Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Syed Saleem Shahzad R.I.P.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief, was abducted in Islamabad and murdered.

Prior to his disappearance, he had informed Human Rights Watch that he had been threatened by the ISI, Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency.

After his disappearance, his family received word through “trusted interlocutors” that he was in the ISI’s hands and would be released shortly.

Instead, his body was found over 100 miles from Islamabad with a gunshot wound in the stomach and what the police termed “signs of torture” on his person.  An autopsy will be conducted.

There is speculation that Shahzad was murdered because of his reporting on the transformation and continued threat of Al Qaeda.

Saleem Shahzad had unparalleled sources within the Taliban and Pakistan’s security apparatus.

On May 20 his new book, Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban; Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 was published.

In the book, he argued that after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the expulsion of Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda had evolved new leaders and new doctrine, and deeply embedded itself in a specifically South Asian matrix of terrorism, politics, and security forces.

On his website, Shahzad wrote:

That was the new role of Al-Qaeda in which they fed, reared and train two new generations of leaders from the Islamist cadre of the Pakistani society which included army officers, information technologists, scientists, Jihadi commanders and traditional Taliban.

Shahzad linked Al Qaeda to two terrorist actions that revealed a higher level of determination, professionalism, and infiltration of security forces than the usual Taliban outrages: the Mumbai attack that claimed 126 lives, and the recent assault on the Mehran Naval Base in Karachi.

Based on Shahzad’s reporting, a picture emerges of a motivated, conspiratorial Al Qaeda cell within Pakistan’s military and security forces.

Perhaps Shahzad’s murder was linked to the desire to suppress awareness of this cell and maintain national and world focus on the Taliban-—perceived as indigenous insurgents rather than global terrorists—during the Afghan endgame.

Prime Minister Gilani has promised that “the culprits would be brought to book at any cost.”

We hope his murderers will be exposed and brought to justice.

Saleem Shahzad was a brave and principled reporter.  We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife and three children and his other family, friends, and colleagues.

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