the death."

The pertinent question to ask is: who tortured Shahzad, not who killed him? One school of thought accuses the Pakistan's dreaded intelligence establishment, the Inter-Services Intelligence, saying Shahzad had been tortured in order to extract the source of his article. The ISI issued a statement denying the allegation. A second school of thought believes militants could have bumped off Shahzad to embarrass the ISI. Then there are those who say Shahzad was the victim of personal enmity.

The first to fire a salvo against the ISI was Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch (HRW). On May 30, he said, "We were informed through reliable interlocutors that he was detained by the ISI." But what really had the tongues wagging against the ISI was Hasan's other disclosure - on October 17, 2010 Shahzad had been summoned to the Islamabad headquarters of the ISI by the Information Management Wing of the agency, which wanted to discuss Shahzad's recent report in which he claimed that Pakistan had quietly released the fugitive ameer of Afghan Taliban Mullah Omar's deputy, Mullah Baradar, for taking part in Afghan negotiations through the Pakistani military establishment.

Present at the ISI headquarters were just two navy officers, who politely requested Shahzad name the source of his story or at least write a denial. When he refused, one of the officials informed Shahzad about a hit-list obtained from a detained terrorist and added, "If I find your name on the list, I will certainly let you know." Interpreting this as a threat, Shahzad thought it prudent to tell the HRW representative about the meeting in an e-mail, dated October 18, 2010. Fueling speculation is another nugget of information - one official during the 2010 meeting was Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, who has recently been appointed the new commander of the Mehran naval base, a few days after the May 22 attack.

The ISI has issued a rare statement about that meeting following Shahzad's murder, "The reported e-mail of Mr Saleem Shahzad to Mr Ali Hasan Dayan of HRW ... has no veiled or unveiled threats in it." The ISI justified summoning Shahzad in these words: "The reported meeting between the journalist and ISI officials of the Information Management Wing was held to discuss a story he had done for Asia Times Online on 15th October, and the meeting had nothing sinister about it. It is part of the Wing's mandate to remain in touch with the journalist community. The main objective behind all such interactions is provision of accurate information on matters of national security. ISI also makes it a point to notify institutions and individuals alike of any threat warning received about them", the statement added.

Seasoned journalist Najam Sethi, however, provided a new twist to the raging speculation in his Geo TV program: "The way Shahzad has been killed seems more likely to be a handiwork of the agencies." Sethi felt the abductors were oblivious to Shahzad's physical vulnerability - he had been shot at last year, the bullet lodging into the left side of his ribs, right under his heart. His abductors might have abducted him to teach him a lesson, ignorant of his low endurance level to beating because of the wound sustained last year. They didn't want to kill him, opined Sethi.

Sethi's scenario is reasonable but his assumption is wrong, say votaries of another school. Anyone could have tortured Shahzad, not necessarily the ISI. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that the murder could be the result of a personal vendetta. That Shahzad was fired at last year by a security guard following a scuffle in the F-6 area of the federal capital, is being furnished as an evidence to insist that he at least had one ruthless enemy capable of extreme violence. Islamabad police have already arrested the guard, Ishtiaq, in connection with the murder investigations, and he is being interrogated. However, Shahzad's close circles say he had pardoned the guard and withdrawn the case against him, after which he was released.

A third school of thought says Shahzad could have been killed by Islamic militants who have repeatedly targeted the Pakistan military installations on the assumption that it betrayed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. Proponents say the militants had correctly estimated that the killing of Shahzad would be blamed on the ISI, undermining its credibility further. A defensive ISI is indeed good news for militant outfits, they say. No, argue critics, pointing to Shahzad's formidable connections in the militant world and asking: haven't in the death of Shahzad the militants lost a journalist upon whom they relied to report their views?

Those who suspect agencies' involvement refer to an anonymous call Shahzad's wife received on the night of May 29, the day her husband was abducted, telling her not to worry as he who would be released the following morning. Chairman of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Zohra Yusuf has also blamed state actors for the murder, stating: "The timing and manner of Shahzad's abduction make it abundantly clear that he was targeted only because of his work as a journalist. The quick disposal of his body and burial strengthens [belief] in the involvement of state actors".

