ISI denies hand in journalist`s murder
02 June, 2011
ISLAMABAD: The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the prime suspect in the gruesome murder of renowned journalist Saleem Shahzad, on Wednesday categorically denied any involvement in the killing and offered “to leave no stone unturned in helping bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice”.
In a rare statement issued officially by an anonymous official through the state-owned news agency and PTV, the ISI denied having anything to do with Saleem Shahzad’s murder but said the ISI officials had met him last October to discuss a story he had written that month.
The role of the ISI came into sharp focus immediately after Saleem Shahzad was abducted, when Human Rights Watch issued a statement and released the correspondence of Saleem Shahzad with HRW Pakistan Rep, Ali Hasan Dayan, in which the late journalist had pointed fingers at the ISI. The HRW had also stated it had confirmation that the ISI was holding Shahzad and that he would be released soon and would be allowed to talk to his family.
But the ISI statement referred to the HRW claim in these words: “The reported e-mail of Mr. Saleem Shahzad to Mr Ali Hasan Dayan of HRW, which is being made the basis of baseless allegations leveled against ISI, has no veiled or unveiled threats in it.”
The official pointed out that in the words of Saleem Shahzad, “the conversation was held in an extremely polite and friendly atmosphere and there was no mincing of words in the room at any stage. The reported meeting between the journalist and ISI officials of the Information Management Wing was held on 17th October 2010 to discuss a story he had done for Asia Times Online on 15th October, and the meeting had nothing sinister about it,” added the official.
“It is part of the Wing’s mandate to remain in touch with the journalist community,” said the official. “The main objective behind all such interactions is provision of accurate information on matters of national security. ISI also makes it a point to notify institutions and individuals alike of any threat warning received about them,” he said.
The ISI expressed its regret on the assassination of Syed Saleem Shahzad but said the tragic incident should not be used to target and malign the country’s security agency. The ISI official said the unfortunate and tragic death of Syed Saleem Shahzad was a source of concern for the entire nation. “It is regrettable that some sections of the media have taken it upon themselves to use the incident to target and malign the ISI. Baseless accusations against the country’s sensitive agencies for their alleged involvement in Shahzad’s murder are totally unfounded. In the absence of any evidence and when an investigation is still pending, such allegations are tantamount to unprofessional conduct on the part of the media. The ISI offers its deepest and heartfelt condolence to the bereaved family and assures them that it will leave no stone unturned in helping bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice,” the official added.
The ISI official said the media should act with responsibility to avoid any possible legal course and refrain from baseless allegations against the ISI that seek to deliberately malign the organisation in the eyes of the people of Pakistan.
Despite the statement by the ISI, a lot of questions about the murder still remain unanswered. As was anticipated, the post-mortem conducted by a group of doctors at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) revealed that Shahzad died soon after his kidnapping.
Strangely enough, an expert engaged in the autopsy was of the opinion that it did not appear to be a case of deliberate killing but the perpetrators of physical violence unwittingly dealt blows that resulted in the breaking of ribs, which ruptured his lungs and liver, leading to death.
A PIMS spokesman, Dr. Waseem Khawaja, told our sources that a team of pathologists and forensic experts of PIMS, comprising Dr.Farrukh, the Medico-Legal Officer (MLO), Dr. Ashok Kumar (Pathologist) and Dr. Fahad (General Surgeon), had conducted the post-mortem of the slain journalist.
Dr Khawaja said the report suggests the vital organs stopped functioning after severe bleeding because of damage caused to the lungs and liver of the victim. According to the autopsy report, the victim died at least 48 hours before the time of post-mortem and the cause of death was stated to be severe physical torture.
“There were at least 17 wounds, including deep gashes, on different parts of his body. The ribs from the left and right sides seemed to be hit with violent force, using a blunt object. The broken ribs pierced Shahzad’s lungs, apparently causing the death,” Dr. Khawaja told our sources while quoting the medico legal report.
Circumstantial evidence indicates the captors took Shahzad to a hideout in Islamabad immediately after kidnapping him and tortured him there. However, many are alarmed by the idea that a dead body was carried in a car from Islamabad and dumped miles away, despite several police and security check-points. “This seems like a big ‘adventure’ for any criminal — unless the killers were sure they would not be touched,” said an observer.
Concerned quarters are also wondering how anybody could have such precise information about the movements of late Saleem Shahzad. Sources say the facility of monitoring/tapping/tracking telephonic communications of cellular networks and PTCL landlines is available only with the ‘agencies.’
“How did the abductors, whoever they were, had the knowledge beforehand that Shahzad would leave his home at a certain time to participate in a TV talk show and would take a certain set route to reach his destination? There are many indicators that somebody or some people knew about his plans precisely and thus executed their kidnapping plan with great precision,” agitated journalists said.