Pakistan mourns Shahzad, killers roam free (Roundup)

June 1st, 2011 - 9:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, June 1 (IANS) Pakistanis Wednesday widely denounced the kidnapping, torture and murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad, whose in-depth reporting of Islamist groups had clearly rubbed Islamabad the wrong way.

As condemnation of the brutal slaying continued to pour in, with even US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joining in to condemn the killing, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said journalists in Pakistan would be permitted to carry small arms for protection.

That was little consolation to Shahzad’s family and journalists as they moaned the brutalization of Pakistani society and sought the arrest of his killers.

But amid persistent speculation that Shahzad was seized by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), a state within a state in Pakistan, Minister Malik said the journalist may have been killed due to a personal row.

There appeared to be few takers for the Malik theory.

President Asif Ali Zardari expressed “deep grief and sorrow” over the killing and ordered an immediate probe into a murder that has numbed many Pakistanis.

Shahzad, who wrote on Islamist groups with clear inside knowledge, went missing Sunday. The body of the 40-year-old correspondent of Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online was found Tuesday in a canal in Punjab province.

A doctor said Shahzad, who leaves behind a wife and three children, “was beaten to death, his ribs were broken and marks of wounds were on his left side and on the legs”.

The US too condemned the killing. “His work reporting on terrorism and intelligence issues in Pakistan brought to light the trouble extremism poses to Pakistan’s stability,” Clinton was quoted as saying by Asia Times Online.

Echoing the national mood, the Daily Times said in an editorial: “It’s a sad day, nay black day, for journalism in Pakistan that a journalist was picked up from the capital, and his tortured body dumped in another town while the perpetrators of this gory crime roam free.

“Journalists … face threats both from the militants and our intelligence agencies…

“Threats, harassment, abduction and even murder is what journalists in Pakistan are victims of, all too frequently.”

Shahzad is widely believed to have been seized by intelligence officials for alleging that terrorists attacked a major naval base in Karachi May 22 after the navy refused to free sailors held for suspected militant links.

According to friends, he had been threatened in the past by ISI officials.

In November 2006, Shahzad was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. He and another Pakistani journalist were held for a week on suspicion of spying but later released unharmed after they “confessed” to wrongdoing.

Former diplomat Karamatullah K. Ghori moaned the lack of leadership in Pakistan while paying tributes to the slain journalist.

“The ruling elite has become almost irrelevant to the country’s crying need for wise and enlightened leadership to arrest the inexorable slide into anarchy,” Ghori wrote for Asia Times Online.

“Their sole concern is with remaining in power by any means, even if it means subcontracting Pakistan to a US agenda.”

The former Pakistani ambassador to several countries, including China, Turkey and Iraq, also hit out at Pakistan’s military.

“The military leadership has failed to check the spread of the festering cancer of fundamentalism and radicalism in its ranks - a damning legacy of General Zia ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf…

“Saleem’s last contribution to Asia Times Online focused intently on this ‘black hole’ of Pakistan. And he paid for it with his life.”

Anger was evident on Twitter too.

Horacio Calderon wrote that Shahzad was “horribly tortured before killed. Where is the phantom UN to apply sanctions against ISI?”

Another tweet said: “Pakistani intelligence agency and Taliban: a deal w/the devil. No one in control.”

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