By Sajjad Shaukat
The report of a high-level judicial commission headed by Justice Saqib Nisar, which was formed to probe the killing of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Bureau Chief of the Asia Times Online has been released on January 12 this year.
The commission recorded the statements of at least 41 representatives of media, government officials and intelligence agencies, while investigating the record of 34,000 emails from Saleem Shahzad’s laptop. The findings of the commission asserted that the killers of the murder could not be traced.
And the judicial commission did not find any evidence about Pakistan’s Inter services Intelligence (ISI) behind the assassination of Saleem Shahzad who was disappeared on May 29, 2011 and found killed brutally in the first week of the same year. In this regard, while accusing the ISI in on way or the other, hundreds of journalists and human rights activists from across the country had marched in Islamabad on June 15, last year by staging a 24-hour sit-in next to the Parliament House, demanding that the government should form a judicial commission headed by a Supreme Court judge to probe the killing of Saleem Shahzad. The federal government accepted the demands of the journalists and a judicial commission, headed by Justice Saqib Nisar was formed, which also included the president of Pakistan Union of Journalist (PFUJ) as a member.
On June 17, 2011, the Supreme Court had also accepted the then Supreme Court Bar Association, President Asma Jahangir’s petition for the formation of an independent commission to probe Saleem Shehzad’s assassination. Asma Jahangir, while talking to media after appearing before the Supreme Court bench on behalf of the PFUJ had also blamed ISI in deleting the cell phone record of Shahzad.
A well-placed ISI official who requested anonymity had told a private television on the same day that Asma Jahangir should refrain from issuing such irresponsible statement against the agency, elaborating, “She should refrain from presuming on the issue…the ISI has nothing to do with the Shahzad’s mobile phone’s record.”
Hinting towards ISI, The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had expressed grief on June 1, 2011 at the murder of Saleem Shahzad, calling it a vile attempt to muzzle the media, demanding that “the murderers are apprehended and prosecuted.”
However, without using their sense, most of Pakistan’s foreign-sponsored journalists and media anchors including so-called human rights activists had flatly alleged ISI for the murder of Saleem Shahzad.
A spokesperson of ISPR had voiced concern on baseless insinuations in a section of print and electronic media against ISI in regard to the murder of Journalist Saleem Shahzad.
As regards the assassination of Saleem Shahzad, what the dissimilarity one can note between the false accusations leveled against ISI by Pakistan’s journalists, media commentators and those of the US high officials including their foreign media which have left no stone unturned in maligning country’s superior agency on every occasion.
In this connection, on July 5, 2011, during a Pentagon briefing, US Admiral Mike Mullen had stated that the Pakistani government had sanctioned Mr Shahzad’s killing. In one way or the other, Senator John Kerry also expressed similar thoughts.
Los Angeles Times allegedly wrote on June 1, 2011, “Pakistani journalist who wrote about military’s links to Al Qaeda is found slain.” While, The New York Times and Huffington Post had reported that Obama administration officials believed that Pakistan’s powerful spy agency ISI ordered the killing of a Pakistani journalist who had written scathing reports about the infiltration of militants in Afghanistan. Besides, Indian renowned newspapers also shared the blame game of US media by implicating ISI for the killing of Saleem Shahzad. Notably, US-led foreign media and their top officials did not make much hue and cry about the killings of a number of journalists, killed in the volatile countries as they did in case of Shazad’s murder.
Almost immediately after his disappearance, Human Rights Watch had accused that Shahzad had been arrested by Pakistan’s ISI. He vanished two days after he wrote a story for Asia Times Online which allegedly revealed that Al Qaeda attacked a naval base in Karachi on May 22, 2011 because its negotiations with the Pakistan navy had collapsed.
It is notable that in the last few years, failed in their misadventure, US top officials and their media have perennially been blaming Pak army and ISI in close contacts with the Taliban militants, in supporting the Afghan Taliban, presuming the insecurity of Pak nukes and so on. In the recent past, US Admiral Mike Mullen (R) accused that the Haqqani network is waging a ‘proxy war’ in Afghanistan with the assistance of ISI. Some Indian rulers and Karzai-led puppet regime in Afghanistan also expressed similar views. In fact, as part of the foreign plot, Pakistan has become special target of the internal and external crises created by the United States, India and Israel through their secret agencies, CIA, RAW and Mossad which are in connivance to destabilize Pakistan as it is the only ‘nuclearsied’ country in the Islamic World. In this context, these agencies have been sending well-trained agents and militants in Pakistan, who commit various subversive acts in the country.
Nevertheless, instead of following the blame game of foreign paymasters, most of our media anchors must go in depth to know the ground realities in connection with Shahzad’s assassination. They should have gone through a number of articles, written by Syed Saleem Shahzad as published on the Asia Times Online. Some of his articles, under the captions, ‘A New Face for Militants Emerges’, ‘A Battle Before Battle’, ‘A meeting with al-Qaeda’, ‘Faceless Taliban rule’, ‘Swat Valley: Whose War is This?’, ‘Militancy Unchecked’, ‘Deal with Militants Emboldens Opposition, ‘Baptism of Fire for Pakistan’s Army Head’, ‘Pakistan Groups Banned But not Bowed’, ‘Pakistan, FBI Rules and Roost’, ‘Links of Taliban with Hamas’ etc. show anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim approach of the writer, even entailing anti-state material in line with the allegations of the US-led India and Israeli against Islamabad.
Just like the US and India, in his book titled “Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taleban-beyond bin Laden and 9/11”, Shahzad says that the Mumbai plan was authored by the ISI officers and executed by Lashkar-e-Taiba. Besides, he contested Pakistan’s peace deals in Swat, alleging that it would increase militancy in Afghanistan. He accused Pak army and our intelligence agency, ISI of deep links with the militants and Al Qaeda including Haqqani network. He has also written that safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons is insecure.
No doubt, similarity of blame game by Pakistan’s external enemies and that of Saleem Shahzad proves that in fact, he was the collective agent of CIA and RAW, and had been working on their payroll. These foreign agencies could have been involved in Shahzad’s killing so as to intensify their propaganda against ISI which has foiled a number of anti-Pakistan plots of these elements, while creating obstacles in their sinister designs.
Notably, either it is memogate case or Saleem Shahzad’s murder; it is most regrettable that without grasping the reality, just like the foreign enemy and their media, our own media anchors, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and human rights activists, especially Asma Jehangir start disreputing ISI including its DG Shuja Pasha. In this respect, one can note no difference in the ill-conceived views of these internal elements who speak in tone of Pakistan’s external enemies in maligning ISI and its chief. It seems that some of our NGOs, human rights organizations and journalists are either on the payroll of US-led anti-Pakistan entities or they want to get good coverage in the western media by targeting ISI. No doubt their such acts are not only misguiding the general masses, but are also benefiting the US and India which want to create a division between Pakistan’s civil and security agencies so as to cause further unrest in the country.
Instead of implicating ISI and its DG, Shuja Pasha, our internal elements must better know the services of this intelligence agency which thwarted various conspiracies against the integrity of the Pakistan—especially against its nuclear assets. It captured renowned militants, foreign agents and foiled a number of terrorist attacks through pre-arrests. Despite its limited resources as compared to CIA, RAW and Mossad, ISI has never failed in its goals as the first defence line of the country.
Nonetheless, findings of the judicial commission regarding Saleem Shahzad have exposed the fabricated stories of our journalists and Asma Jehagir.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations