Pakistani journalist executed by ISI: report

Asia Times reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad will be sorely missed by The Long War Journal. His insight and reporting on the al Qaeda-Taliban nexus was innovative, and his accounts of the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the support the group received from Pakistan in the early to mid-2000s were prescient. He was willing to put his life at risk to meet Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, and always came back with interesting interviews. When Saleem published, we read. Saleem was also a friend of The Long War Journal; less than two weeks ago we opened discussions with Saleem to contribute, and were confident we would come to an agreement.

Saleem’s torture and brutal murder, at the hands of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate according to reports, underscores the depravity toward human life that occurs in Pakistan on a daily basis. The Pakistani people suffer horrific attacks from the Taliban, al Qaeda, and a morass of terror groups, many which are supported and encouraged by Pakistan’s military and ISI. Saleem was the latest victim of the deteriorating state that is Pakistan.

A report on Saleem’s death, from Dawn/AFP, appears below. You can also read a statement from Asia Times and a tribute from AKI. And this TIME Magazine article provides more details on the life and death of Saleem, and the challenges Pakistani journalists face while reporting there.

From Dawn/AFP:

A Pakistani journalist has been found dead near the capital Islamabad after writing about links between the Pakistani military and al Qaeda, officials said Tuesday.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, 40, worked for an Italian news agency and an online news site registered in Hong Kong. He went missing on Sunday after he left his home in the capital to take part in a television talk show, but never arrived.

Officials said his body was identified by relatives after being found near his car in Sarai Alamgir, 150 kilometres (93 miles) southeast of Islamabad.

“Relatives visited the police station and now they have identified the dead body. They said it is the body of journalist Saleem Shahzad,” police official Zulfiqar Ali told AFP by telephone.

He disappeared two days after writing an investigative report in Asia Times Online that al Qaeda carried out last week’s attack on a naval air base to avenge the arrest of naval officials arrested on suspicion of al Qaeda links.

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 other day he visited our office and informed us that ISI had threatened him. He told us that if anything happened to him, we should inform the media about the situation and threats,” Hasan told AFP.

“We can form an opinion after the investigation and a court verdict, but… in the past the ISI has been involved in similar incidents.”

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  • jayc says:

    Bill, I really enjoyed reading Mr. Shahzads reporting. Even though Asia Times has a decidedly
    anti-American slant, his reportings and observations were spot-on and contributed to a clearer picture of the murky dealings in Pakistan. Too bad about this, as I would have loved to have gotten his perspective as a guest reporter on LWJ.
    I guess I won’t bother to read Asia Times anymore. All they have left is Pepe Escobar, and that definitely is not saying much.

  • Raven says:

    RIP Shahzad. You have accomplished much and has paid ultimate toll in doing that.
    I don’t expect mass protests against his killing, if any. It’s shows that Pakistan is in a state of civil war and feel sorry for civilians caught in this.
    Fundamentalism has never led any society to prosperity. Current Pakistan may be too late in realizing this… and their Army, thinking of strategic depth– whatever that means– may not even get a hint .

  • Paul D says:

    No surprise ISI run every anti western,anti Indian group in Pakistan and we fund them because?

  • Gaz says:

    I always enjoyed his articles, what a shame.

  • Victor says:

    This is Daniel Peral redux. Daniel got too close too close to the 9/11-AQ-ISI connection. Syed Shehzad too got very close to so me unpalatable truths regarding the penetration of AQ within various sections of the Pakistani armed forces.
    The information he was revealing was not supposed to come out, scaring the ISI. They do not expect moles in their supposedly ideologically bound organization. Syed was probably shaken down to reveal his sources within the ISI. Thereafter he was done in was to scare the media.
    The media has been increasingly vocal about the failings of the Army/ISI combo. Commentators have been openly berating the PA generals as a bunch of land-grabbing mafia lords, who have lost all wars they have fought. Syed’s killing sends a crude but direct message that there is a limit to which the Army/ISI will tolerate such open criticism. The word is that most commentators have gone silent and the anger/fury against the Army has been muzzled.
    Their methods might be crude but they are very effective. The only way to deal with this brute force tactics is even more brutal force.

