Saleem Shahzad murder: Commission report points out everything, but the murderers

Published: January 13, 2012
The report links Saleem Shehzad's murder to the War on Terror. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

The report links Saleem Shehzad's murder to the War on Terror. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

Javed Iqbal
Inspector General Police, Punjab 
Justice Mian 
Saqib Nisar
Supreme Court Judge, 
Commission Chair Justice Agha Rafiq Ahmed Khan
Chief Justice, Federal Shariat Court Bani Amin Khan
Inspector General, Islamabad Police 
Pervaiz Shaukat
President, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists
The report links Saleem Shehzad's murder to the War on Terror. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

KARACHI: The judicial inquiry report into journalist Saleem Shahzad’s murder deals with everything, save pointing out who did it.

The 146-page report gives page after page of recommendations and proposals on how to fix the “systemic causes of tension between agencies and the media.” It even suggests “practical steps” about making the press and agencies law-abiding and calls for a human rights ombudsman. However, despite six months of painstaking work that included 23 formal meetings and examinations of no less than 41 witnesses, apart from access to Shahzad’s 33,000 emails, even the motive behind the murder could not be conclusively drawn.

The commission comprised two judges, Supreme Court Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who also chaired the Commission and Chief Justice Federal Shariat Court Justice Agha Rafiq Ahmed Khan; two senior police officers – Inspector General Police Punjab Javed Iqbal and Inspector General  Islamabad Police Bani Amin Khan; and one journalist, President Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Pervaiz Shaukat.

Yet, about the possible reasons behind the brutal killing of the journalist, all they could come up with was the conclusion that “in all likelihood, the motive behind the incident was provided by the writings of Saleem. What is not so clear is the question of who had that motive and actually acted upon it.”

In fact, deep in the report, the commission says that Hamza Ameer, the brother-in-law and complainant in the case, and Anita Saleem, Shahzad’s widow, “were the two most important persons who should have indicated the motive.”

A beeline of journalists and prominent personalities had met members of the commission, including the Dawn CEO Hameed Haroon, Ali Dayan of Human Rights Watch, Najam Sethi, Nusrat Javed, Hamid Mir, Absar Alam, Umar Cheema, Matiullah Jan, Zahid Hussain, Jugnoo Moshin, Nasim Zehra, Imtiaz Alam and Qamarul Munir Yousafzai.  At least 13 of them either filed their statements in writing or appeared before the Commission to make statements.

Many of them gave testimonies to the effect that intelligence agencies, especially the ISI personnel harass and sometimes even threaten journalists. Even though the commission took note of the alleged culture of threats, it also could not ignore the possibility that theoretically an imposter posing as agency man could have also issued the threats.

However, when it came to pointing out the same lack of authenticity in the alleged recording of a wiretapped conversation between two al Qaeda operatives, in which they supposedly expressed satisfaction over Saleem’s death, the report keeps mum.

Interestingly, the two intelligence agencies, the Military Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau were not questioned further after they had written to the commission that they had no nexus with the incident.

The ISI, which the report says “bore the brunt of blame right from the day one,” was made to answer the concerns. Brigadier Zahid Mehmood Khan, Sector Headquarter Central Islamabad, contested all allegations.

ISI’s alibi

Brigadier Khan gave a written statement that had “Saleem been threatened or coerced, he would have broken all contacts and refused to interact anymore with the ISI, something he did not do.”

In fact, the official said, Shahzad had himself asked to have a cup of tea, and other rendezvous, with the same officials that, he alleged, had threatened him in the past.  ISI says the last telephonic interaction with Shahzad took place on May 2011, soon after the US operation in Abbottabad in which he was told their DG had been wrongly quoted as saying they were hands-in-glove in the OBL raid.

It even put on the record a telephonic conversation of renowned television personaility Hamid Mir with ISI in which “he condemns Saleem Shahzad being a dubious case, [and] laments Americans for their extraordinary interest in this case.”

In their testimonies before the commission, the ISI build the case that Shahzad was in fact killed by al Qaeda, specifically the Ilyas Kashmiri group since he was increasingly revealing their strategies and assets in his articles.

“The individual named Nawaz Khan, an important militant of the Ilyas Kashmiri (al Qaeda) network, is detained in Adiala Jail on the charges of abduction for fund generation for terrorists and murder. He was in contact with Saleem,” the ISI statement said. “After Saleem’s abduction and murder, while discussing the matter with a front man of the Ilyas Kashmiri group, Nawaz expressed praise for Saleem, but Ilyas Kashmiri’s front man cursed Saleem for the damage that he had done to their network and remarked that a bad man had only met his fate. This, according to the statement of Brigadier Zahid Mehmood Khan of ISI, speaks volumes of the Ilyas Kashmiri group’s enmity with Saleem and provides evidence for al Qaeda’s possible involvement,” the report added.

The brigadier further said “if he was a man of intellectual integrity, and his writings were based on acquired intelligence through his contacts, then obviously he could be considered a great threat to al Qaeda when he dared and promised to expose strategic assets of the terrorist organisation in his article on Mehran Base attack”.

