Saleem Shahzad: ISI beyond reach of criminal justice system, says HRW

Published: January 30, 2012

Human Rights Watch says ISI remains beyond the reach of Pakistan's criminal justice system. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

After the completion of the judicial inquiry into journalist Saleem Shahzad’s murder, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed concern over the commission’s inability to name the culprits and called for the Government of Pakistan to “redouble efforts” in the case.

A news release by the Human Rights Watch on Monday claimed that it had extensively documented the Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) alleged intimidation, torture, enforced disappearances, and killings of many journalists, and fears that the commission’s failure in naming a culprit hints back to the ISI’s “stronghold over the country’s judicial system.”

HRW Asia Director Brad Adams, in the release, says: “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… The government still has the responsibility to identify those responsible for Shahzad’s death and hold them accountable, no matter where the evidence leads.”

Adams added that Shahzad had made it clear to the HRW 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.”

The HRW release said that the power of ISI over the commission was visible from the fact that journalist Umar Cheema was not called to record his statements in the case. Cheema was also abducted, tortured and then dumped 120 kilometers from his residence in Islamabad in September 2010. Cheema had 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.

“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.”

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, presented its report to the prime minister after six months of its formation but did not hold anyone responsible for the abduction, torture and murder of the journalist.

Shahzad’s family had termed the report “disappointing”.

Reader Comments (29)

  • Jan 30, 2012 - 2:06PM

    We are ashamed of ourselves Saleem Shehzad.. Your killers are still at large.. :(


  • Anil
    Jan 30, 2012 - 2:14PM

    Oh give me a break, “we are ashamed”………


  • Nadeem
    Jan 30, 2012 - 2:41PM

    Indeed, ISI is a state within a state. Imran and others can chase the corruption, but if progress is defined by improving standards of living for all citizens, freedom from want, freedom from fear, better healthcare, better education, more jobs, better mass transport, all of this will elude Pakistan until ISI is brought under the rule of law, civilian oversight, and accountability to the public’s representatives.


  • AD
    Jan 30, 2012 - 3:25PM

    When a system says we can’t find a criminal, it means system himself is a criminal.


  • A J Khan
    Jan 30, 2012 - 3:35PM

    Human Rights Watch intead of issuing political statements, should come out with proofs for prosecution.
    How about calling this a game of HRW who are themselves involved in the killing of Saleem Shahzad as a front organization of intelligence agency of an enemy country.


  • Isloo
    Jan 30, 2012 - 3:59PM

    What about those criminals minds who hide their faces behind journalism and act like a state themselves…Journalist are not supper humans, here in Pakistan, everyday ppls are dying for no reason


  • ADEEL759
    Jan 30, 2012 - 4:27PM

    “I don’t know to whom it is a news”


  • Amjad Rana
    Jan 30, 2012 - 5:20PM

    Sad about State within a State!


  • Sadiq
    Jan 30, 2012 - 5:30PM

    What kind of black mailing is this if a commission has gone through and said that they didnt have conclusive proof to indict anyone person or institution how can you coerce and issue statements demanding that ISI be declared as the prime suspect. Its not just the ISI but anyone with power in Pakistan is beyond the realm of criminal justice in this country everyone has “immunity” under article 248!!!!


  • Cautious
    Jan 30, 2012 - 5:32PM

    To make matters worse – the Pakistani public seems to support this organization which is the source of much of the stain on Pakistan’s international reputation. Go figure.


  • Chetan
    Jan 30, 2012 - 5:33PM

    It happens only in Pakistan.


  • ahmed
    Jan 30, 2012 - 5:40PM

    Since when did foreign organization like HRW started interfering in our personal matters. What is HRW’s real agenda. Is it another CIA front like the fake NGO led polio campaign for finding Osama bin Laden. They are all fronts and their real agenda is hidden.


  • Jan 30, 2012 - 6:48PM

    mr adams said “ISI needs to stop acting as a state within a state.” An expression uttered by P.M. in Parliament, now its all over.


