We killed Saleem Shahzad

Published: February 18, 2012

The writer is a blogger at The Guardian, Global Voices and Dawn and can be found on twitter @sanasaleem

Since the judicial inquiry has been unable to identify people responsible, it is time we step forward. We killed Saleem Shahzad. If you read the report carefully, it lays the blame on us. It blames us for doubting the country’s intelligence agencies for the murder of a journalist, because of course, they can never be held in doubt, let alone be responsible, or worse be at fault.

Let me explain: the most consistent feature of the report is perhaps the way in which it attacks Ali Dayan Hasan, of Human Rights Watch (HRW), and Hameed Haroon for being responsible for ‘casting’ doubts on the country’s intelligence agency. Following the failure of the judicial commission in identifying culprits involved in Saleem Shahzad’s murder, the HRW released a report, demanding the government to take every step possible to identify the culprits and that the judicial commission appeared fearful of confronting the ISI.

The claims of the HRW aren’t unsubstantiated and it has documented these incidents. They can be substantiated by the stories of the missing people, the condition of the Adiala eleven detainees; there are innumerable instances to support these claims. Yet, instead of taking note of the concerns of human rights organisations, The ISPR did what it always does most effectively, demonise the critic, cast doubt on their integrity and — in this instance ­— resort to not-so-veiled threats. Its press release said: “With this press release, HRW appears to have seriously jeopardised the bipartisan and objective nature of its work. It will be in fitness of things to expect HRW to withdraw this biased statement…”

Not denying its right to refute claims alleging the ISI’s involvement, the harsh language and the demand of withdrawal reflects uneasiness and anger of being held accountable or criticised. The situation begs to ask a simple question: If a man leaves a note naming people responsible in case of his death, is abducted and killed in a pattern known to be signatory of the accused, and a judicial inquiry fails to name the culprit, what are human rights activists, people in general or the media supposed to deduce?

The fact that a culture of complete lack of accountability of certain institutions is perhaps responsible for the perception that there is more to it than meets the eye in the case of the murdered journalist. Now, if those who brought forward evidence of harassment are being held responsible, we must step forward and accept equal responsibility. We are at fault, for not demanding that the ISI focus on counter terrorism and intelligence, rather than chasing journalists and human right activists, and for always believing and helping propagate the fallacy that demanding accountability is akin to demonising our soldiers and overlooking their sacrifices, and for not questioning when we ought to be and for isolating those that do.

The light is at the end of the tunnel is a deception unless we own up to our mistakes and vow to mend them.

If the guns are being blazed at human rights activists and media heads for helping the judicial inquiry with the evidence they had, if their integrity is being put at stake, if they are being blamed for seeking justice, then the least we can do is support them, step up, lest they be isolated.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (34)

  • Feb 19, 2012 - 1:10AM

    Some liberals have ISI phobia, respect our highly esteemed institution, because of them we still exist on the map of world, let the commission decide and just wait plz

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  • khurram kaleem
    Feb 19, 2012 - 1:31AM

    we are not resposnsible as a nation for his death but he gave his life to make us realise to bank our trust on our democratic institution and people rather than intelligence institution,

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  • the only rationalist left
    Feb 19, 2012 - 1:48AM

    Maybe you did him, I for sure did not.

    Maybe evolution killed him. Just maybe.

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  • Khattak
    Feb 19, 2012 - 2:18AM

    That is what is called Pakistan, like the country like the judicial commission. I wish I was not born here.

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  • PTI lad
    Feb 19, 2012 - 2:50AM

    May Allah bless him.Recommend

  • Feb 19, 2012 - 2:51AM

    @the only rationalist left:
    Maybe Al Qaeda killed him for revealing secrets, but sure i didnt

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  • sameer
    Feb 19, 2012 - 4:06AM

    At the end of the day burden of proof is on one who is making accusation. So HRW has to provide proof for it claim; otherwise it should just shut their mouth

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  • Feb 19, 2012 - 7:01AM

    they are the defender of this country, they should do what ever they want to do. Kidnap, torture, kill, threaten people who oppose them and challenge their unlawful and inhuman acts.Recommend

  • Harry Stone
    Feb 19, 2012 - 7:14AM

    This is what happens in lawless nations where the citizens either do not care or are to afraid to act against those in power. You have a government within a government that is accountable to no one.