  • Charles says:

    Well considering that Shahzad’s piece was about the Paki Navy and the hit was done by the ISI it looks like there is some coordination between the Paki services.
    That would be the Paki taliban navy coordinating with the Paki taliban ISI.
    Presumably there are other non taliban parts to the navy at least because one dept of the paki navy arrested some taliban navy types. But the movements of the arresting party were totally transparent to the taliban–meaning that the penetration of the navy by the taliban is far more significant than just the 10 arrested.
    Further this suggests that it was no empty boast by the taliban that the taliban have no interest in sabotaging paki nukes because the taliban expect to take power in Pakistan.
    Which means that the paki services army navy ISI are steadily accruing taliban sympathizers. the taliban is biding their time, waiting for their strength in the paki services to reach a tipping point.
    Which means that the US has to go to the Paki brass and tell them in no uncertain terms that they have to clear the taliban out of their services. that a take over of pakistan by the taliban would result in the USA taking out pakistan’s nukes.

  • Charu says:

    RIP, Shahzad. He was a true patriot who loved his flawed country, warts and all. Asia Times is a pro-China, pro-Pakistan news outlet, and yet Shahzad’s articles were always interesting to read and offered considerable insight into the shadowy world of the Pakistani military-terror complex.
    That the ISI could be this brazen in its contempt for a brave and fair-minded journalist (unlike their house journalists like Hamid Mir who have no credibility whatsoever) shows how venal and poisonous this Mafia organization truly is. Ray Davis was truly fortunate that he got out alive and was not carved up like poor Danny Pearl.
    The Pakistan Navy, and specifically the base that was recently attacked, had a role in the Mumbai terror attacks; a frogman from there trained the terrorists and the boat that they set sail in was purchased by one of the brass. The ISI obviously didn’t want their deep involvement exposed by Shahzad. His murder will have a chilling effect on the few remaining sane voices in this benighted country, just like the Salman Taseer assassination did. Time to cut our losses and treat it as the rogue terrorist state that it is.

  • Michael says:

    Bill and editors,
    Shahzad left behind his brandnew book on al Qaeda.
    It was published late last week.
    It’s a great book, full of insight.
    Could you please review it here at the LWJ?

  • villiger says:

    When this is what the fight degenerates to, you know that ‘civil’ society is finished. It is now eating on itself.
    Pakistan is a very sick country. The US is propping it up on life support.
    I hold Kayani and Pasha for Shahzad’s brutal murder. I look forward to the day when these thugs are brought to The Hague.
    I commiserate with Shahzad’s family and with his Pakistani readers who appreciated his incisiveness.

  • Spooky says:

    There is a reason for the IS in ISI standing for “Inter-Services”.
    May Shahzad rest in peace. May his family be given strength in this time of grief and may the honest media in Pakistan hold strong.

  • Jimmy says:

    This time ISI has put its own head in a noose. It is up to us to tighten it! Lets throw all the human rights organizations behind them like crazy…Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, etc etc. Throw the kitchen sink at them, I mean. Drag Shuja Pasha to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. If we can do that to Mladic, why not Pasha? After all, Pasha has killed NATO soldiers, unlike Mladic who targeted his own (erstwhile) countrymen. Additionally, begin dozens of court cases against ISI in our courts and keep summoning Pasha and Kayani. Turn all western media against them, just like we did for Gaddhafi and Milosevic. Keep the pressure on them until they crack. No more Mr. Nice Guy!

  • kp says:

    I think Charu sums it up for me. I always enjoyed reading his reports.

    I was trying to think today was he the reporter that interviewed Hakimullah Mehsud after he went into hiding? I remeber the bit about his guards being paranoid about his pen and any other potential electronic devices he might be carrying? I think that was one of his pieces in the ATO.

