The Punjab police have concluded that investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad was killed in Islamabad, and not in Sarai Alamgir, where his body had been dumped.
The autopsy report into Shahzad’s murder states that he had died 48 hours before the autopsy was conducted. Police suspected that his body was dumped in the Upper Jhelum Canal near Sarai Alamgir to mislead investigators since his car was taken there and parked on GT Road after the murder, according to the investigation report, a copy of which was made available to The Express Tribune.
Islamabad police have arrested a suspect for his involvement in the abduction and murder of Shahzad while the Punjab Police have not yet made any arrests. Shahzad, who was bureau chief of Asia Times Online in Pakistan, disappeared after driving off for a talk show on Dunya TV.
There is not a single lead that could help narrow down the scope of the investigation and “bring into sharp relief any possible suspect(s),” stated the report. The investigation was entrusted to a three-member team headed by DIG Establishment Punjab Shoaib Dastageer.
Allegations against an intelligence agency are based on a perceived sequence of events that came into evidence after Shahzad’s death. He felt seriously threatened after his story on the assault on the PNS Mehran was published and confided to Dawn Group CEO Hameed Haroon and Ali Dayan Hassan of Human Rights Watch that the ISI had issued him a veiled death threat. This was corroborated by his brother-in-law Mudassar Hamza Amir who confirmed that Shahzad had no personal animosity.
Amir also said he had his cell phone and laptop with him when he was abducted which have not been traced. Experts have failed to access his e-mail account that could have yielded a list of Shahzad’s contacts. All this has greatly hindered the investigation. Most callers have been identified after Call Data Record analysis, but the police has gone a step further and contacted Telecom companies and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority for access to Tower Traffic data which has not been provided.
The statements of Shazad’s relatives and colleagues have been recorded except for Haroon and Hassan who will give their statements after they return to the country. According to senior journalist Asif Khan, Shahzad had told him he wished to settle abroad a week before his death.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2011.