Therefore, the ISI is surely on the back foot. Whoever is responsible for Shahzad's barbaric murder, one thing is for sure - he will not be the last journalist to have sacrificed his life for uncovering the truth, as there are many more newsmen in Pakistan who firmly believe that the "truth" remains superior to the so-called "national interest".

Amir Mir is a senior Pakistani journalist and the author of several books on the subject of militant Islam and terrorism, the latest being Talibanisation of Pakistan: From 9/11 to 26/11.

Offline bigron

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Re: Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2011, 01:48:13 pm »
Weekend Edition
June 3 / 5, 2011

Pakistan's Fractured Limbs

Lessons From Shahzad's Murder


Pakistan is the most dreaded place for journalists. The pronouncement has been made. Yet a Pakistani reporter, and a person with an insider view of the al Qaeda and Taliban, Syed Saleem Shahzad's brutal killing was not the top news on the websites of three prominent dailies in the country. The internet allows you to update stories. Since they have carried the news, it cannot be fear.

The media in Pakistan revels in the opinionated views of a handful that appear as knights to save Pakistan, to expose its warts and add to the jingoism of the failed state. Some call it a police state. A police state has order and the level of shackling is complete, except perhaps for underground movements.

Shahzad had been taken in by the Taliban in 2006 on suspicion of being a spy; he was released after seven days. He knew the perils of his profession and had also registered his fears with Human Rights Watch of Pakistan. He disappeared on Sunday, May 29. A police complaint was registered by his family. Did any human rights organisation do anything instead of being "disturbed" that a state agency might be involved? The media does have considerable influence and can approach government functionaries directly or interview them. Was any of that done? He had left that evening to attend a talk show on a television channel. Did the channel keep flashing the news about his disappearance?

Two days later, on Tuesday May 31, his body was found in Sarai Alamgir, a little over an hour's drive from the capital Islamabad, with ruptured face and ruptured ribs and a gun shot in the stomach. Curiously, his car was found earlier about 10 kms away with his ID card. The Express Tribune reports, "The Mandi Bahauddin police had conducted a post-mortem on a body fished out from a canal near Head Rasul, which ultimately turned out to be Shahzad's, before handing it over to Edhi for temporary burial. 'From the description given by the Mandi police and the recovery of his ID card, Islamabad police were certain it was Shahzad's body. However, the police wanted his family to confirm his identity,' said an Islamabad police official."

This is strange that the local police picks up a body, conducts a post-mortem that reveals torture, and hands it to a NGO that goes ahead and buries it. No questions asked. Later, the Islamabad cops and the local ones realise the identity matches that of Shahzad, which his papers would have shown anyway. His family had to seek permission to exhume his body to confirm his identity. How can an unidentified person be temporarily buried? There are mortuaries in hospitals and the police ought to have alerted the intelligence agencies.

The Pakistani media will in the coming days raise questions about the ISI, which really is the state of Pakistan today, as in what comprises the nation-state. To extricate the ISI from the other arms of Pakistani polity is to merely play a game of chess and move the pawns about. The chess board remains the same.

* * *

Shahzad's murder, instead of posing queries about the nature of reportage and its consequences, has resulted in self-pity. Behind the haze of smoke and from the perch of the towering Babel, many a potential martyr will be born. The Dawn had a feature story that had this amazing sentence, "And as the state of Pakistan allied itself optically with the US in the war on terrorism, it marked out the military, civil society and the media as enemies of al Qaeda and its fighting forces in Pakistan represented by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)."

None of these three have anything in common. If anything, Shahzad's report in Asia Times on the militant attack on the naval base at PNS Mehran, where security forces fought for 15 hours, reveals that a certain stripe of militancy is within the armed forces.

There are reports that say the immediate impetus for his killing was this expose on the infiltration of al Qaeda in the navy. Apparently, the militant group wanted those who were detained to be released. Talks failed. Therefore, this retaliation. It begs the question as to how and why the Pakistani forces can have discussions with a terrorist outfit at all. The members were from the lower cadre and except for creating some trouble would not have access to confidential information.

