Amid a global outcry over the abduction and subsequent killing of investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) issued a rare media statement on Wednesday to deny it was behind the killing.
Speculation that the ISI was linked to the slaying of Shahzad has added pressure on the agency, already facing criticism following the killing on Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.
“It’s regrettable that some sections of media have taken upon themselves to use the incident for targeting and maligning the ISI,” the official said.
He said that the media should refrain from baseless allegations against the ISI that seek to deliberately malign the organisation in the eyes of the people of Pakistan.
Shahzad came under ISI scrutiny in October when he wrote in the Asia Times that Pakistan had freed a detained Afghan Taliban commander.
Within days, he was summoned to an ISI office. Intelligence officials pressured him to reveal his sources or retract the story. He refused.
At the end of the meeting, one of the intelligence officials issued what he took as a veiled threat. The official told Shahzad intelligence agents had recently arrested a terrorist who was carrying a hit list. The official then said he would tell Shahzad if his name was on the list. However, the ISI officer told APP that there was “nothing sinister” about the meeting.
Meanwhile, the Punjab chief minister has constituted a three-member inquiry committee in connection with the murder Shahzad, sources said.
The chief minister has ordered the team to submit its report in three days. The chief minister has assigned the committee to dig up facts and quick apprehension of the journalist’s killers.
In the meantime, the international community, on Wednesday, strongly condemned the killing.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned his murder saying his “reporting on terrorism and intelligence issues in Pakistan brought to light the troubles extremism poses to Pakistan’s stability”.
“The US strongly condemns the abduction and killing of reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad,” she said in a statement.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also expressed his shock at the abduction and killing of Shahzad. Welcoming the announcement of an investigation into the murder, Hague said that it was vital that the investigation be thorough and transparent and those responsible brought to justice.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed grief and indignation at the brutal murder of the journalist, calling it a vile attempt to “muzzle the media” and demanded that the government make sure that the murderers are apprehended and prosecuted.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2011.
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