Who killed Saleem Shahzad?

Published: June 1, 2011
Syed Salim Shahzad, the bureau chief of online Asia Times newspaper, is seen here in an undated photo. A Pakistani journalist who went missing three days ago from the capital Islamabad was found dead in Islamabad on Tuesday, according to police.  PHOTO: REUTERS

Syed Salim Shahzad, the bureau chief of online Asia Times newspaper, is seen here in an undated photo. A Pakistani journalist who went missing three days ago from the capital Islamabad was found dead in Islamabad on Tuesday, according to police. PHOTO: REUTERS

In what seems to a despicable attack on freedom of expression, journalist Saleem Shahzad has been brutally killed. According to his family, the Asia Times Online and Adnkronos International reporter had been missing since the evening of May 29 when he left his house to go to the office of a TV channel to appear in a show. The journalist was picked up just days after he wrote his last report, in which he made some explosive allegations regarding the PNS Mehran attack. He had claimed that the attack had been carried out by the 313 Brigade of al Qaeda, headed by Ilyas Kashmiri, and was in retaliation for detention of navy personnel for alleged terrorist links. He had also claimed that it followed a breakdown in contact between the navy and al Qaeda over this issue.

Following the disappearance, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that through its own channels it had been able to establish that Shahzad had been picked up by intelligence agencies. While it may be too early to speculate on those responsible for the reporter’s death, it is worth pointing out that he had over the years reported on the terror war, jihadi and extremist organizations and related topics normally deemed ‘sensitive’ in the Pakistani media.  According to HRW, some months ago, following a story that he did on Mullah Baradar’s arrest and apparent release, he said that he had been questioned by officials of an intelligence agency who were keen to know the sources of his reports.  The reporter is not the first to be killed in such circumstances. In 2006, Fata journalist Hayatullah Khan was killed after being kidnapped by unknown gunmen, and the case remains unsolved to this day. He had prior to his death reported on a drone strike and had taken pictures of remnants of a missile.

Clearly, Pakistan is a very dangerous country for journalists, especially those who cover issues such as terrorism. This involves mediating the terrain between the various jihadi outfits on one hand and the security and intelligence apparatus on the other. This incident must not be allowed to become just another number on the list of dead journalists. An independent commission drawn from the government, civil society and media should investigate it and make the findings public.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2011.

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Reader Comments (45)

  • Saeed
    Jun 1, 2011 - 2:15AM

    america did thisRecommend

  • Irate Pakistani
    Jun 1, 2011 - 2:33AM

    Zaid Hamidaization of every other common college-going-fella to an otherwise hip, dandy urbanites (full on sick local TV talk shows) to mullah-military-ISI nexus has taken over this nation, where even asking for a military/Intelligentsia to be held accountable is akin to be called a traitor.
    Divided we stand
    Wither sovereignty!!!
    RIP Syed Salim Shahzad
    Pakistan didn’t deserve you SaleemRecommend

  • ashwin
    Jun 1, 2011 - 6:10AM

    Very Sad how can anyone kill a Jurno.Brave Man!!!, May he rest in Peace.Recommend

  • mussarat Hussain
    Jun 1, 2011 - 6:43AM

    “Someone in Pakistan” definitely knows who might have killed my beloved brother Saleem Sahahzad, if not the top notchs.


  • Pan Mat
    Jun 1, 2011 - 7:47AM

    Well since he was covering PNS Mehran, he “has” to be RAW/Mossad/CIA agent as no patriotic Pakistani will ever question the integrity of armed forces.

    Pak military is the last guardian of national interest with the exception of Yahya, Ayub, Zia and Musharraf.Recommend

  • muhammad fahim amjad
    Jun 1, 2011 - 10:18AM

    Does the establishment really think that the people don’t know about its links,funding,support & protection of the islamic fanatics.Everyone in pakistan knows how our establishment continues to protect & use these islamic terrorists.They mistakenly think that these religious extremits are their strategic assets & refuse to open their eyes to see that these strategic assets were always strategic liabilities who now have murdered over 35000 of our people.

    it’s time for our media & our establishment to take their heads out of the sand & face upto reality:islamic fundamentalism is our greatest enemy & threat.Stop living in denial & please take steps to reduce the influence of radical islam in our country.Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 10:50AM

