ISI denies murdering journalist who reported on militants’ penetration of Pakistan security services

Laura Rozen
June 1, 2011

Pakistan's intelligence service has denied involvement in the death of a Pakistani investigative journalist who was found murdered this week.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, 41, the Pakistan bureau chief for Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and for Italy's Adrkronos International news agency, disappeared Sunday en route to a television interview in Islamabad. Prior to leaving, Shahzad told associates he feared he was in danger from the ISI--the Pakistani intelligence and security services.

Shahzad had recently reported that a May 22 attack on a Pakistani naval base near the port of Karachi was linked to al Qaeda sympathizers who had infiltrated the ranks of the Pakistani navy.

Shahzad's body was found on Monday outside of Islamabad, reportedly with torture marks on his face and a gunshot wound to his stomach.

Human Rights Watch's Pakistan director Ali Dayan Hasan told the New York Times' Carlotta Gall that he had confirmed Monday that Shahzad was being held by Pakistan's intelligence services, the ISI.

"It is quite clear by his own account and from his reports that they were deeply unhappy with his reporting," Mr. Hasan said.

An ISI official called the claim absurd.

"Show us the proof," an unnamed ISI official told the Washington Post's Karen Brulliard. "Otherwise, it's totally absurd."

U.S. officials have suggested that it's highly unlikely that elements of the Pakistani intelligence services were unaware Osama bin Laden was hiding in the country. Bin Laden was residing at a fortified compound near an elite Pakistani military officers' academy in Abbottabad for over five years before U.S. commandos killed him last month.

Pakistani security services arrested last Friday a former Pakistani naval commando, Kamran Malik, and his brother for questioning in connection with the 16-hour attack on the Karachi naval port, Gall writes.

(Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, who investigated al-Qaeda's alleged infiltration of the Pakistani navy, was found murdered Monday near Islamabad: Cristiano Camera, Courtesy of Adnkronos/AP)