  • akram
    Jan 30, 2012 - 7:27PM

    what about intelligence agencies of other countries,actually pakistan is a target state and first target within pakistan is its intelligence agency,


  • Jan 30, 2012 - 7:34PM

    @A J Khan: What would you consider “proof”? And where could it come from? Videos? That’s not sufficient in Pakistan. Eyewitnesses? They can always be discounted or silenced in Pakistan. Fingerprints, maybe? There have been many cases in Pakistan when, after a murder, a clean-up crew suddenly appears to wash everything away, and in any event the ISI has the jurisdiction to withhold forensic evidence gathered by the police from the courts.

    Did I miss something?


  • ZKhan
    Jan 30, 2012 - 7:37PM

    Hats of to Express Tribune, at least bringing out the facts and calling goat a goat and well said Mr Adams.“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.” However the biggest question is who will put the bell in the cats neck. In current lot of leadership no one can do it. You have to wait for some Messiah to descend from heaven. What a bad luck and unfortunate aspect of Pakistani Nation.


  • Nisar Hussain Baloch
    Jan 30, 2012 - 7:37PM

    and what about the Baloch missing persons?
    are Balochs are not part of the country? why the people of pakistan are silent on humen right abuse specially issue of missing people


  • hamza khan
    Jan 30, 2012 - 8:06PM

    nonsense. the ISI cannot be held responsible on the whims of HRW.


  • Ahmad
    Jan 30, 2012 - 8:27PM

    Brad Adams

    People killed in Kashmir , Iraq, Afghanistan , Libya
    first of all ask CIA


  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 30, 2012 - 8:29PM

    @A J Khan:
    SO, you say that “How about calling this a game of HRW who are themselves involved in the killing of Saleem Shahzad as a front organization of intelligence agency of an enemy country”
    In the Pakistani government “investigation”, I do not recall them naming HRW as a possible suspect in this murder! Maybe you should ask them to re-open the case since you have SOLID NEW INFORMATION ABOUT THE KILLERS!!! ( I always thought that the Easter Bunny was somehow involved myself)!
    Also, please don’t be vague with you wild accusations, please name the “enemy country”!


  • Qaiser
    Jan 30, 2012 - 8:41PM

    The civilian control over the military is only possible if we have a legitimate, popular, democratic, clean political government that is sincereRecommend

  • Megatron
    Jan 30, 2012 - 8:54PM

    Hrw also go to afghanistan…we know u are pro-american and most importantly funded by USA…


  • Liberal
    Jan 30, 2012 - 8:55PM

    True state within state.


  • Megatron
    Jan 30, 2012 - 8:59PM

    Yes hrw can bring change ..replaced musharraf with zardari…..people of pakistan should know the reality of these so called social organizations working against prime institutions and have deprived people of their basic rights…..hrw……go away …..go away–


  • Jan 30, 2012 - 9:13PM

    Journalists have become a state within a state…


  • Hafeez
    Jan 30, 2012 - 9:31PM

    Who will bell the cat? Judiciary is just a supporting arm for ISI when it comes to ISI being a party in some issue. A couple of years ago when the whole nation was up for restoration of CJ, grand promises were made by the judiciary specially on the cases of disappeared people cases. Instead what we are witnessing is, Judiciary’s interest in memogate, or asking the PM whether they really want to fire ISI chief etc, or eevn taking suo moto over the liqour bottles in Attiqa Odho’s luggage.


  • Tim Hover
    Jan 31, 2012 - 3:16AM

    To all:

    Secret service killed a guy who was involved in leaking news to the world is a surprise to who exactly?? CIA, KGB, MI6, RAW, Mosad which of these organisations never killed some one to secure news from reaching media?? stop pretending and face the realities of the world we live in.


  • Disco
    Jan 31, 2012 - 4:29AM


    It happens only in Pakistan.

    Actually it happens in every western country, all BRIC countries and most countries who have properly functioning army and intelligence agenceis. So spare us your short sighted rants.


  • Syed
    Jan 31, 2012 - 7:13AM

    @Cautious: :) Well to tell you the truth buddy – ISI and Pak Armed Forces are our Symbol of Pride for the nation and for the country. Go figure! You are more than welcome to spit your venom but ISI and Pak Armed forces will remain in our heart and soul. (Period).

    As for HRW – they need to think about CIA, RAW about their activities and have their article published in DAWN, THE News, tribune as a Headline!


More in Pakistan