    Big shame !!Recommend

  • Yousaf
    Jun 1, 2011 - 11:03AM

    Pakistanis killed him!Recommend

  • Feroz
    Jun 1, 2011 - 11:23AM

    @muhammad fahim amjad:
    Sir, you boldly hit the nail on the head. People are too scared to talk and that they have been bombarded with misinformation makes the task harder. Even PM and President are too scared to tour their own country knowing they may be knocked out any time ala Benazir. There has been a falling out among the purveyors of violence, inference being more innocent citizens will become Shaheed.Recommend

  • Naveed Javed
    Jun 1, 2011 - 11:52AM

    Lets not question the integrity of our Armed Forces! Long Live PakistanRecommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 12:02PM

    This man was no ordinary journalist – my god – he was brave. I read his reports and I couldnt believe that he was putting his life on the line. I hope the journalists institute an award in his memory.Recommend

  • Hamamir
    Jun 1, 2011 - 12:05PM

    its big shame Recommend

  • bilal khan
    Jun 1, 2011 - 12:07PM

    sir u know batter then us………Recommend

  • Hamamir
    Jun 1, 2011 - 12:15PM

    its a big shame
    we don’t know who killed but it is failure of our security institutions in providing the security to Journalists and General Public.

    However, it is another question that even our security organizations are not safe, how can they provide security to Journalists?Recommend

  • Shimon
    Jun 1, 2011 - 12:22PM

    God save Pakistan as by the way it looks no one else is capable of doing the job..unfortunately.Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 12:25PM

    It is duty of the media to take steps to protect journalists but if someone is working for intelligence agencies in guise of journalist, not only his job is secured but also he can live a luxurious life but those who spend their lives in quest of truth are either being dismissed from their jobs or killed on their way. Everyone knows in journalistic field that someone is working for covert agencies but no step is ever taken to clean these black sheep from this profession.
    Saleem Shazad was a brave journalist and he died but left many questions to media men. Recommend

  • sashayub
    Jun 1, 2011 - 1:12PM

    …and you have proof?Recommend

  • Pradip Doshi
    Jun 1, 2011 - 1:24PM

    Though I am deeply pained for the brutal killing of Saleem Shahzad & pray that May God his soul rest in peace and give strength to his family & freinds to bear the shock of his immense loss to his family & Pakistan. Being from India, a question is bothering me, how could he alone have the access to the supposed to be most secret covert operation that has reduced military capability of Pakistan? Were others also knowing these & restrained themselves from reporting this or was the reporting of PNS Mehran attack a theory of Mr.Saleem Shahbaz.

    Could anyone throw light on this?Recommend

  • Hira
    Jun 1, 2011 - 1:31PM

    Brave Man Died,,,,,Many top secrets buried with him,,,May God bless his soulRecommend

  • Pradip Doshi
    Jun 1, 2011 - 1:31PM

    I am deeply pained on brutal killing of Mr.Saleem Shahzad who tried to serve his troubled nation by exposing methodology of covert operation that reduced Pakistan’s military capabilities to highest level.

    I pray that his soul rest in peace and give strength to his family & friends to bear the immense personal & national loss to Pakistan.

    Being from India, a question is bothering me. How could he alone have access to supposedly the most secret covert operation upon PNS Mehran or other journalists too had this information but preferred to remain un-vocal or was this a probable theory of Mr.Saleem Shahzad?

    Will someone pl. throw light? Recommend

  • Ravi
    Jun 1, 2011 - 2:17PM

    @Pradip Doshi:
    with the man being dead you and me will never know the truth behind the story………
    but the controversial article in asia times and then his sudden kidnapping and brutal execution suggest that he was right.
    also the unfolding stories of former pakistani naval commando being arrested in connection with the attack forces me to believe in the slain pakistani journalist.
    Alas R.I.P mr shahzad……..
    P S: As far as other journos are concerned most are stooges of establishment just like here in india.
    Pity that we don’t have a single shahzad who can die for call of dutyRecommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 2:37PM

    unlike socalled progressive and secular pakistani newspapers, tribune and daily times took the lead to write editorials timely. Recommend

  • archway, London
    Jun 1, 2011 - 3:52PM

    You will have better insight if you read today’s The Guardian from London. Its correspondent has given the names who are alleged to be the pertpetrators of this heinous crime.Recommend

