The Saleem Shahzad Commission was asked to submit its report within six weeks of its formation. Six months down the line however, its final findings show little. The report, presented to the prime minister on Tuesday, has not held any institution or individual responsible for the abduction, torture and murder of the journalist, according to a member of the probe.
In essence, this means that the main purpose of the commission as stated in the law ministry’s June 16, 2011 notification has failed. The notification stated the terms of reference for the commission were: “To inquire into the background and circumstance of abduction and subsequent murder of Saleem Shahzad” and to “indentify the culprits involved in the abduction and subsequent murder of the said journalist”. In addition, it aimed to provide recommendations to prevent the recurrence of such incidents against journalists in the future.
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFU) President Pervaiz Shaukat, who is also a member of the commission, told The Express Tribune that while the commission has not held anyone directly responsible, it has, on the other hand, included its doubts and concerns in the final report.
What the report recommended
As far as any concrete steps are concerned, the report includes PFUJ’s recommendations for the safety and welfare of journalists as well as financial assistance to be provided to Shahzad’s family, according to Shaukat. The commission asked the government to establish an ombudsman office in order to redress the grievances of journalists, and that the government bear education expenditure for the children of the slain journalist. In addition, his family is to be provided financial compensation worth Rs3 million.
How the commission investigated
Shaukat said the commission had recorded the statements of 41 individuals that are part of the report relating to the incident, including representatives of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), police, journalists, legal heirs of Shahzad, doctors and eyewitnesses.
The commission also visited the crime scene, both where the slain journalist’s car and his body were recovered, he added. A member of the panel also said that the government has given an ‘assurance’ that it will take action against the culprits in accordance with the findings – although the findings have found no culprits.
Complainants in case dissatisfied
While talking to The Express Tribune, Hamza Ameer, the brother-in-law as well as complainant in both cases registered at Islamabad and Mandi Bahauddin (on the charges of abduction and murder respectively), said that he has not yet received a copy of the report of the judicial commission. He added that he had contacted Shaukat in this regard who said he was ‘not in a position’ to provide a copy at this point.
Ameer said that while the recovery of laptop or phone sets, which was necessary for the investigation, was not a problem, it was vital to retrieve phone and email data on time. The cell data should have been retrieved from the telecommunication company earlier, Ameer complained.
Shahzad was abducted while driving from his house to a television station in Islamabad on May 29 last year, two days after he alleged in an article that al Qaeda had infiltrated the Pakistan Navy. His body, bearing marks of torture, was found the next day in a canal near Mandi Bahauddin, a district of Punjab province.
Rights groups and journalists’ bodies had alleged that he was killed by the ISI.
The high-level judicial commission, headed by Supreme Court judge Justice Saqib Nisar, was formed to probe the killing in June last year.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2012.