Pakistani journalist abducted by ISI? (Lead)

May 31st, 2011 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 31 (IANS) A Pakistani journalist missing since Sunday after he alleged links between Al Qaeda and some navy officials has been taken away by Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, a rights body has alleged.

The well-informed Saleem Shahzad, who writes extensively on Islamist outfits for Asia Times Online, disappeared after leaving his home to take part in a talk show on Dunya television.

Shahzad was scheduled to tell the programme about an article he wrote May 27 on possible links between Al Qaeda and officials within the Pakistan Navy.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Tuesday voiced “serious concern” over the disappearance of Shahzad.

“Reports that a state agency might have been involved in his disappearance are exceedingly disturbing,” the Commission said.

Media reports suggest that Shahzad’s reporting of a terrorist attack on a major navy base in Karachi may be linked with his abduction.

“Unconfirmed reports suggest his captors have informed Shahzad’s friends and family through anonymous calls that he would be released soon,” the HRCP said.

Shahzad is the widely-read Islamabad bureau chief of Singapore-based Asia Times Online. He also writes for the Italian news agency AKI.

The Commission urged the government to ensure Shahzad’s safe release.

The Daily Times newspaper Tuesday quoted those close to Shahzad as saying that he had got warnings from intelligence agencies for his reporting on Pakistan, in particular the activities of militant groups.

Terrorists stormed the PNS Mehran naval base and destroyed two US-made surveillance aircraft. The siege ended after 16 hours of fierce fighting that left 10 security personnel and four terrorists dead.

Earlier, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it had learnt that Shahzad was in the custody of the ISI, which is widely seen as a state within a state in Pakistan.

HRW’s Pakistan representative Ali Dayan Hasan told the Daily Times Monday that they had documented similar cases of abduction and torture of journalists by security agencies.

Those close to Shahzad told the daily that he was picked up by intelligence officials who have apparently promised to release him soon.

Shahzad was taken away by unidentified people Sunday evening when he left his F-8 Sector residence.

His mobile phone has been switched off since then. There is also no trace of his car.

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 and put on trial. But they were freed unharmed after they confessed to wrongdoing.

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