Asif Chauhdary

Leading Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad who was missing since Sunday night was found dead near Mandi Bahauddin, a significant grain market of Punjab. The initial post mortem confirmed that the young brilliant journalist was murdered. Why he was murdered is indeed a question needs to be answered and that needs a sober investigation. Nevertheless, minutes after the breaking news of his death there was uproar on the television channels, where the anchor persons and the analysts were directly blaming a particular intelligence agency for his killing. No one should have any doubt that the murder of Saleem Shahzad is indeed a colossal loss to the journalism world which is irreparable and it will have very serious implications on the national events in the times to come. However at the same time this would also be very unfair to draw a conclusion without putting in any investigative efforts. This is not the silencing of a first free voice. There have been such events in the past. Have we forgotten the killing of Daniel Pearl of Wall Street Journal for whom Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was alleged and arrested? Has Ms. Hilary Clinton, who has ‘graciously’ condoled and condemned the killing of Saleem Shahzad, so promptly, forgotten the story of Charles Harman and Frank Teruggi, who were arrested during the US-backed 1973 Chilean coup and were later murdered along with many other freelancers in Santiago’s national stadium. It was only in 1999, when the US State Department declassified bundles of documents; the truth revealed that US intelligence agents played a role in their deaths. Neither the killing of any journalist in the past had a justification, nor does the murder of some news reporter have any validation now. But never ever had anyone given the verdict without going into any investigation as some irresponsible and immature media persons are breathlessly doing now.

It would be quite pertinent if impartially analysed as why and who murdered Saleem Shahzad. Honestly speaking there can be more than one suspect. Dropping ISI out of the suspected list would be quite unfair as the supreme intelligence agency of Pakistan is the first one to be put under heavy volley by the friends and the foes, second could be the terrorists outfits who thought that the diseased journalist was probably not playing some fair game and third could be some foreign intelligence agency who has some specific and highly confidential vested interests.

Let’s start it with the prime suspect ISI. Ever since the Abbottabad debacle, the poor organisation is already under heavy criticism. The agency had been blamed for abducting and casual torturing in the past but never ever had anyone laid an accusing finger at it for a heinous crime like murder because in the heart of the hearts people know that ISI is not as callous as the civil police of Pakistan have proved to be. Why the agency, at such a time when it is targeted nationally and internationally, would invite more troubles? Knowing very well that a well timed symphony is being orchestrated against them currently, only some insane would commit such suicidal acts. As UK based daily Guardian has quoted that two ISI officials met him in the past and threatened him of the consequences. Well, that sounds ridiculous and stupid, since the threats by any intelligence agencies are not handed over formally over a cup of tea. Can Guardian quote just one example from the history where some journalist was called by some high profiler intelligence officer and was threatened? If we carefully analyse late Saleem Shazad’s recent write ups then we will find them rather helpful to the military leadership. This logic is otherwise not convincing and valid, because if that’s so then there are many other journalists, who penned more bitter and harsh write-ups, but are roaming freely and ISI or the armed forces have not even said a word to them. However, the possibility of exploiting his anti forces pieces by some unknown forces, to frame the organisation thus killing two birds with one stone cant be ruled out.

On the other hand Shazad’s recent book ‘Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11’ has raised lots of controversies. According to a number of published reports Shahzad was quite upset about the feedback on the book. If we remember Saleem was made hostage by Al Qaeda and Taliban sometime back, later he was accorded the status of a guest by his keepers. If this book is taken and understood in that backdrop then it sounds quite possible that his ‘friends’ were not happy over his unclear point of view regarding them. Even in his recent article about Mehran Base tragedy, he has put in more efforts to expose the terrorists’ network and functioning then doing any harm to the armed forces.


The last but not the least possibility is of the adventure by some foreign intelligence agency. If it is kept in mind that; the armed forces and ISI are purposely targeted for the obvious motives these days, anti army quarters within the country and abroad have collaborated, specific campaigns against the armed forces are being run by a section of media and few bloggers and finally the time is found apt to reap then guess who is going to be benefited by committing such reckless action?

In the underworld’s affairs the real purpose of the actions also remains unearthed but let’s take it for granted that those who appear palpable culprits are usually turn out to be innocents.