  • archway, London
    Jun 1, 2011 - 3:55PM

    I don’t understand this rhetoric..
    Salim Shehzad has left written messages to some one in which he has shown fear from some personalities and from some quarters. The whole world knows.Recommend

  • amit
    Jun 1, 2011 - 4:06PM

    saleem shehzad

    brave journo……”RIP”Recommend

  • anfield kop
    Jun 1, 2011 - 10:15PM

    as an indian i am ashamed at your callousness when you write ‘Pity that we don’t have a single shahzad who can die for call of duty’.
    are you looking for body bags of journalists to make you feel that people are doing their jobs? it is most inhuman of you to write something like that. yes, we lack journalists of the calibre of saleem shahzad, but it doesn’t mean that some have to die to reach his stature. that would be the last thing saleem himself would have wanted. you can honour him in words that reflect his wisdom, and guts. it is nobodies duty to die, and some die because they happen to work in a job that asks for that sacrifice, and some die because others don’t like what they do. saleem was like that, so don’t demean his killing by asking for more deaths. Recommend

  • Jun 2, 2011 - 11:19AM


    Kindly either make it your profile photo or share it on your wall to support our demand for a judicial commission to stop these brutal killings of journalists in future otherwise U may be the next target.
    {ibn-e-Umeed اِبنِ اُمید} http://www.ibn-e-Umeed.com/Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jun 2, 2011 - 3:04PM

    Rather than a reward, the government should undertake to educate his children free of cost. That is the very least they can do. Recommend

  • Mumtaz Rizvi
    Jun 2, 2011 - 6:39PM

    This must be an eye opener for those who were seeking CIA and RAW’s foot marks behind PNS Mehran’s Bloody Siege that took the life of our 11 service men. all of them must shut up from supporting talibans and sequesting good ones among their ranks.but iam damn sure peoples like Imran Khan,Irfan Siddiqui and Ansar Abbasi will never abstain from supporting these terrorists. shame on themRecommend

  • Ben
    Jun 2, 2011 - 6:50PM

    May his soul rest in peace. Whatever he wrote was music to Indian ears. No wonder he was alone privy to the rare piece of information. He could be a target of the extremists as well.Recommend

  • Hidayat
    Jun 3, 2011 - 12:02AM

    Very sad. Government should constitute a committee for this case.Recommend

  • Vingi Ungal
    Jun 3, 2011 - 1:36AM

    Following the disappearance, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that through its own channels it had been able to establish that Shahzad had been picked up by intelligence agencies.

    What channels are those? perhaps the US should fire CIA etc and hire HRW’ channels do in future we can avoid illegal wars, invasion and general mayhem.
    Pak papers need to defend & protect the integrity of it forces. Not that are perfect but because
    we must not let out open mindedness strengthen our enemies who are nowhere near honesty and support whatever their governmental do, say or sanction.Recommend

  • Ali Wazir
    Jun 3, 2011 - 3:04PM

    Who killed Saleem Shahzad? The same people that killed Hayatullah Wazir, and his wife Mehrinussa, the same people who have been killing a whole bunch of Baloch journalist.The same people who have blacked out whole swathes of Pakistant hide there many crimes.. The same people who if you dont toe there line will make sure you end up in a ditch some where after you are tortured in one of there holes. The same people who have made a thousand Pakistani who dared to speak the truth vanish into thin air…Recommend

  • qamar
    Jun 4, 2011 - 10:06AM

    Actually nobody should ever try to be more loyal than the king. Journalists like these should decide if they are loyal to Pakistan or somebody else. Those who work against the interest of the nation meet this end.Recommend

  • Vittorio
    Jun 13, 2011 - 6:24PM

    The mission of Shahzad was not just to report us events, but he helped us to know better his country and he tried to teach to his country what freedom and justice mean. Shahzad and and his agency AKI always tried to do this, he lost his life and AKI will always remember him by doing its best to inform people and let this 2 different countries be more near.Recommend

  • Azmul Hussain
    Jun 25, 2011 - 11:41PM

    Such journalism audacity is no more condoned in Pakistan. We are, by no means living in a so called ‘independent’ country. Anyone can fall prey to atrocious establisment of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ali Abbas
    Jun 27, 2011 - 5:28PM