    Daniel Pearl was kidnapped by an opportunistic group with no clear goals and passed along a few times before he got to KSM. I could see Syed Saleem Shahzad being grabbed by one of the many three-letter terror groups given his recent reporting about the reasons behind the recent attacks on the Pak navy. I suspect the ISI had been warning him off but I don’t think as an org (or even as a bunch of rogues) they’d be dumb enough to kill him. I suspect that’s what he thought. He was picked up in Islamabad (going to a TV station not to meet someone) and found in Gujarat though not too far from the Jammu/Kashmir border. I do note that the main road (N5) back to Peshawar via Rawalpindi runs through the town he was found it. A quick route back to the FATA.

  • hillbilly says:

    it was shezad salim who claimed in his asia times article that he is 100 per cent sure that helos involved in osama raid took off from ghazi tarbela.
    if you belive him than it was pak us joint operation.
    talibans belived him and this resulted in the death of 100s pakistani soldiers.
    its ok to eulogize the dead man but there is no harm in keeping the perspective in sight.

  • Luca says:

    Political analysts around the world should mourn the brutal killing of the bravest, fiercely independent and most insightful reporter on Pakistan and the Monster within – a military establishment split between rabid anti-indian ultranationalism, which is blind to the threat posed by islamic militants, and downright supporters of the idea of global jihad. Our thoughts are with his loved ones and especially his small children, may they grow up to see a better country than the one their father lived in. Pakistan ka matlab kya? – may the ISI and terrorist stooges never get to give the final answer to this eternal and most poignant question!
    Gli analisti del Ce.S.I.
    Riposa in Pace Saleem!

  • Rosario says:

    Syed might have been on to something. Killing this journalist is surely a sign of weakness and vulnerability of the real enemies of Pakistan. Obviously they are afraid of their own people if ordinary Pakistani citizens found out what they are doing.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    The “Talibans” have been killing Pakistanis for years, they didn’t need Saleem’s report as an excuse.
    Saleem, like every reporter, made mistakes and had his faults, blind spots, and such. But when it came to bravery, insight on the plays, and the interconnectiveness of terror groups int he region, he was peerless. He deserves our praise. And he will be missed.

  • NP says:

    Perhaps overly Simplistic, but, from a [State’s] Point of View.
    You [Threaten] what Scares you.
    You [Kill] what Terrifies You.
    Between Bill and He, and a scouring of OSINT , a clearer picture always developed.
    GD the Perps ! I guess another $20 Billion will have to go there way. I just puked in my mouth !!

  • ER says:

    many of us felt a connection to him, a respect, a gratitude. May God comfort his family and loved ones. God help Pakistan.

  • Charles says:

    Well considering that Shahzad’s piece was about the Pakistani Navy and the
    hit was done by the ISI it looks like there is some coordination
    between the Pakistani services.
    That would be the Pakistani Taliban navy coordinating with the Pakistani Taliban
    Presumably there are other non Taliban parts to the navy at least
    because one dept of the Pakistani navy arrested some Taliban navy types. But
    the movements of the arresting party were totally transparent to the
    Taliban–meaning that the penetration of the navy by the Taliban is far
    more significant than just the 10 arrested. Further the ease with which the Taliban entered and exited the Navel base corroborates this view.
    Further this suggests that it was no empty boast by the Taliban that
    the Taliban have no interest in sabotaging Pakistani nukes because the
    Taliban expect to take power in Pakistan.
    Which means that the Pakistani services army navy ISI are steadily accruing
    Taliban sympathizers. the Taliban is biding their time, waiting for
    their strength in the Pakistani services to reach a tipping point.
    Which means that the US has to go to the Pakistani brass and tell them in no
    uncertain terms that they have to clear the Taliban out of their
    services. that a take over of Pakistan by the Taliban would result in
    the USA taking out Pakistan’s nukes.

