ISI faces more heat after journalist's killing

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

ISLAMABAD: Speculation that the ISI had a hand in the death of prominent journalist Saleem Shahzad has further discredited the organisation already facing one of its worst crises after the killing of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil.

Saleem Shahzad, who worked for Hong-Kong based Asia Times Online and Italian news agency Adnkronos International, disappeared from Islamabad on Sunday and his body was found in a canal with what police said were torture marks.

Suspicions immediately fell on the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, bringing more bad publicity after the killing of bin Laden by US special forces near the capital.

The raid, which Pakistan failed to detect or stop, shattered the myth that the agency is omnipotent.

“The ISI’s image had already been tarnished and it is under so much pressure,” said a former ISI officer.

“It’s never been as bad as this before.”

Shahzad was investigating suspected links between the military and al Qaeda. Human Rights Watch said Shahzad, a 40-year-old father of three, had voiced concerns about his safety after receiving threatening telephone calls from the ISI and was under surveillance since 2010.

ISI officials were not available for comment.

Analysts have not ruled out the possibility that he may have been killed by militants. Shahzad often wrote about al Qaeda and other groups.

‘Pushed to the wall’

Reporters say Shahzad’s death raises troubling questions about freedoms in Pakistan, which receives billions in aid from ally Washington and describes itself is a democracy.

“It means we are being pushed to the wall and losing space to tyranny if the ISI carried this out,” said Umar Cheema, a journalist who knows all about the risks of investigating Pakistan’s security establishment.

Last year, he was picked up by suspected intelligence agents, driven to an unknown location, stripped naked and whipped with leather and a wooden rod, he said.

“Pakistan is my beloved country. But nobody is safe in Pakistan. I live in what I call self-imposed house arrest because I am scared to go out,” said Cheema.

Shahzad was killed after he wrote a story that claimed al Qaeda attacked a naval base in Karachi last month after negotiations with the military to release two naval officials accused of militant links broke down.

That assault further humiliated the Pakistani military. Some believe that with its loss of credibility after the Bin Laden fiasco, and the naval base siege, the ISI may come under more public scrutiny for its apparent failure to tackle militancy and ease suicide bombings.

“Fewer people believe that the ISI is this powerful agency. People will start asking tougher questions,” said Rifaat Hussain, head of the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.

“They may be more willing to ask why the ISI is tapping the telephones of the opposition when it should be providing more security for the country.”

But equally likely is that journalists will think twice about writing hard-hitting stories after Shahzad’s death.

Others have died in similar circumstances in Pakistan, the world’s most dangerous country for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders.

“It is a death. The death of expression,” said Matiullah Jan, a correspondent with Dawn News television. “There is an apprehension in certain quarters that it’s meant to send a shut-up message.”

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Reader Comments (51)

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 3:29PM

    “ISI’s Image” So sad indeed…this country wasnt created so that the ISI could win a popularity contestRecommend

  • salim
    Jun 1, 2011 - 3:39PM

    People are ‘jumping the gun’ by blaming ISI. Lets not play into the hands of our enemies.Recommend

  • Naqvi
    Jun 1, 2011 - 3:42PM

    Another nail in the freedom coffinRecommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 3:49PM

    Be real people! ISI could be dumb, but not so stupid to have killed a singing canary when its obvious the fingers will pointed towards them!Recommend

  • ali
    Jun 1, 2011 - 3:49PM

    It is a real shame for those who killed the voice of truth;
    If at all there was some coflictof interest, it didn’t mean the award of death panelty.
    Freedom of expression cannot be snatched with such tyrant acts.
    It is just an immature and shameful act, nature shall take its course and take revenge from those resonsible for the murder of an innocent soul. Recommend

  • Pragmatist
    Jun 1, 2011 - 3:51PM

    ISI is involved in “gunda-gardi” against its own people as well as its neighbours. It is a part of the problem and is as culpable as any, for the state that Pakistan is in right now.Recommend