Shahzad elucidated the position when he quoted a senior navy official who said: "Islamic sentiments are common in the armed forces. We never felt threatened by that. All armed forces around the world, whether American, British or Indian, take some inspiration from religion to motivate their cadre against the enemy. Pakistan came into existence on the two-nation theory that Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations and therefore no one can separate Islam and Islamic sentiment from the armed forces of Pakistan. Nonetheless, we observed an uneasy grouping on different naval bases in Karachi. While nobody can obstruct armed forces personnel for rendering religious rituals or studying Islam, the grouping [we observed] was against the discipline of the armed forces. That was the beginning of an intelligence operation in the navy to check for unscrupulous activities."

* * *

Pakistan's armed forces have regional affiliations. However, due to the increasing infiltration of the Taliban in the cities, its members inside the forces did get a boost after being subservient for long to the largely Punjabi cadre. The discipline of the army in Pakistan is nothing to crow about – it is hardly cohesive and besides taking its orders from its officers who might decide to take over, it also has to listen to the democratic government, and the two have not as uneasy a relationship as might appear. History tells us that it has been democratic leaders who have been crucial to the coups or to wrest power for themselves soon after a period of co-existence.

A point that needs to be emphasised here, even if it has been repeated, is that extremist forces cause havoc within. The deeper question is that none of these groups has shown any inclination to take over and rule Pakistan, although both its democratic movements and its military dictatorships have had their share of leaving several people dead in their trail. So, what do they get by creating chaos in a chaotic state? Is this to tell the government that they are anti-US? But so is much of civil society. No sensible person wants their country to be run over roughshod by NATO troops.

Isn't there a possibility that these forces that were scattered and had no single agenda or ideology are themselves pawns, however dangerous they might be? Pakistan probably suffers from the 'cry wolf' syndrome, or perhaps it has a big bad wolf that arranges its fearful walk through the forest to act as a cover-up.

The Pakistani media for the most part toes the western line. It creates these horribly demon-like creatures, projecting this terrible pictorial evidence of shame over lagging behind. Shahzad's photographs reveal a man who would not attempt such superficial westernised ideas even if he took on the terrorists. He had access to them and interviewed them.

In effect, his last reports were what the government was happy to flaunt – its image of fighting the militants. The al Qaeda members were also probably pleased to announce to the people that they had infiltrated the naval station. If they wanted to send a message through Shahzad's killing, then all they have managed is to do away with a man who was giving honest reportage. It has given the rest the opportunity to wonder about how safe journalists are. It is a fact that journalists are killed, but the terrorists target mosques, shrines, public places and a few other religious places. The numbers of these dead need to be counted, too.

* * *

Let us go through the list provided by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Here are the 20 Deadliest Countries for the media and the figures of the dead from 1992:

1. Iraq: 149
2. Philippines: 71
3. Algeria: 60
4. Russia: 52
5. Colombia: 43
6. Pakistan: 36
7. Somalia: 34
8. India: 27
9. Mexico: 25
10. Afghanistan: 22
11. Turkey: 20
12. Bosnia: 19
13. Sri Lanka: 18
14. Rwanda: 17
15. Tajikistan: 17
16. Brazil: 17
17. Sierra Leone: 16
18. Bangladesh: 12
19. Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory: 10
20. Angola: 10

87 per cent are local correspondents and the rest foreign. What is even more revealing are the beats covered by those who have been victims: 5 % - Business, 21% - Corruption, 14% - Crime, 10% - Culture, 14% - Human Rights, 39% - Politics, 3% - Sports, 34% - War. Political killings exceed those in war and corruption exposes account for more deaths than human rights.

Are the news and the theories behind the news more important than lives? Is the relaying of news a real threat when it does not alter anything? If news was sufficient, then there would be no need for WikiLeaks. There is also some sort of hierarchy in the media. When I had met Ardeshir Cowasjee for an interview to be used in my book, mainly because he is openly critical of the establishment despite belonging to the old school, there was cynicism. One media person told me, "It is easy for a Cowasjee to get away with it. Who will question a rich Parsi?"

It was this rich Parsi who was put in prison by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whose party he had joined, because he knew too much. The role of a political cell of the Inter Services Intelligence came from an elected 'democratic' government. As he said, "The genesis of the cell was Mr Bhutto's idea. He created it in 1975 to suit his agenda. It turned out to be a bad move because he did not know when and how to stop it. No one has had the guts to curb the ISI till date."

