In a tribute to slain Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani called for a full investigation into the killing and said at a condolence meeting here that all of Pakistan had been “brutalised” by forces within.
Mr. Shahzad, an investigative journalist and the Pakistan Bureau Chief of Asia Times Online, was found dead in North-east Pakistan shortly after he wrote a feature story on the connections between al-Qaeda and Pakistani intelligence services in the context of what he called the “brazen attack on PNS Mehran naval air station in Karachi on May 22”.
Reports said that Mr. Shahzad’s body bore the marks of torture when it was discovered in a canal two days after he disappeared.
Touching upon his own experience as a journalist in the past, which included an incident where he was “kidnapped, blindfolded, and a hood was put on my face”, Mr. Haqqani and several Pakistani journalists spoke of the continuing violence that all journalists in Pakistan were threatened with.
A representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists noted that one of their recent studies had ranked Pakistan as the most “dangerous country in the world for reporters”, ahead of states such as Iraq, Mexico and Honduras. Bob Dietz of the CPJ described the manner in which Mr. Shahzad was killed as a “cold-blooded and brutal murder”.
An officer of another NGO, Reporters without Borders, said that 16 reporters had been killed in Pakistan in the last 15 months, and others added that four of these individuals had been killed in the last five months with around 37 journalists slain in the country since 1994.
Tom Malinowski, Washington Director for Human Rights Watch, confirmed that shortly before his death, Mr. Shahzad had sent an email to HRW, from which it was clear that Mr. Shahzad had received numerous threats, “not only from militants but also from people high up”.
Ambassador Haqqani, paying tribute to Mr. Shahzad’s bravery, said that the violence in Pakistan had engulfed not only journalists but also the broader system including political leaders such as Benazir Bhutto, Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.