    Jun 1, 2011 - 3:54PM

    democracy base on freedom Of speech Without Pressure Independent Media . where are All Champions Of civil society. democracy , supreme court, Strong Media govt ?strong textRecommend

  • MAD
    Jun 1, 2011 - 3:58PM

    I get the feeling that after years and years of trying to somehow trap and malign the ISI someone is finally succeeding.Recommend

  • Gill
    Jun 1, 2011 - 4:00PM

    It looks more the work of TTP who probably reacted when he broke the story of presenet of pro-TTP elements in Navy ranks!!!Recommend

  • David McGinty
    Jun 1, 2011 - 4:02PM

    I read this news with despair as I see Pakistan plunging into further depths of uncertain future, a future where tyranny will rule and people will die. I have visited Pakistan several times in the past in 70s and 80s. I have not found another country prettier in nature than Pakistan. I know its people and their culture. I have had an hospitality that is hard to compare with any other country. Those were the wonderful days when I and my wife would walk down the Kashmir Highway during late night without fear of being robbed or killed. Now, it’s impossible to think to see any part of Pakistan.

    When I read news about ISI killing their people I wonder what is the purpose of such an agency? Why does this monster exist? Why not to get rid of these scum-bags who kill innocent Pakistanis for no crime of theirs? And most imporatntly why would ISI think that they are responsible for Pakistan’s existence? I think, this mentally twisted ISI comprised of people who earn big money from the terrorists . . . They do not have an iota of interest for Pakistan.

    Killing of your own journalists is shameful act . . . this is so sick a work that I cannot imagine. There’s no freedom in Pakistan. The best one can describe today’s Pakistan is a country that runs by the corrupt and inept politicians and mentally deranged generals expert at playing double-games to suck more US dollars. For a common Pakistani, he can go to hell!Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 4:04PM

    Before investigations te verdict is decided by media and people. What a sorry state, not Pakistan but our minds.Recommend

  • Enraged
    Jun 1, 2011 - 4:12PM

    Why would ISI would do this, to draw more fingers against them? I dont think so . . . . What my guess is, our agencies picked him up for questioning and when they released him some other group/terrorists picked him and killed him to blame ISI. Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    Jun 1, 2011 - 4:20PM

    Do we hv any other credible info inorder to set aside this conspiracy theory… ?? if at all it is…his colleauges had been warned by the of the impending fate as last yr he was already warned by the establishment to mend ways…but Mr Shahzad was a courageous man – a fearless man…like Wali Khan who met the same fate though under different circumstances….a case still unsolved…?? why blame only ISI…I hv not seen anyone pointing fingers towards MI, IB & Naval Intel….?? these too can be the ones…??Recommend

  • khan
    Jun 1, 2011 - 4:23PM

    I really feel for those journalists who are honest and brave. They have to potentially face this kind of predicament each time they file a report. As one said today ‘before we perform our journalistic duties we we have to think a hundred times about who will be angered by it, who will be so incensed that he will want to kill you’.

    God bless you brave people! (and those of your community who have sold their consciences for a plot, a flat or a fistful of money should hang their heads in shame today) Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 4:43PM

    If ISI did not do it.. should it not be trying out effortlessly to clear its name and bring forth intelligence from where ever possible to show who did this? ‘We did not do it’ just does not cut any more. They were the ones questioning Saleem.. not the militants.Recommend

  • narayana murthy
    Jun 1, 2011 - 5:06PM

    Looking at all the comments, it’s obvious that ISI is revered by Pakistanis. ISI is supposed to serve Pakistan and not control or rule it.

    Looks like journalists, judges, some lawyers, politicians and senior bureaucrats are terrified of ISI’s antics while the common man is blissfully unaware of it.

