The pox on coup d’états and what they do to the country; the pox on whether Pakistan army generals ably led by the Sipah Salaar will carry one out now or not; the pox on what the Sipah Salaar will or will not do with the elected government; the pox on what will happen to the government ably led by Makhdoom Sahib; the pox on whether the ANP; the MQM; the PML (Shujaat); and the Fata members will leave the coalition or not.
The pox on what happened on the evening and night of January 11 despite the antics of the apoplectic anchor of a particularly raucous news channel who almost choked on his own anger at the elected government; the pox on the self-righteous indignation of the retired army and air force officers who were trotted out by self-same channel, wearing halos around their heads and spouting poison against the elected representatives of the people good, bad, or ugly.
None of that silliness is important. Neither is the extent of the destruction that will result if the Army does foment a coup, even a constitutional one to remove the government; nor the consequences of an engineered ‘caretaker’ set-up and the destruction these arrangements have always wreaked on the country and its institutions, making a mockery of good sense and rectitude,and making us Pakistanis the laughing stock of the world. Been there, too many times.
What is of utmost import today; what is a matter of life or death for many Pakistanis; what will determine whether we are a civilised people or a horde of wild brutes is the shamefully non-conclusive report on the brutal and savage beating to death of journalist Saleem Shahzad. A death foretold by the victim, reportedly to many of his friends, but definitely and publicly to at least two eminent Pakistanis: Hameed Haroon, the publisher of Dawn, and Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan director of the respected Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Let me here and now remind my readers of the contents of Saleem Shahzad’s pleas to any and all who would pay heed, as given in HRW’s statement before the Commission:
“Shahzad had previously complained of threats by ISI agents for his reporting on links between the ISI and al Qaeda. On October 19, 2010, Shahzad sent an email to HRW outlining a recent meeting he had had with the ISI and asking for the email to be released if he or his family were harmed. Shahzad asked Human Rights Watch to make details of the meeting public ‘in case something happens to me or my family in future’.
“Shahzad told Human Rights Watch that he had been threatened by the ISI at the 17 October meeting at the ISI headquarters in Islamabad with the director-general of the Media Wing of the ISI, Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir, and another ISI official, Commodore Khalid Pervaiz. Shahzad wrote that the meeting ended with the following comment from Rear Admiral Nazir, which Shahzad construed as a death threat: ‘I must give you (sic) a favour. We have recently arrested a terrorist and recovered a lot of data, diaries and other material during the interrogation. The terrorist had a list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know.’”
“Shahzad sent the same email and information about other threats to Hameed Haroon, publisher of the English language daily Dawn and president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, and to colleagues at Asia Times Online. All those who spoke to Shahzad at the time including professional journalists and Human Rights Watch understood that a threat had been made to his life through the statement quoted above. In order to place the threat on record, Shahzad wrote an account of the meeting and emailed it to the recipients.
“Later, in January and March, Shahzad informed Human Rights Watch by telephone of two other instances where he felt threats were made to him by or on behalf of the ISI by people who identified themselves as belonging to the agency.
“Following her husband’s instructions, Shahzad’s wife, Anita Saleem, informed Human Rights Watch of her husband’s going missing on May 30. She told Human Rights Watch that she had received an anonymous phone call saying that Shahzad would be released the same evening. I made inquiries and credible sources claimed that Shahzad was in intelligence agency custody and was expected to be released in the evening of May 30.
“When Shahzad failed to reappear, Human Rights Watch notified the Pakistani and international media of our grave concern that he had been forcibly disappeared. His body was found on 31 May near Mandi Bahauddin, bearing signs of torture.
“On 1 June … (an) ISI official denied that any threat had been made to Shahzad, stating that, ‘The reported e-mail of Mr Saleem Shahzad to Mr Ali Hasan Dayan of HRW’ was ‘being made the basis of baseless allegations’ … the following day, Haroon, the Dawn publisher, went on record to ‘verify that allegations levied by HRW at the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) are essentially in complete consonance with the contents of the slain journalist’s e-mail.’ Haroon added that he wished to ‘state on the record’ that the late journalist confided to him that he had received death threats from various officers of the ISI on at least three occasions in the past five years”.
Now then, a few questions to the Commission:
Were all of Shahzad’s telephone records recovered?
WHO disappeared them in the first place?
Were the “credible sources” who stated that Shahzad was in the custody of an ‘intelligence agency’ questioned?
Were his emails and other pleas treated as dying statements?
In the end, nothing was gained by Shahzad’s horrific killing: The front page of Dawn of January 9 says it all: The poor man was always right.
Final Score: Deep State 10; Hapless Pakistanis including the Commission: 0
The very least the PM can do is to reject the report out of hand and order a new inquiry.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2012.