Saleem Shahzad murder: Judge rues apathy, warns it may slow down probe

Legislators propose bill in Senate to help protect journalists.



ISLAMABAD:


The head of the judicial commission appointed to investigate the death of the journalist Saleem Shahzad said that the ‘lack of cooperation’ from the journalist community is likely to slow down the investigation.


Justice Saqib Nisar of the Supreme Court made these remarks while presiding over the second meeting of the commission on Saturday, where the five members of the probe heard testimony from 17 Islamabad-based journalists.

The journalists who testified included some of the most prominent names in the Pakistani media, including Absar Alam, Hamid Mir, Najam Sethi, Naseem Zehra and Imtiaz Alam. Many of the journalists who testified asked the commission to expand its scope to include a broader examination of the harassment of journalists.

The commission had initially asked for journalists to come forward with any information they may have about Saleem Shahzad’s murder. However, only two journalists have so far sought to share information with the commission, a tepid response over which Justice Nisar expressed disappointment.

Law enforcement officials also testified at the hearing. The director of the cyber-crime wing at the Federal Investigation Agency, Shahid Nadeem Baloch, said that he was unable to go through Shahzad’s laptop. The journalists’ family said that his laptop was usually in his car. The commission was able to examine Shahzad’s cell phone data and his e-mails.

The commission also asked the National Highway Authority for a record of all toll plazas from Islamabad to Mandi Bahauddin, where the body of the journalist was found.

Saleem Shahzad was found dead in Mandi Bahauddin, nearly 130 kilometres from Islamabad. As a result of a sit-in protest before Parliament on June 5, the government agreed to form a commission to investigate the murder.

Justice Saqib Nisar heads the commission, which also includes the Federal Shariat Court Chief Justice Agha Rafique, the inspectors-general of the Islamabad and Punjab police, and the head of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists. The hearing was adjourned till July 16.

Meanwhile, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has submitted a bill in the Senate which intends to give greater protection to journalists. Three JI senators on Saturday submitted the bill titled “Journalists’ Protection and Welfare Bill 2011.”

“If the bill is made into legislation, journalists will receive protection and welfare under the 1973 Constitution,” said Senator Professor Khurshid.



Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2011.

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