    I remember reading Irfan Hussain’s article on another news site, where he recalled how he was shadowed and received phone calls at night. I wonder if Pakistan is even a free country!Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 5:07PM

    It looks like a joint RAW/MOSSAD operation, RAW officers went to Israel and got trained by MOSSAD and crossed the border after getting to Afghanistan went over the border setup TTP kidnapped various Mullahs and brought them to Afghanistan where they brainwashed them to attack Pakistan…. after that these non-Muslim Mullahs got paid off by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

    This is why we need a government by Maulana-E-Azam Fazlur Rehman and Attaur Rehman so they can bring a proper prosperity to pakistan and make Pakistan the shining beacon of Islam in the Universe!Recommend

  • Shahid Khan
    Jun 1, 2011 - 5:14PM

    Both Army establishment and ISI are playing a dangerous game of being state within state. If they continued to deny to be ruled by state, they will endanger Pakistan being ruled by rest of the world. Time to submit before their own people, before they are forced to submit before world community! Recommend

  • White Russian
    Jun 1, 2011 - 5:18PM

    Whose enemies? ISI’s or Pakistan’s?Recommend

  • Arslan
    Jun 1, 2011 - 5:19PM

    Guys, so you actually believe that ISI would have done it in times when after the OBL, PNS Mehran – and God knows what in the near future – fiascos, they are losing credibility ? I don’t know if masochism is an ISI policy, but I doubt that they would have killed the brave man (R.I.P.) at the moment.Recommend

  • Sher
    Jun 1, 2011 - 5:29PM

    He was a CIA agent, he workd fr the agency, and he did wat dey wantd em to do, propaganda in his articles, he wrote against taliban, he wrote against pakistan military, he wrote against pakistan to help CIA declare pakistan a rouge state. He spoke da same language as da americans against pakistan. Americans cum here fr a friendship hand n bck in america dere media is busy declaring pakistan a rouge state. He workd fr CIA n dey got wat dey wantd n got rid of him b4 any1 gets him.Recommend

  • Malik
    Jun 1, 2011 - 5:38PM

    after the murder, why ISI is in deep sleep???Recommend

  • fahim
    Jun 1, 2011 - 6:07PM

    There are some patriotic citizens, who are contesting that “why would ISI do this, when the obvious blame will fall on them” . Isnt it true that the same logic can be applied to PNS mehran that why would India do it, when the obvious blame will fall on them??? India has far more potent weapons like latest P8I poseidon and our old generation P3 is no match against it. Its time we pakistanis look beyond the obvious and try to dig deeper. There is much more to what common logic suggests.Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 6:57PM

    Who ever killed him did it to buy his silence. Saleem Shahzad was not-for-sale for plot, exclusive interview with a militant commander in some safe house or secret funding. The only price to buy his silence was his death. Recommend

  • observer
    Jun 1, 2011 - 6:59PM

    Well honestly, there are two intersted parties here,ISI and Al Qaeda.

    Al Qaeda seems the unlikely candidate as, it is difficult to imagine that they can abduct someone and his car from a high security area in Islamabad , take the person and his car out of Islamabad, past all kinds of checkposts and barriers unchallenged. Especially so as security is tight post Mehran.Moreover, killing someone with a blast or a burst of AK 47 is more their style.

    ISI is more likely as they have a free run of the place. And people disappearing and reappearing as dead bodies mark of torture has been right up their street.Moreover ISI may have been interested in finding out the source of Saleem’s information.Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 7:31PM

    It looks more the work of TTP who probably reacted when he broke the story of presenet of pro-TTP elements in Navy ranks see more about that

  • welfarist
    Jun 1, 2011 - 8:21PM

    I dont know what is worse, the heartless killing itself or our constant denial-mode.Recommend

  • Adnan
    Jun 1, 2011 - 8:21PM

    what a great message we have put across the whole world – difference of opinion and truth is not accepted in the ‘land of pure’ – shame on us!Recommend