* * *

In what might seem to be an unrelated discussion, following the theories behind Osama bin Laden's death, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had recently given a "clean chit" to the ISI; it was retracted soon after. In the interim, in what appears to be a conveniently coordinated move, Pakistan's former foreign secretary Shaharyar Khan, quite out of character, told an Indian television channel that there was a possibility of "low level" ISI functionaries being involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Right now David Coleman Headley is being investigated in the United States for his role and training with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda as well as his financing by one Major from the ISI. America is tying up the loose ends and the tacit see-saw attitude towards the ISI is because it needs Pakistan as an ally, ergo the ISI.

Part of the dichotomy is also evident in the attack on Mehran. It was from the Karachi port that the Mumbai attackers started on their sojourn. The security forces fighting the al Qaeda members who were in the navy would make the Pakistan establishment seem less culpable. It has been kept behind a cage where people are clawing and killing one another. The bigger beast, though, may not even be within.

Of course, the Pakistani liberal media in "looking into ourselves" is obsessively closed. It will spew out a few words against the fundamentalists and be lauded for it. The fact is that they are not dealing with a country but parts of it. What is the national mindset? I had asked this to Cowasjee and his reply will hurt the liberal media the most: "I cannot understand this mindset, but first of all you have to find the Pakistani mind."

Farzana Versey is a Mumbai-based columnist and author of 'A Journey Interrupted: Being Indian in Pakistan'. She can be reached at


Offline bigron

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Re: Pakistan - silencing the truth-seekers
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2011, 10:03:37 am »
Pakistan slams US admiral’s allegation that it sanctioned journalist’s killing

By Associated Press, Published: July 7 | Updated: Friday, July 8, 4:15 AM

ISLAMABAD — The allegation by the top U.S. military officer that Pakistan’s government sanctioned the killing of a journalist who wrote about the country’s powerful security establishment was “extremely irresponsible,” the Pakistani state-run news agency said.

The verbal sparring over the death of Saleem Shahzad has added even more strain to U.S.-Pakistani relations, which have teetered badly since the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2 in a northwest Pakistani army town.

Shahzad’s tortured body was found in late May after he’d told friends he’d been threatened by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, a spy unit that is notorious for harassing reporters in a country considered one of the deadliest in the world for journalists.

The ISI has denied it had anything to do with killing Shahzad, but the suspicions have persisted and prompted unusual levels of public criticism of the spy agency. Shahzad’s death also added to the pressure on the Pakistani military since the unilateral U.S. raid against the al-Qaida chief, which left it humiliated.

On Thursday, U.S. joint chiefs of staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said he believed the Pakistani government “sanctioned” Shahzad’s killing. Although Mullen acknowledged he could not directly tie the killing to the ISI, he was the first U.S. official to make such a public allegation.

Mullen further said that the reported abuse of other journalists in Pakistan is not a good road for the government in Islamabad.

“It’s a way to continue to, quite frankly, spiral in the wrong direction,” said Mullen, who has devoted enormous time in the last four years to trying to improve relations with Pakistani leaders.

The state-run Associated Press of Pakistan issued a statement hours later in which an unnamed government spokesman called Mullen’s allegations “extremely irresponsible” and said that it “will not help in investigating the issue.”

The news agency, which acts as a government mouthpiece, often does not name the officials it quotes in reports.

The spokesman further noted that the Pakistani government has created a commission to investigate Shahzad’s death and urged anyone who has anything to share on the subject at the “national or international level” to do so with the panel.

The 40-year-old Shahzad was a well-known journalist who wrote for the Asia Times Online and other publications. He regularly investigated sensitive topics, such as the alleged ties between militants and the state.

Pakistan was the deadliest country for journalists in 2010, with at least eight killed in the line of duty, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Six died in suicide attacks, the group said in a report late last year.

Despite the dangers, the media establishment in Pakistan has expanded rapidly over the past decade, and reporters here operate with freedoms denied in most developing countries. Still, many privately admit to getting occasional pressure from security and intelligence officials.