Pakistan’s Spy Agency Denies Involvement in Journalist’s Death

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 2:45 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Pakistan's main intelligence agency is rejecting allegations of involvement in the killing of a Pakistani journalist who was investigating possible links between the military and extremists.

Syed Saleem Shahzad was buried in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi on Wednesday, as hundreds of relatives, journalists and local politicians looked on.

Shahzad's body was found about 200 kilometers from Islamabad on Tuesday, after he was reported missing earlier this week. Police say his body showed signs of torture.

The 40-year-old father of three worked for the Hong-Kong based Asia Times Online and other publications. After last week's brazen militant attack on a Pakistani naval base, he wrote an article in which he alleged al-Qaida had links with the Pakistani navy.

A Human Rights Watch researcher, Ali Dayan Hasan, said Shahzad told him he feared Pakistani intelligence agents were after him.

On Wednesday, an unnamed official with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency said allegations that the spy agency threatened Shahzad or was somehow involved in his murder are “baseless” and “unfounded.”

The ISI official told the Associated Press of Pakistan that the journalist met with ISI officials in October of last year to discuss a story Shahzad had written, and that the meeting was “polite” and “friendly.” The intelligence official added that Shahzad's death should not be used to target and malign the country's security agency.

Dozens of journalists took to the streets throughout Pakistani cities on Wednesday to protest Shahzad's death. The journalists' union also declared two days of mourning.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has announced a police investigation into Shahzad's killing.

Human rights group Amnesty International says any probe into Shahzad's abduction and death must investigate whether Pakistan's security and intelligence agencies, especially the ISI, were involved.

Amnesty's Asia-Pacific Director, Sam Zarifi, said Tuesday that Pakistan's intelligence agencies face serious allegations that they have been involved in the numerous killings of activists, lawyers and journalists.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly condemned Shahzad's killing and welcomed Pakistan's probe. She said the journalist's reporting on terrorism and intelligence issues exposed the troubles extremism poses to Pakistan's stability.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed shock at the killing and said Shahzad “courageously” reported on terrorism and extremism, which has caused “so much suffering” to the people of Pakistan.

Shahzad was last seen leaving his home in Islamabad on Sunday to participate in a television interview.