The murder of Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad after considerable torture is being viewed by the Fourth Estate here as an "unambiguous" bid to silence the media at a time when it has become a platform for disparate voices questioning the security forces of the country.
Shocked by the manner in which Shahzad went missing from the high-security 'Red Zone' of Islamabad, journalists gathered in different cities of the country on Wednesday to protest the killing and shouted slogans against intelligence agencies even as federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that scribes would be allowed to carry small fire-arms for self-protection.
The Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) came in for particular attack as Shahzad had felt threatened by it because of a report he had filed in October 2010 about Taliban leader Mullah Baradar being captured in Karachi by the authorities with U.S. help. He had been questioned by the ISI then. After that meeting, Shahzad had sent an email to Human Rights Watch researcher, Ali Dayan Hasan, articulating his fears.
Under attack from various quarters, the ISI told the Associated Press of Pakistan that the "unfortunate and tragic death" of Shahzad was a source of concern for the entire nation but the incident should not be used to target and malign the country's security agency in the eyes of the people.
Maintaining that the ISI’s meeting with Shahzad in October 2010 was part of the Information Management Wing’s mandate to remain in touch with the media, the unnamed ISI official was quoted by APP as saying that "the reported e-mail of Mr. Saleem Shahzad to Mr Ali Hasan Dayan of HRW which is being made the basis of baseless allegations levelled against ISI has no veiled or unveiled threats in it’’.
Meanwhile, Shahzad was buried in his hometown Karachi as condemnation of his killing and apparent bid to stifle free expression in a democracy poured in from various quarters including several international organizations.
Pluto Press -- publishers of his 10-day-old book 'Inside Al - Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11' -- along with English PEN (an organisation working against proscription of literature and persecution of writers) – issued a joint statement expressing outrage over the disappearance, torture and murder of Shahzad.
Pointing out that Shahzad was not the first reporter to be silenced so brutally in Pakistan, the statement stressed the need for an immediate investigation into his death and action against the perpetrators to ensure that the rule of law prevails.