Investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad was found dead near the Head Rasul area in Mandi Bahauddin, nearly 130 kilometres from Islamabad, after going missing from Islamabad over the weekend.
Police sources said Shahzad’s post-mortem report showed multiple injuries throughout his body. “Liver failure and ruptured lungs could have caused his death,” said an official, confirming there were as many as 15 visible wounds on his body. His ribs were also broken.
The wounds suggested Shahzad was subjected to severe torture which might have caused his death, said a police official who had seen the post-mortem report.
A relative of Shahzad, accompanied by capital police team, confirmed his identity and arrangements were being made to exhume and transport his body back to Islamabad till the filing of this report.
Earlier, his car was recovered from the Serai Alamgir in Jhelum, about six miles from where his body was found.
On Sunday night, Shahzad, Bureau Chief for the Hong Kong-basedAsia Times Online and correspondent for an Italian wire agency, had gone missing after leaving his home for a television interview. His brother-in-law, Hamza Ameer, had lodged a complaint about his disappearance with Margalla police, maintaining that Shahzad had never arrived at his intended destination.
The next day, capital police were informed by the Serai Alamgir SHO that a car containing Shahzad’s identity documents was found parked near Serai Alamgir. 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. Hamza Ameer accompanied the police team to Mandi Bahauddin where he was shown the photographs the police had taken before the burial.
Shahzad’s family officially applied for permission to exhume and claim his body, which was granted late on Tuesday night.
A few days before his death, Shahzad wrote a story for Asia Times Online, which claimed that militants attacked PNS Mehran after their demand for the release of certain suspects was rejected.
Saleem Shahzad is survived by his wife and three children.
According to AFP, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani ordered an inquiry into the kidnapping and murder, pledging that the culprits would be “brought to book”.
In 2006, he was kidnapped by the Taliban in Helmand in southern Afghanistan. Then, his kidnappers accused him of being a spy but set him free after seven days.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had earlier Monday expressed alarm about Shahzad’s disappearance and described as “exceedingly disturbing” reports that he might have been abducted by a state agency.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2011.