Defaming Shahzad

In an effort to defame the journalist as a possible American spy agent, the ISI statement to the commission said “Why in this case [after Saleem’s murder] from President Obama to every man worth a name in the US felt disturbed. Was he a pawn who could be used at appropriate time to further use the US objectives and create a wedge between establishment and other segments of society?”

Brigadier Zahid also termed Saleem’s article about Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Baradar’s mysterious release, as fake and frivolous.

He categorically denied that the book and writings of Saleem in any way has caused any grievance to the establishment or agencies, and in this context deposed: “I do not think that most of the articles written by Saleem Shahzad were against the national interest, rather those exposed al Qaeda and Taliban; qua their way of working and even their entering into Armed Forces and the Navy. This is particularly so envisaged by his article on ‘Mehran Base.’”

Also no defamation of a journalist can be complete unless he is terms as a possible Indian agent.

“Though I do not have any concrete evidence, but Saleem Shahzad in my presence stated that he was approached by Indian Intelligence Agency (RAW) and now he has to present a paper in UK on which he wanted the input of ISI. He also stated that he is in contact with the intelligence agency in UK. I do not remember the exact date of this meeting, but perhaps it was in the month of October, 2010,” the ISI official said.

Denying threats

Also, when ISI’s Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir was asked whether he had in fact threatened Saleem, which the slain journalist had also mentioned in his email to him, Hameed Haroon and Ali Dayan, he said: “it is correct that the above quotation is a part of this e-mail. I did not respond to this e-mail. Though I found that the quotation portion of the e-mail was wrong and false, but I did not find it expedient to respond”.

ISI’s Commodore Khalid Pervaiz said Shahzad’s article in which he said that the terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks were from PNS Iqbal, which is a naval base, and the boats were also provided by PNS team was totally incorrect, frivolous and baseless. Commodore Pervaiz, who later took charge of PNS Mehran, Karachi that was attacked in 2011, said that he came to know about Shahzad’s explosive article about the issue much later. He said he was very busy in connection with the Mehran Base incident and had no chance or occasion to even read that article. On a further question, he said: “I cannot say whether it was [a] false or [a] correct story because I had never read it … I cannot say if the story is in the national interest or otherwise because I have not read it even so far”. He categorically refuted having threatened Saleem as being imputed by Mr Hameed Haroon or mentioned in the e-mail sent by Saleem to Tony.

In the end, the commission’s report cites lack of ‘substantive piece of evidence’ to pin point the murder to ISI officials.  “It does not allow us to safely conclude that the ISI was the culprit behind this incident.”

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • Jan 13, 2012 - 2:47PM

    That,s realy encouraging to submit the petition against the persons involved for murdering a journalist realy no dout journalism is a very responsible source of information but here we take it as a routine to get involve any news story we does not think it,s afterall effects how any news will be effective or have a impact to strengthen the society r when we set dif syllabus we add those assays which groom the public and should be beneficial for future endeavour but what could hapen on repenting such like things to discus all in vain because we does not want to learn


  • Jan 13, 2012 - 2:50PM

    Unable to identify culprits..!!
    When was the last time these commissions named any culprits..Recommend

  • Jan 13, 2012 - 3:26PM

    Vienna,January 13,2012
    Here is the valid case for rule of law, that is judicial straw
    remaining independent of a force meant to deal with external
    threats.The Memogate tests that straw hat.
    Taravadu Taranga Trust for Media Monitoring TTT India
    –Kulamarva Balakrishna


  • Javed
    Jan 13, 2012 - 3:37PM

    What a hog wash! And they wasted 6 months and a few millions on this.

    On second thought we should be thankful to the commission for not declaring that Saleem Shahzad committed suicide.


  • A w
    Jan 13, 2012 - 4:20PM

    Wastage of money and time. All commissions including OBL PROBE SHOULD BE ABANDONED


  • Jan 13, 2012 - 4:58PM

    Murder of Fearless & Reliable Pak Journalist

    Though Pakistan and U.S. apparently kept on claiming each other as their front line allies but due to various U.S. actions like interfering in Balochistan and joining hands with India manifold the already existed trust deficit continued between two countries. However, the differences between the agencies of two countries and their intelligence agencies (CIA & ISI) further deteriorated after U.S. unilateral operation in Abbottabad (killing of OBL) and PN base tragedy. CIA got chance to speed up the propaganda against ISI and Pakistan security forces while using the specific section of media. American, Indian and foreign sponsored traitors started anti army and ISI campaign. Thus to fuel the anti ISI campaign further CIA in collaboration with RAW probably kidnapped the journalist and later on killed him with the purpose of implicating local agencies in the murder of Shahzad.


  • Roflcopter
    Jan 13, 2012 - 7:59PM

    Ilyas Kashmiri was killed in a drone attack few days after Saleem Shehzads murder. Saleem Shehzads murderers had extorted Ilyas Kashmiris location from him since Shehzad had interviewed Ilyas Kashmiri few days earlier….so I find it far more plausible that CIA was behind this murder rather than ISI.


