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UPDATE: Pakistan's main news channels are reporting that Shahzad's dead body has been found. One news channel broadcast what appeared to be a black and white image of Shahzad's face. There were visible signs of torture. According to Ali Dayan Hasan of HRW: "Human Rights Watch is clear about the fact that Saleem Shahzad was under threat from the ISI. However, it is essential that the mystery of his gruesome murder be resolved through a transparent investigation and above board legal process. It is time that the Pakistani government understood that this kind of heinous killing is both abhorr
While the ISI was said to have bristled at previous reports by Shahzad, his disappearance happened two days after he wrote a story for Asia Times Online that said that al-Qaeda had attacked a naval base in the port city of Karachi on May 22 after talks had broken down between the Pakistan navy and the global terrorist organization. In his report, Shahzad claimed that al-Qaeda had carried out the attack in retaliation for the arrest of naval officials suspected of links with the terrorist group. (See pictures of the Taliban's war in Pakistan.)
The following morning, Ali Dayan Hasan, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, received a call from Shahzad's wife. "He had told her that I was one of the people that should be called in case anything happens to him," says Hasan. "He had feared for sometime that something like this would happen to him." Later, Human Rights Watch says it was able to establish that Shahzad was being held by the ISI. "We were informed through reliable interlocutors that he was detained by the ISI," says Hasan. Those interlocutors, he adds, had received direct confirmation from the agency that it was detaining Shahzad. In any case, Hasan says, "in a high-security zone like Islamabad, it is only the ISI that can effect the disappearance of man and his car without a trace."
On Oct. 17, Shahzad had been summoned to the ISI's headquarters to discuss the contents of an article published the day before with two officials from the agency's media wing. That report, published in Asia Times Online, alleged that Pakistan had quietly released Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Baradar, Mullah Omar's deputy, to take part in talks through the Pakistan army. According to the e-mail, labeled "For future reference" and seen by TIME, one of the officials said the following words to Shahzad: "I must give you a favor. We have recently arrested a terrorist and recovered a lot of data, diaries and other material during the interrogation. The terrorist had a list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know." Incidentally, the two ISI officials present at the meeting, Rear Admiral Adnan Nawaz and Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, are both from the navy. Pervaiz has just been appointed the new commander of the Karachi naval base that was attacked.
Hasan of Human Rights Watch says that statement can be read as a threat. "The tone and the manner in which it was issued did constitute a threat," he says. "Shahzad described it to me." The rest of the meeting, as Shahzad described it in the e-mail, was held in "an extremely polite and friendly atmosphere," but no words were minced. In the e-mail, the ISI official was said to have asked for the source of his story. Shahzad writes that he would not name the source, but said he had been told the information by an intelligence official and later confirmed the story from "the most credible Taliban source." According to Shahzad's account, he was asked to "write a denial of the story" but "refused to comply with the [ISI] demand."