Did no one kill Saleem Shahzad then?

Published: January 30, 2012
The writer hosts a show called “Capital Circuit” for News One

The writer hosts a show called “Capital Circuit” for News One

James Jesus Angleton, former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) counter-intelligence staff was credited with coining the term ‘wilderness of mirrors’, for the world of espionage. Paranoid as he often was, he also strongly believed that the Soviet spy agency, KGB was capable of influencing CIA’s perceptions without leaving behind a trace. Upon reading the report presented by the Saleem Shahzad Murder Inquiry Commission, one feels lost in the very wilderness. However, in our wilderness, traces of manipulation are visible.

Instead of an impartial inquiry, one might have expected the report presents the image of a witch-hunt and indulges in voodoo magic to preserve the soul of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency. The Commission was primarily tasked to identify the perpetrators of the crime and shed light on circumstances leading to it. It ostensibly fails to deliver on both counts as it manages to raise more questions than answering the existing ones.

The singular most striking aspect that becomes evident from even a casual reading of the report is the Commission’s cynicism towards journalists and the Human Rights Watch (HRW), which was remarkably in contrast with its gullible attitude towards the intelligence community and its visible lackeys, pretending to be journalists. While it seemed that the inquiry was expecting the journalist community to present nothing short of a smoking gun, two of the three major intelligence agencies were let go upon producing written statements.

Even in the ISI’s case, only Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir was cross-examined at length, and that, too, to the effect that a case is built almost in his favour. And while Mr Ali Dayan of HRW was subjected to rather gratuitous questions about his organisation and work, redoubtable testimonies of self-proclaimed journalists like like Zafar Mehmood, Sheikh Qamarul Munir alias Qamar Yousafzai and Muhammad Raashed were accepted at face value without going into details of their professional competence. This apparently is because the testimony of these gentlemen supported the ISI’s narrative apart from casting aspersions on Shahzad’s person.

Shahzad’s book, Inside al Qaeda and Taliban (Pluto  Press, 2011), has raised serious concerns on the failure of counter-intelligence. When he claimed that Ilyas Kashmiri had influenced some serving and retired officials in the armed forces, did it not become essential to probe whether such al Qaeda moles could have killed him to maintain their cover.

Another glaring omission in the structure and functioning of the Commission was the absence of a dedicated forensic expert and an investigator. In the absence of either, the Commission could expect to be stalled and that is precisely why it had to crack open Shahzad’s email account on its own. Quite astoundingly, it does not make much of the fact that the authorities did not provide much cooperation.

Also, it makes one wonder that the Commission quite clearly did not consider, even remotely, the possibility that the victim’s family might have contradicted Ali Dayan’s version under duress or because of it may have received actual threats. People who recovered the body or had something to do with the discovery were either not probed in detail, or else the account was not worthy of a mention in the report.

The fact remains that Pakistan has a long history of such crimes. Please remember the names of Daniel Pearl, Wali Babar, Moosa Khan Khel, Hayatullah Khan, Umar Cheema and Faraz Hashmi. No conspiracy theory about the seemingly ubiquitous ‘foreign hand’ can hide this fact.

In the end, the Commission does at least one generous thing — that of recommending the release of the three million rupees pledged to the family of the victim. But it should have gone a bit further and recommended that the family of the victim should be shifted abroad as this state and its justice system cannot ensure security for the life and property of journalists.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Salman
    Jan 31, 2012 - 12:03AM

    For a nation, its time to wake up and proclaim slogans against these atrocities.If we remain quiet then prepare future generations for the worst time. Every one knows who’s behind these inhuman activities. Its time to draw red line, keeping quiet will be biggest atrocity than we are facing today, in the form of brutal killings like (late) Mr Saleem Shahzad etc. Before its too late, stand up.Personally,i really appreciate the writer efforts.


  • Parvez
    Jan 31, 2012 - 1:22AM

    Sadly the first thing that came to my mind was the saying ‘ discretion is the better part of valour ‘.


  • Harry Stone
    Jan 31, 2012 - 2:07AM

    Killed by falling Russian space junk………..everyone knows this


  • Cautious
    Jan 31, 2012 - 4:44AM

    The reporter was tortured and executed – everyone knows who did it – no one lifts a finger to bring them to justice. To make matters worse – no one was willing to pick up the gauntlet and continue the story that upset the military and was the probable cause of the reporters demise. In short – the bad guys win – sponsored in part by the apathy of the Pakistani people.


  • Tim Hover
    Jan 31, 2012 - 6:12AM

    @Harry Stone:
    Media proxy working for US taken out by pakistani proxy working for state, its as simple as 2+2


  • John
    Jan 31, 2012 - 8:17AM

    Of course he died..natural death like the other 4…SC must take suomoto cognigance


  • ashok sai
    Jan 31, 2012 - 9:15AM

    More than to his killing, he was tortured to the maximum which explains the cruel nature of the intelligent perpetrators.