  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 13, 2012 - 8:05PM

    @Zaheerul Hassan:
    So, you say that
    “Thus to fuel the anti ISI campaign further CIA in collaboration with RAW probably kidnapped the journalist and later on killed him with the purpose of implicating local agencies in the murder of Shahzad”
    WOW, AND YOU KNOW THAT FROM WHAT “REPUTABLE” SOURCE? Are you sure it wasn’t agents from KFC? How about the Girl Scouts, maybe the Easter Bunny?

  • Umer
    Jan 14, 2012 - 2:53AM


    I find it far more plausible that CIA
    was behind this murder rather than

    Are you suggesting ISI is so incompetent that CIA is working openly in Islamabad, abducting high profile people in broad day light, torturing and killing them and then driving the bodies all the way to Jehlum with ISI having no idea of any of it?


  • Baloch Agony
    Jan 14, 2012 - 6:39AM

    Let’s all Pakistanis pray that whichever actor was responsible for the Shahzad’s death, let them and their whole organization rot and wither away from the face of the earth by the grace of Allah Almighty.


  • Radial
    Jan 14, 2012 - 6:40AM

    don’t knock these various commissions. they are keeping a cottage industry of judges and ex-judges employed. every major news story demands a high powered judicial commission led by members of the supreme court. the police, FIA, IB, etc should not bother to investigate any crimes.Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jan 14, 2012 - 6:50AM

    Why in this case [after Saleem’s
    murder] from President Obama to every
    man worth a name in the US felt

    Maybe it’s as simple as American’s have sympathy for a journalist who is tortured/executed simply because he was investigating/reporting on activities of the military?


  • Pundit
    Jan 14, 2012 - 7:55AM

    Where online can one read the report? Pls help.


  • Akhtar
    Jan 14, 2012 - 8:51AM

    If anyone’s disagree with the hidden state in any manner, they’ll be silenced. :-(


  • anybodyagree
    Jan 14, 2012 - 8:56AM

    Since its birth Pakistan is virtually runs by Agencies . . !!!
    If someone say Truth
    He is vanished into thin air . . . !!!!


  • Feroz
    Jan 14, 2012 - 12:29PM

    A murderer can give a million possible reasons for committing the crime, leave aside the credibility does it matter. If selective murder is allowed or condoned as in Pakistan, it negates what the founder Jinnah stood for and is an insult to Islam.
    Only Allah gives life only he can take it !


  • Mirza
    Jan 14, 2012 - 1:19PM

    This report is the same as PCO SC judges insisting letter to Swiss govt, knowing full well that the Swiss would ignore it. A whole lot of nothing but waste of time and national resources. The judges wasted hundreds of millions in six months and gave only 3 million to Salim’s family. What is a report if there is nobody responsible?


  • MarkH
    Jan 14, 2012 - 1:22PM

    “It does not allow us to safely conclude that the ISI was the culprit behind this incident.”

    Exactly. There’s not a single thing that would allow them to “safely” conclude that the ISI was the culprit.


  • Roflcopter
    Jan 14, 2012 - 5:19PM

    @Umer, Impossible to keep an eye on everyone, far from a matter of competence.

    ET has taken a very biased anti ISI approach in this report. Having read the report objectively I see absolutely no weight behind the crazy theory that ISI was behind this murder. ET should stop trying.


  • Umer
    Jan 14, 2012 - 8:25PM


    Having read the report objectively I

    You and objective? Don’t make us laugh. Or on second thought do make us laugh we need it these days.


  • riaz ahmed
    Jan 15, 2012 - 2:20AM

    A very well written report by salman siddiqui on a dishonest but revealing report by the commission. I think this is a step forward in many ways, unlike the murdering military agencies in Balochistan who go free after killings on a daily basis, at least the likes of commodores and sublieutenants appear exposed as they express their disgust toward a journalist most likely to be killed by them than the likes of Al Qaeda. On another note while policemen and generals should not be part of investigations against police and military, it is clear that journalists should also not be part of the commission. One big reason the entire journalist community stayed mum and no protest was loged at the farce in the name of Saleem Shahzad Commision Report was that the President of Islamabad PFUJ was a member of the commission. Saleem appears more betrayed by his journo friend, though he couldnt be a murderer!


  • Rt. Rev. Wrong
    Jan 15, 2012 - 4:58AM

    In Pakistan you don’t call spade a spade; you call him “SIR.”


  • Rt. Rev. Wrong
    Jan 15, 2012 - 6:06AM

    Let’s keep chanting mantra of “strategic depth, strategic depth, strategic depth……..” until we bury Pakistan in strategic pit.


  • Rt. Rev. Wrong
    Jan 15, 2012 - 8:09AM

    No one saw the 800 pound gorilla; honest, because it was sitting a top the elephant in the room.

    And seven blinds could not decide how an elephant looks like!Recommend

  • Pankaj
    Jan 17, 2012 - 10:00PM

    @Zaheerul Hassan:
    You got a good plot why don’t you write a novel


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