    It is too easy to blame establishment and intelligence agencies as they ve no one to defend them on media and internet. Can anybody prove all these allegations..? And how can someone really be so mistaken to blame his own institutions for such actions….! Before anybody answer this, I would raise two major doubts about this case…! Why miss Clinton shows her concern about this case.2. Why international human rights people have to know that intelligence keilled him…? In any case it clearly points out two things.One that Mr Shahzad has sympthies in US govt which is quite amazing and strange and simply points to the assumption that Mr shahzad had links with …. may be …CIA or whatever…! In other terms it can be equally concluded that Shahzad was working for the lobby which aims at destablising PakistanRecommend

  • Feroz
    Jun 27, 2011 - 7:41PM

    @Ali Abbas:
    Brother, the colour of the objects you see will be the same as the colour of your sunglasses. If it is green you see green, if yellow you will see yellow. You are at liberty to choose the colour of your lens.Recommend

  • Pradip Doshi
    Jun 28, 2011 - 3:43PM

    Mr.Ali Abbas,

    I am from India and I think your logic is most ridiculous. What are you doing to stabilise Pakistan?Recommend

  • Azmul Hussain
    Jun 29, 2011 - 10:40AM

    @Ali Abbas:
    If Miss Clinton shows concern or condemns any assassination, does it conclude that America was feeding that victim?? if yes, then it also implies that America supports Palestine since it condemns the killing of innocent people there. If america shows concern about something, it does not necessarily mean that she is ‘really’ showing concern.
    In politics, nothing can be said for sure because so much is kept hidden from public but still we can draw some rational conclusions by delving in the matter. We can refer to our past because history also tells us about the dark nature of our establishment. Recommend

  • Ali Abbas
    Jun 29, 2011 - 1:15PM

    It is not the matter of “me doing something to stabilize Pakistan…!” . It is not the issue under discussion at the moment. The point here to understand is that there are people inside Pakistan who are working against Pakistan for lust of money…! As far as journalists are concerned, there are agencies which buy them and make them write what they want them to write. It is a fact that media today has greatest impact in building viewpoints of masses and that is why journalists are the best choice for the task..! There are Indians, Americans and other agencies who are working against Pakistan. Saleem Shehzad apparently was bringing so called “facts” which may be very chilly and sizzling, but in fact were promulgating those ideas which could be extremely harmful to national security in general and cohesion of armed forces of Pakistan in particular..! Being a patriotic Pakistani, why should he do it? You tell me, if you have some secret in your house which if revealed will bring not only bad name to your family but may also lead to disintegration of your house, will you reveal it? Or act silently to correct it? and what if there is nothing in actual and somebody wants to make a factitious idea which is equally harmful? So irrespective of the fact that who killed Mr. Shehzad, we must denounce such people, such journalists who are working against Pakistan…..just for money…! These sizzling news may attract us, but in the long run they are poison..!Recommend

  • Ali Abbas
    Jun 29, 2011 - 1:23PM

    Argument is correct…! If Miss Clinton shows her concern for something, it does not necessarily means that they are concerned. But the point to understand is that WAS MR SALEEM SO IMPORTANT THAT MISS CLINTON, A VERY HIGH RANKING OFFICIAL IN USA, SHOULD COMMENT ON HIM. Now this is alarming..! We know Americans often do this; show their concern for something, create a perception and mount a response to that ‘PERCEPTION’. Coupled with the fact that Mr Shehzad’s ideas were a threat to national security, which USA wants, the assumption gets equally strong that he was being ‘fed’ and was working against Pakistan.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Jun 29, 2011 - 4:29PM

    @Ali Abbas:
    Happy to note that murder is fine if national secrets are exposed. I do no think you have heard the words “transparency” and “governance”. I am sure you do not believe it is the mindset you represent that is the cause of all the violence you see around you everyday. Good Luck !Recommend

  • Fawad
    Jul 20, 2011 - 12:37AM

    I have no consideration with your religion, but remember that there is one creator of world according to every religion on the earth. please note that Allah/ God has power to caught your words and implicate yourself in this world on your wrong doings.
    < Allah knows better who murdered Saleem Shahzad. Recommend

  • Jul 20, 2011 - 12:49PM

    imran farooq murdered in socalled advanced world, in London while saleem in pakistan yet result is same…no clue


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