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Pakistani investigative reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad's murder could be a case of personal enmity, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said.
Shahzad, one of Pakistan's best investigative journalists and bureau chief of Asia Times Online, went missing on May 29 from Islamabad while on his way to a local television channel to participate in a talk show. His body- with his face severely beaten- was found yesterday in a canal in Mandi Bahauddin area of the Punjab province
''Shahzad, 40, had on several occasions been warned by officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) over articles they deemed to be detrimental to Pakistan's national interests or image. He leaves a wife, two sons aged 14 and seven, and a daughter aged 12.
Human Rights Watch researcher Ali Dayan Hasan earlier said he suspected ISI officials abducted Shahzad, possibly because of a recent story he wrote on al-Qaeda infiltration in the Pakistani navy. Authorities haven't commented. (Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike.)
Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said Shahzad had complained about being threatened by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
The disappearance of Mr Shahzad, who also worked for the Italian news agency Adnkronos International, came just two days after the publication of his final article. In it, he had written that al-Qa’ida militants had infiltrated the naval forces at the Mehran naval air station in Karachi, which was attacked and besieged on May 22 in a confrontation that lasted more than 16 hours. It said the attack had been carried out after talks between the militants and the navy broke down. This week, it emerged Pakistani authorities had arrested a former naval commando, Kamran Ahmed Malik, and were questioning him over the attack and his alleged links to militants.
Mr Shahzad was known to have sources both within the Pakistan’s intelligence community and among Taliban and al-Qa’ida militants and had on one occasion interviewed militant leader Ilyas Kashmiri. Last October, the journalist had been called for a meeting at ISI headquarters after he had written an article that claimed the Pakistani authorities had released from custody Afghan Taliban military commander Mullah Baradar to negotiate with the Pakistan army.
Mr Shahzad said the mood at the meeting, at which he was asked for but declined to reveal the sources for his article, was polite but that at the end one of the senior officers had said to him: “I must give you a favour. We have recently arrested a terrorist and have recovered a lot of data, dairies and other material during the interrogation. The terrorist had a hit list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know.”
Mr Hasan said the journalist had taken the final words as a threat.
If you remove the obvious alternatives, whatever remains must be the logical option. That would involve Israel - in other words, elements of the Pakistan navy may have been cooperating with al-Qaeda over a possible attack on Israel. The modus operandi would be similar to the attacks on India in November 2008 - sea-based, which is actively ignored by the Pakistan navy.
Unless, if the revelations were "inconvenient" to anyone on an operational basis. Massoud was an inconvenience to the Taliban in their ability to give shelter to al-Qaeda (which Bin Laden shrewdly realized would be needed after attacking the US); he was hence removed. Similarly, it may well be that Saleem was removed because his revelations were complicating certain operations.
Saleem's killing raises the question - why? What was the need to kidnap, torture and kill the man? His recent articles have increasingly exposed the connections between al-Qaeda and the ISI, and more importantly those between al-Qaeda and the Pakistan navy. Specifically, he stumbled upon the casus belli for last month's attacks on Karachi naval installations by al-Qaeda, namely the arrests of various navy personnel due to their proximity to al-Qaeda.
So what if the Pakistan navy and Ilyas Kashmiri were in cahoots and a journalist found out? The current head of the Pakistan military, Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, was previously the head of the ISI - the organization that is accused of sheltering Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad. Therefore, the existence of links between the two (al-Qaeda and navy) wouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
This theory though doesn't quite hold water because a lesser organization like LeT had already attacked India in November 2008. The objective of terror organizations is to do something "new and improved" like the ads for soaps. Hence, it is highly unlikely that whatever Saleem was in danger of stumbling on had anything to do with India.