  • Sajjad
    Jun 1, 2011 - 9:22PM

    Disgusting.Apparently no one is safe in Pakistan.Recommend

  • anfield kop
    Jun 1, 2011 - 9:44PM

    dude you’ve lost it. and i don’t pity you. what a lousy thing to write about somebody who was doing his job, which was to inform the readers what the truth was. none of his stories have been contradicted. so when he is killed it is obviously for the truth, because the untruth can simply be contradicted by a rebuttal. you obviously are not a sher, otherwise you’d be standing up for a guy, saleem shahzad, who lost his life for speaking his mind. even if it hurt some people. get your brain checked, there are no conspiracies spinning there, its only cobwebs from years gone by in your mind. which, of course, is messed up beyond redemption. and i still don’t pity you. Recommend

  • Hopeless
    Jun 1, 2011 - 9:46PM

    But TTP is not real. Its just a figment of thought created by anti Pakistani Mossad and RAW and CIA. ISI being a saviour of Islam and Paksitan could not have done that. SO Saleem Shajzad must have committed suicideRecommend

  • king
    Jun 1, 2011 - 9:55PM

    @TightDhoti: Congratulation. what a statement! no wonder you got maximum number of votes. The current figure 146. Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jun 1, 2011 - 10:20PM

    I could not write in words what I felt about this brutal and targeted murder of a brave honest journalist. No words are sufficient to describe the criminal action by criminal organization. One can only hope that some day the truth would come out and open the eyes of ordinary Pakistanis. However, some right wing apologists keep talking in favor of the killers and try to confuse things and shift the focus away from the main crime and criminals.

    People of Pakistan salute you Shahzad. People of the free world salute you as well. You did not surrender to the evil empire and we are all proud of you. Recommend

  • Grace
    Jun 1, 2011 - 10:55PM

    Who says the ISI did it? There no proof whatsoever. As for this news and the West. I live in North America and this is not considered newsworthy here. There has been no mention of this incident and the ISI here in North America or the West so top making up stuff.Recommend

  • NeutralObserver
    Jun 1, 2011 - 11:12PM

    The death of this prominent journalist is really deplorable – however, it is reminiscent of late 80s, early 90s when many notable professors, doctors and journalists were killed in Peshawar. Ultimately, everyone knew who has power to operate in such places with guns and impunity- but many kept silent. And the losers in this game are the Pakistani society.Recommend

  • Muhammad Kashif
    Jun 1, 2011 - 11:22PM

    Act of CIA , First used him then abused him . How many Journalists in Pakistan have homes in F-6 and DHA Karachi.Recommend

  • Thinking
    Jun 1, 2011 - 11:32PM

    So how much longer will Pakistanis keep believing the farce that the ISI and Military have the interests of Pakistanis at heart (as opposed to their own personal interests)?Recommend

  • Akhter Baloch
    Jun 1, 2011 - 11:43PM

    Shahzad was investigating suspected links between the military and al Qaeda. WOW he was doing a dangrous job, isnt it??? Same like some one investigating RAW’s links with RRS (hindu extremist orgnisation) or CIA’s link with zoinistsRecommend

  • Linga0123
    Jun 2, 2011 - 12:18AM

    Why weep for one man. How many intellectuals lost their life in “Operation Searchlight”.Recommend

  • Ubi Ali
    Jun 2, 2011 - 1:05AM

    this really irritates me always i dont know when our people will become “responsible” i dont know how long it will take to educate people even the educated one,its common and prevalent and have become almost a feature of our personalities to pointing finger without any concrete evidence.i can assure you there is a complete propaganda and conspiracy going on against our own “ISI” and this is a real shame that our own people defaming our own protectors.i live in a area where literacy rate is so low but i am really tired of listening this single sentence from even the mechnics or from a barber and even from any street roamer that ” abye bhai is main bhi ISI ka hi hath hoga” OR ” abye bhai ye sab kuch ISI karwa rahi hay”,i mean come’on people please do understand the sensetivity and see the trio of “RAW” “MOSSAD” and “CIA” and compare the ISI alone with all these well equiped agancies and even the “friend like foes” they all are united but we madly and stupidly will blame all the time to whom not any one of them but to our ISI.i know this a difficult time but please be united please. and for all those who do journalism for defaming Pakistan are equally liable to destroy and defame Pakistan as AlQaida.Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jun 2, 2011 - 1:29AM

    The usual crap. If we disagree, we are somehow complicit with the “enemy” and “playing into their hands”.