  • Villiger says:

    hillbilly, got a link on the helo theory?
    “its ok to eulogize the dead man but there is no harm in keeping the perspective in sight.”
    You are dying by a thousand cuts, do you REALise? Suggest you keep that perspective in sight as you wake up every morning. Shahzad’s death, as a fearless journalist represents at least a 100 of those cuts. Hillbilly you already don’t have a leg to stand on, but then from where you are, you can hardly see the wood from the trees. Pakistan has never had a high-degree of self-awareness in its functioning in the family of nations. Born illegitimate, lived illegitimate. And if its demise is illegitimate, that’ll be fine too for Shahzad, in his death, has shown you what a dastardly society you have become.
    NOTHING is wasted.

  • Vienna,01-06-2011
    As for me, I see journalists reporting from Pakistan now
    would be allowed/required to carry arms in “self defense”
    as announced by the interior minister Malik. Then a new
    era of journalists shooting first begins. How else can they
    defend themselves and survive from armed mobs in the
    land of the pure?
    -Kulamarva Balakrishna

  • blert says:

    Considering that AQ is running the Somali piracy campaign for a 20% over-ride its no accident that they are zeroed in on the P3 Orions.
    Such platforms are perfect for finding suitable victims…
    Orions operating with conflicted crews…
    We’re financing their jihad!

  • Rana Muhammad Imran Khan says:

    Syed Saleem Shazad, was a unique reporter, who bring reports from depths and always disclose secret things, happening in Pakistan-Afghanistan.
    ISI caught in net, whether ISI killed or not but all figures are towards ISI.
    Situation shall change entirely, just like 2007 case of Chief Justice of Pakistan, which backfired to mush regime.

  • naresh c. says:

    Most nations have an army but Pakistan is an army with a nation. Most Americans cannot understand the statement unless they read Ayesha Siddiqa’s obscure book ‘Military Inc.’
    The Pakistani military’s private business empire could be worth as much as 20bn $ and ‘military welfare foundations’ run the largest banks, news channels, universities, real estate, hospitals, opium cartels and industrial conglomerates that manufacture everything from cement to cornflakes, and own 12m acres of public land. They own at least 7% of private assets and finance political and religious parties. Kayani is the Mullen, Obama and Bill Gates combined of Pakistan. Zardari is just a figurehead to take blame. All the generous US aid goes to the rich ‘Military Inc.’ which prevents development in Pakistan and peace in South Asia. If you are in Pakistan, you should not be critical of 2 Ms – Mohammad and Military. This reporter exposed the shadowy dealings of the latter at times. Silenced.

  • kp says:

    An interesting set of comments inan The Independent blog


    Saleem believed that the compound in which the al-Qa

  • jacksonb says:

    His reporting will be gretaly missed. Not often could someone write about the big picture and articulate it to readers.

  • kp says:

    After a search the best denial I can find is this anonymous ISI spokesman saying there were no “veiled or unveiled threats” made to Syed Saleem Shahzad “in the email” though the comments seems to contain their own veiled threats and worth of quoting in full for context. It hardly makes one feel warm and cuddly about the ISI. They really need to work on their PR (especially their PR in english).

    Salim Shahzad death source of concern for entire nation: ISI official

    ISLAMABAD, Jun 1 (APP): The unfortunate and tragic death of Syed Saleem Shahzad is a source of concern for the entire nation but the incident should not be used to target and malign the country

  • wallbangr says:

    KP, I think the ISI beat him to death in such a brutal fashion to send a strong message to journalists in Pak: be careful how close you get to the ISI. I suspect the lack of subtlety was intentional. Savages….

  • villiger says:

    wallbangr, you said it!
    Does it get any lower than that?!

  • Jahil says:

    Saleem was killed because he knew more than the intelligence pigmies. He was killed because he knew the violence trajectory in pakistan. He was killed because he knew the chemistry of the murky waters in pk…………….


Islamic state



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