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  • Feb 19, 2012 - 9:38AM

    Brilliant article. But sadly in the land of Paki-land, this will be typecast as “mere rhetoric” because you know, the people don’t really tend to accept facts as facts here.

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  • Feroz
    Feb 19, 2012 - 10:36AM

    The Judiciary, Politicians, Bureaucracy, Media and civilians are too terrorized by the unaccountable, unelected and unconstitutional force that is exercising Power. Many have chosen the path of least resistance and preferred to be co opted, rather than being coerced. Saleem Shahzad case got International attention because the target was high profile, the threats blatant, evidence incontrovertible and arrogance of perpetrators shocking. If national interests means the murder of those not seeing eye to eye with you or sharing your violent ideology, Luck is being pushed on a string too far. Only an atheist can believe they can escape Divine Justice. Murder in the name of Country and/or God is the most reprehensible SIN.Recommend

  • wonderer
    Feb 19, 2012 - 11:11AM

    @the only rationalist left

    Be rational, please Sir.

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  • mf hussain
    Feb 19, 2012 - 12:52PM

    Great Article! But you forget we lost half the country, we destroyed democracy, we spent our treasures on useless wars and making only one institution rich instead of educating our people leading to the current state we are in, we started Jihadi organizations which are now a threat to their masters. Yes it was us.
    And lets not forget we lost 4 wars and started each one of them.

    We are evil they are Angels.

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  • mind control
    Feb 19, 2012 - 12:59PM

    The Commission never said , It did not know.
    The Commission said, “It does not allow us to safely conclude that the ISI was the culprit behind this incident.”’.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/320957/saleem-shahzad-commission-report-released/

    Now, why it is not SAFE to draw conclusions?

    The answer my friend is blowing in the wind.

    Or you may take a look at the fate of the ‘Adiala 11′.

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  • Irfan Husain
    Feb 19, 2012 - 1:05PM

    Excellent article. The writer is to be commended for focusing on this issue.

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  • Hafsa
    Feb 19, 2012 - 2:09PM

    @Pakistan politics: Suppose ISI is invloved. In that case, it will pressurize Judiciary, don’t you think?
    Sana is asking common citizens, i.e. you & me, to stand besides HRW workers & those who have evidence & can testify in court, so that they can do their job. In addition to that, she criticizing ISPR’s arrogant tone & veiled threats to human rights workers.

    No please expalin 1. why you would label this as ‘ISI phobia’. 2. What do you mean by liberals?

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  • Feb 19, 2012 - 2:10PM

    @adnan Khan: or unleash sepa sahaba on people of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ishrat Salim
    Feb 19, 2012 - 2:18PM

    Yes ! it is our fault. We civilians especially the politicians are so corrupt that we are weak to confront these rouge elements…what moral ground do we hv to control over our Armed forces & its intel agencies ? All over the world these institutions are headed by the civilians…but are we qualified enough to head any of them ? all are fake degree holders & corrupt to the core.Recommend

  • Saleem
    Feb 19, 2012 - 2:52PM

    I fear the NGO’s of Pakistan more than the intelligence services of Pakistan. Intelligence services have a code of conduct , you can always lodge a complaint against them. Same is not the case with NGO’s like HRW. They can any day or any time point a finger at me and I would be charged and hanged without ANY trial or even a chance to give justification. The NGO’s in Pakistan are operating without any code of conduct and are only pressure groups accomodating the influentials of Pakistan.

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  • carol grayson
    Feb 19, 2012 - 3:06PM

    Thank-you Sana for this piece. Just after my colleague Saleem Shahzad went missing I was informed by a contact into ISI that he was with the ISI, was being reprimanded for a recent story he had written, was safe and would be home within hours. (We ran a website together and were in regular contact and I always knew when he was away reporting on a story). I kept a close eye for safety reasons. I later found out that Saleem’s wife had been told the same information in an anonymous call independent of myself… So what are we supposed to think… The ISI are critical of those of us that are asking questions… My challenge to them, if they are claiming they have nothing to do with his disappearance and if their intelligence is so good, then let them track down Saleem’s killers so that the family can have justice for his kidnapping, torture and murder… …

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  • yusufzai
    Feb 19, 2012 - 3:56PM

    @adnan Khan:
    be at peace.they are doing exactly that.no worries

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  • Sanjeev
    Feb 19, 2012 - 5:06PM

    Hi Carol,

    I was an avid reader of Saleem Sehzad article on ATIMES, he always had the knack to put the right picture/ the truth in his articles (as part of his investigation journalism), one of the rarest people who would go against anybody to present the truth, be it against the goverment, the militants, the military or the ISI.

