A sharp riposte

Published: February 18, 2012

Could the ISPR response to a HRW report be a veiled threat? PHOTO: AFP

The response of the ISPR to a report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) — which suggested that the ISI hindered the investigation into the death of journalist Saleem Shahzad in May last year — is rather alarming in its tone and tenor. It called the HRW document “biased”, “derogatory” and comprised a “sinister media campaign”. Tensions between the US rights watchdog body — which has gained a reputation for its strong comments on Pakistan — and the intelligence apparatus, which has come under repeated criticism for its alleged involvement in Balochistan or its failures vis-a-vis the May 2 Abbottabad and PNS Mehran incidents, have been growing for some time. The HRW testimony before the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs also raised some hackles in certain quarters and perhaps contributed to the ire evident in the ISPR’s press statement.

The ISPR insisted in its terse statement that the judicial commission did an exemplary job and received full support from the ISI. It should be noted that the HRW is not the first to question the contents of the document. Much of the mainstream English print media, including this newspaper, also criticised the findings of the commission and in particular, its inability to find out exactly who was behind Saleem Shehzad’s murder. What is also worrying is that the ISPR statement mentions names — something which is rarely done. Brad Adams, the Asia Director of HRW and Ali Dayan Hasan, its director for Pakistan, are both individually named. Given the times that we live in, some will wonder if this is some kind of a threat. We can only hope that threatening them was not the military’s intention. Over the past few years, too many journalists have died and too many killings have remained unsolved. One particularly brutal case was that of Hayatullah Khan in North Waziristan in 2006, which remains unsolved to this day. Unfortunately, it seems that the gruesome murder of Saleem Shehzad will remain unsolved as well. No wonder then Pakistan is branded as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • sashayub
    Feb 18, 2012 - 1:26AM

    “The ISPR insisted in its terse statement that the judicial commission did an exemplary job …..” the ISI was called as witnesses….how can they dare to comment on the working quality of the judicial commission? this is laughable

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  • Mirza
    Feb 18, 2012 - 2:44AM

    A real bold editorial and thanks for standing up for the rights of journalists and human rights activists. It is shocking that now ISPR is naming names. Where was this arrogant tone of ISPR or any general when a dozen US soldiers landed in the heart of army base and killed OBL? Why have we not dared refute any US claims of May 2nd? All the arrogance of establishment is only against the unarmed civilians and journalists. Being not found guilty by the commission does not mean that they were found innocent.

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  • Feb 18, 2012 - 5:32AM

    The ISPR is correct in pointing out that blaming the ISI in the absence of any credible evidence is ‘derogatory, biased and a smear campaign’.

    Just because individuals and institutions disagreed with the judicial commissions finding is not in itself reason to argue that the commission was ‘biased’ or the the “ISI did it’.HRW and various media outlets should have indeed exercised more caution and restraint in bashing the ISI without credible evidence.

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  • MarkH
    Feb 18, 2012 - 1:16PM

    @Agnostic Muslim:
    Evidence would just cause them to pull the conspiracy card. They’ve done plenty of underhanded things and have never not made the same old generic “we didn’t do it” press statement whenever something comes up. That had to have been a lie at some point. Which is the truth, which is the lies? Nobody can say. But to play it safe doesn’t mean to trust their statements. The safe thing is to doubt the crap out of it until they finally say “we did it” at least once concerning something and break the paranoia-worthy monotony.

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  • vasan
    Feb 18, 2012 - 2:47PM

    Agnostic Muslim : And what did ISI do to those prisoners during their capture from Adila court and afterwards. They were in near death condition when produced in the courts. Remember, they were release after a due legal process as per Pakistani courts. Where was ISPR at that time,

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  • Nasir Mustafa
    Feb 18, 2012 - 5:54PM

    A day will come when the hands of murderers will speak for their wrongdoings. This issue is of the utmost importance, it should be discussed in the Parliament but our lawmakers are mum. They are busy in their own sinister loot and plunder. The SC can take suo motto action on this sheer violence of human rights, this issue is more important than Memogate and the NRO.
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  • Feb 18, 2012 - 6:23PM

    Judicial commission must be criticized for not solving the murder case. What did it do during all this time except absolving ISI of the charge. It was supposed to find out the killers of Saleem Shahzad. It has not done that. Should we believe now that Saleem Shahzad was not killed but he committed suicide… ???

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  • Harry Stone
    Feb 19, 2012 - 7:16AM

    The world is waking up to PAK. The question now will PAK wake up to PAK

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  • Reza Ali
    Feb 19, 2012 - 4:34PM

    Most timely editorial. The editorial points rightly out that the most deplorable aspect of the statement by the military’s propaganda office is the criminal threats to the HRW Asia Director and the Pakistan Director. As the editorial says, HRW stated only what the Pakistan media had been saying much more bluntly. Now the Pakistan Bar Council, presided over by the Attorney General, has said the same. Most interesting however is the patronizing manner in which the pliant judicial commission, indeed the judiciary itself, is patted on the back by the propaganda office. As PML-N MNA Ayaz Amir said to Newsweek Pakistan: “The accusation is that the Supreme Court is biased. It is. No question about it.” So, we have an impotent civilian leadership and a biased judiciary – who will keep the military on leash.

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