  • J Oberoi
    Jan 31, 2012 - 11:34AM

    I thought Indian officialdom and politicians were bad but they don’t look so bad when I compare them to the Pakistani counterparts. India too suffers from similar problems but of a lesser magnitude. Things are not so blatant. But it is still bad.


  • Asjad
    Jan 31, 2012 - 11:47AM

    Unless the Civilians Unite…these things would continue!


  • Hasan
    Jan 31, 2012 - 12:52PM

    Murders happen all over the world with those responsible never being identified. In Pakistan, however, when such a heinous crime occurs we demand that the culprit/s be found – we have a population of over 180 million people after all.


  • Feroz
    Jan 31, 2012 - 1:07PM

    I think most of the readers will by now understand why violence and militancy will never be eliminated.


  • Ibrahim
    Jan 31, 2012 - 8:02PM

    I am surprised that the smoking gun is always linked to ISI in this case. I have read his book and writings in detail and nowhere does his book even remotely suggest that ISI/Army/Navy has links with terrorist organizations as a matter of policy. In fact he only suggests that navy’s lower cadre to some extent have been penetrated by fundamentalists on which a crackdown had been initiated that was facing hurdles due to the promise of revenge from those very extremists. PNS Mehran could ve been a result of that crackdown which obviously makes a lot of sense. Why would ISI/Navy or even the Army feel the need to kill a guy who is telling these simple facts which are only exonerating the institutions a whole about their direct links to terrorists. We are also forgetting that he had direct links to many of army and navy’s sources. Perhaps a thought must be given to the fact that he moved around in circles which werent very safe that include the same people who beheaded Daniel Pearl. Also no mention of the fact that he had been attacked before and a shoot-out had occured which had been a result of personal enmity.


  • carol grayson
    Jan 31, 2012 - 9:35PM

    As a close colleague of Saleem Shahzad working on Asia Despatch website together I am greatly disappointed with the report and also that despite my efforts to express my desire to make a statement no-one seemed to want to talk with me… What I will say is that just after my friend disappeared I started putting out “feelers”. I spoke to a person with links to ISI that told me he had made inquiries and not to worry, that Saleem was in a “safe house being questioned on his latest articles and would be home within a few hours… This was very much the information given independently to Saleem’s wife in an independent call. I make no allegations here just stating what I was told… I knew nothing of the call the family had received until I phoned the family to pass on my own information. Coincidence, someone trying to divert perhaps… I don’t know but surely these two things should have been linked and in the report. I was kept informed all the way following the discovery of Saleem’s body (will not name my contact for fear of his safety being compromised) and indeed sent a photo asking me if I thought the body was that of Saleem… The confusion arose over what he was wearing when he left for the TV studio and what he was wearing when found…and i made further calls to Pakistan. The photo was that of my colleague with torture marks… I worry for those who continue to report and those who are trying to investigate… it would seem to be yet another case of “diminished justice”… No organisation in any country should be above the law… there must be safety for those reporting and investigating and accountability for all…


  • Feb 1, 2012 - 5:58PM

    Very fine words by u..Thats the alarming Question for SC..


  • meekal ahmed
    Feb 1, 2012 - 6:14PM


    But when has there been an “impartial” inquiry on any matter of import in Pakistan?

    I agree on your last point. The family should leave. I am sure the west will be more than happy to provide them political asylum — all the more so because Saleem’s youngest child/son is autistic and needs special care.


  • carol grayson
    Feb 1, 2012 - 9:21PM

    The family should not have to leave… Journalists should be able to report without censorship by death… Perhaps if the same numbers came out in protest as those I reported on marching against drones then some elements of Pakistani “society” may be forced to clean up their act…and there may be a freer press… It is a sad situation indeed when citizens have to send information abroad to be published because they are afraid of consequences if they publish at home… Those who suppress should realize they can’t control the world… those under such restrictions will send far and wide… not only to one outside source!!!


  • Anonymous
    Feb 2, 2012 - 1:35AM

    has someone read his article about Indians acquiring patriot anti missile defence. all readers to pls find that on internet and then decide what kind of consequences he Cud face..Recommend

  • zafarov
    Feb 2, 2012 - 1:51AM

    @Tim Hover:
    “Media proxy working for US taken out by pakistani proxy working for state, its as simple as 2+2”
    Not quite so simple actually. . “proxy working for the US” ‘is pure shameless slander. “by Pakistani proxy working for the state” should read “…by Pakistani proxy working for the state” – within the state”


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