LAHORE: The slain journalist Saleem Shahzad’s car was not driven from Islamabad to Sarai Alamgir, the place from where it was recovered, but was brought there in a cargo container, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Shahzad’s brother-in-law, Hamza Ameer, the complainant in the murder case, told The Express Tribune that the car was handed over to the family with a full petrol tank and a half-filled tank of compressed natural gas, which would have been impossible, had the car travelled more the 100 kilometres between Sarai Alamgir and Islamabad.
Ameer suspects that the killers did not want to be tracked by the cameras installed on the highway between the federal capital and the place where Shahzad’s car was found.
Meanwhile, the Punjab police has begun threatening journalists who have been pursuing the story of the murder. A judicial commission investigating the matter, headed by Supreme Court Justice Saqib Nisar, has already ordered the Islamabad police to provide security to them, according to Ameer.
Atif Khan, a reporter for Dawn News, told The Express Tribune that he had received veiled threats from the head of the Mandi Bahauddin Police, Dar Ali Khattak, who is also a member of the investigation team put together by the Punjab Police on the orders of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
Khattak allegedly told Atif that “Saleem Shahzad was working for anti-state foreign agencies.” Atif said that Khattak pointed to the stories Shahzad did about the attack on the naval base in Karachi as ‘evidence’ of his anti-Pakistan sentiments, claiming that the DNA report on the attackers ‘proved’ that Shahzad had ‘concocted’ the story.
“He inquired why I was interested in following up on a case about a man who was working against Pakistani national interests,” said Atif.
Yet Atif is not the only one that was harassed in this manner. Muhammad Faizan, a reporter for the Urdu newspaper Ausaf, has previously testified before the judicial commission that he and his wife have received threatening phone calls from unknown numbers and have seen suspicious vehicles parked outside their house.
Ameer claims that, despite the judicial commission’s orders being issued ten days ago, the Islamabad police have not even approached the journalists who have been threatened, let alone provided them security.
Shahzad’s family has been critical of the investigation thus far, saying that many questions are not being asked.
“How could a car be parked for 11 hours outside the walls of a military college in Jhelum?” asked Ameer.
The military college is an elite military high school in Sarai Alamgir whose alumni include current Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani.
Another concern the family has is the fact that the police have yet to retrieve passwords to Saleem Shahzad’s e-mail accounts.
The Punjab Police, on its part, had exonerated the Inter-Services Intelligence in an interim report submitted to the Supreme Court, claiming that they had not received any leads that would suggest the involvement of any intelligence agencies.
Yet Shahzad’s family claim that several pieces of evidence are missing. They insist that Shahzad’s e-mails are likely to contain the most concrete evidence against his killers.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2011.