White House officials say that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was responsible for ordering the killing of Pakistani investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad.
Senior US administration officials admitted that the attack was conducted to silence Mr Shahzad’s criticism about the infiltration of militants into Pakistan’s military, and stated that sufficient evidence points to the ISI as orchestrator of the killing. Officials said the evidence showed the ISI’s actions to be “barbaric and unacceptable.”
“Every indication is that this was a deliberate, targeted killing that was most likely meant to send shock waves through Pakistan’s journalist community and civil society,” said an official.
The White House intelligence is likely to raise existing tensions between the US and Pakistan, following the US commando raid in May that killed Osama bin Laden and was carried out without Pakistan’s knowledge.
Report & Analysis: Pakistan spy agency ordered journalist's murder - US officials [Guardian, 5 July 2011]
Mr Shahzad’s death follows unprecedented questioning in the media about the professionalism of the army and the ISI in the aftermath of the US raid.
Since then, the ISI has called and visited journalists, warning them to douse their criticisms.
Mr Shahzad had written articles over the last several years about the relationship between the militants and the military. He was abducted three days after publication of his article that identified Al Qaeda as responsible for a commando attack on Pakistan’s main naval base in Karachi on May 22, and described negotiations between the navy and a Qaeda representative.
The journalist had reportedly received multiple death threats from ISI officers in the past. He described these threats in emails to Human Rights Watch and other journalists, instructing them to release the information in the event of his death.
“He had feared for some time that something like this would happen to him,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Report & Analysis: Pakistan's spies tied to slaying of a journalist [New York Times, 4 July 2011]
Pakistan is the world’s deadliest journalism beat, according to the Committee for Protection of Journalists. Reporters face threats of cross-fire, death in suicide bombings, as well as arbitrary arrests, beatings and disappearances.
Mr Shahzad was the 37th journalist killed in Pakistan since the 9/11 attacks, and the 16th in the past 18 months. Earlier this year, a television was gunned down in Karachi, and a journalist in the city of Peshawar died in May when his car exploded. Media censorship and suppression has increased since Mr Shahzad’s killing.
“Journalists are afraid,” said Benjamin Ismail of Reporters Without Borders. “Now, even the most famous reporters can be targeted if people don’t like their writing. They realise they will have to stop writing if they want to survive.”
Report & Analysis: Pakistan: the deadliest place to be a journalist [Guardian, 13 June 2011]