    Few days ago i was watching the movie – Enemy of the State, and it looked it was a perfect Dejavu for Saleem, he knew something which he wanted to present the truth to his own countrymen and world at large, but the powerful agencies had their way.

    His moral strength were too uncomfortable for some.

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  • ashish
    Feb 19, 2012 - 5:14PM

    great commission member..congratulation not to claim that it is a suside or vampire act.
    Mistake are dangerous when it has to done by Experts,which is severe when act is delibarate.

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  • Rana Amjad
    Feb 19, 2012 - 5:45PM

    We all KNOW who killed him!

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  • Faraz Ahmed Chandio
    Feb 19, 2012 - 6:01PM

    In fact the intelligence agencies are accused of genocides through out the world but in the case of Pakistan the same are exempted from accountability, so thinking of penal and punishments against the ISI, MI or with any other name, are far away. Therefore it is easy and reasonable to put any sort of allegations to them.

    In the case of martyr Saleem Shehazad, he himself pointed out that if he would be killed then the ISI will be responsible that means he had apprehension and threats from so called institution. Therefore the statements of the deceased can not be ignored bluntly.
    As far it is message for those patriots who believe blindly on our so called and illreputed Intelligence Agencies to make them accountable before the masses and our legal system.
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  • Atiq
    Feb 19, 2012 - 6:38PM

    Madam, he made a choice to deal with foreign spy agencies and terrorists to get rich quick. This is the price he paid. He made his own choices that it’s his own faultRecommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Feb 19, 2012 - 8:16PM

    @sameer:
    By the same logic, the ISI should be able to tell us who killed Saleem, but of course they declined to answer any questions (UNLIKE HRW)! Instead the ISI was allowed to just send a written statement to the commission!Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Feb 19, 2012 - 8:22PM

    @Saleem:
    SO, you say that “Intelligence services have a code of conduct , you can always lodge a complaint against them”!
    WOW, Now PLEASE tell us where we can all read the ISI’s “code of conduct”, and also what happens to those (excluding those “disappeared”) who have “lodged a complaint against the ISI! I belive that some recent court cases have had the ISI claiming to be OUTSIDE the reach of the Law inside Pakistan!

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  • numbersnumbers
    Feb 19, 2012 - 8:34PM

    @Atiq:
    Please give us details of “he (Saleem) made a choice to deal with foreign spy agencies and terrorists to get rich quick.”
    Maybe you have information that the Commission was unaware of, and now they need to hear your “testimony”!!!

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  • Saleem
    Feb 19, 2012 - 9:13PM

    @numbersnumbers , Yes , you can go and lodge complaint against them in millitary institutions and they would take action if innocent have been affected. Now you tell me where would you go if HRW raised a finger at you and said that you raped. Keep in mind that the rapists were released by court in Mukhtara case but again rearrested on pressure from NGO’s. Fear the NGO’s as they are unleashed many of them sitting abroad and having absolutely no interest whether you are in an independent country or whether Pakistan is taken over by Afghanistan or by India . They have there own motives and there own directions.Recommend

  • the only rationalist left
    Feb 19, 2012 - 9:51PM

    @ wonderer: You have failed to show how was I being irrational.

    Indeed, evolution permeates us all. The fact he died means his genome was not strong enough to protect him from the abductors/murderers. His genome just failed. There is no more rational realization than that! Maybe you need to actually start thinking from your head, rather than emotions which motivate you to hate death.

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  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 20, 2012 - 4:26PM

    Well why’d you do it?

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  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 20, 2012 - 4:26PM

    Well why did you do it?

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  • well-wisher
    Feb 20, 2012 - 6:08PM

    In Pakistan, terrorists organisations and intelligence agencies are above law therefore journalists writing against their un-written but mandatory codes of conduct respectively do at their own risk, thus get killed ruthlessly. However, the media body for their own well-being should atleast request the latter to circulate the code of conduct for their strict implementation.

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