    Get over it, and grow up for God’s sake!Recommend

  • Truth Seeker
    Jun 2, 2011 - 1:47AM

    Where Diesel will be cheap and HALWA free. Amen!Recommend

  • Shock horror
    Jun 2, 2011 - 2:57AM

    Real sarcasm. Bravo.Recommend

  • Akthar
    Jun 2, 2011 - 5:30AM

    I hope the media runs a campaign to collect funds to help the family of SSS. He’s got 3 little kids! The schools should provide for free education for the kids. & hope he is not forgotten! The media must avenge his murder by going into the bottom of finding who the culprits are. The courts should order an independent investigationRecommend

  • vasan
    Jun 2, 2011 - 5:53AM

    Hopeless : You are really hopeless.Recommend

  • Jun 2, 2011 - 6:32AM

    thats not sarcasm its true these Mullahs will take us into space to conquer the moon and then mars! Recommend

  • Jun 2, 2011 - 6:43AM

    Seeing the positive regard of the ISI that still exists in some people really makes me wonder…

    When was the last time you can remember them doing something widely regarded as positive to Pakistan and its citizens?

    It’s a sincere question. From what I see, everything they do seems like they only consider their own country as enemies and fodder to be exploited. I’m not in a position to be able to say one way or another when it comes to a fairly large time span, though.

    The traits of their actions sound almost like a complete copy of those being fought against under a deceptive name and intention.

    Truly, at the very least, they go out of their way to make sure Pakistan never has the ability to move forward.

    Get rid of them. You’re in danger either way. Actually, you appear to be in even more danger due to their existence. There’s actually not a single negative outcome from getting rid of them considering the positive traits it’s supposed to have can’t be lost because they don’t exist anywhere outside of empty words.

    Many will agree that their goal is to maintain a form of power over all of Pakistan and every single one of their actions has a common aspect to them. That aspect is everyone that gets harmed or killed have one thing in common. It’s always something that could, in some way, threaten their position. Not because of threats directed toward Pakistan itself.Recommend

  • Anwar
    Jun 2, 2011 - 9:26AM

    The ISI wasn’t behind this. The media has been on a rampage in trying to discredit and get the public to go against the Armed Forces. It doesn’t come to much of a surprise to anyone. In the past 3 years, Pakistan has discovered some of the world’s largest reserves of Oil, Gas and Gold. Infact, there is a credible evidence to suggest that a lot of the information and research conducted is being hidden – otherwise we know what’s going to happen. Actually it’s already happening, with American backed TTP attacking Pakistan to start a civil war so they can walk in and steal everything. Wake up folks!!

    The ISI has always worked in Pakistan’s favour and will do whatever it takes to keep this country on the map. And if you think I’m some sort of “radical” think again…I’m a Musharraf supporter and a fierce proponent of dividing religion and state, but for God’s sake you got to call a SPADE and SPADE. The last few weeks with the bin Laden fiasco (a false flag operation) and now there attempts in trying to get the ISI – I mean it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the hell is going on.

    Stay united…Support The Army!Recommend

  • salim
    Jun 2, 2011 - 10:48AM

    @White Russian:

    Thanks for the question. I would say both.Recommend

  • baburao
    Jun 2, 2011 - 1:45PM

    ha ha ha i know why your film industry is so poor..Recommend

  • Rashid Amin
    Jun 2, 2011 - 5:48PM

    @salim: The Army will reap fruits for what its has been doing for the last 40 years to this country. Civilians are treated as third rated citizen in this country.Recommend

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