Shahzad case allegations are one of general nature, say Punjab police
By Intikhab Hanif
LAHORE: The Punjab police have said in a preliminary inquiry report that allegations of murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad against a particular intelligence outfit are of general nature and based on a sequence of events that are perceived to have culminated in his death.
IGP Javed Iqbal submitted the report in the Supreme Court on Monday and the provincial government emailed it to the media on Tuesday.
Mr Shahzad went missing in Islamabad on May 29 and his body was found in Mandi Bahauddin the following day. His car was abandoned on Sarai Alamgir-Mandi Road, about 31km from where his body was dumped.
The report says that friends, colleagues or family members [of the journalist] have provided no information specific enough that may pinpoint suspicion to individual level. “So far the investigation has not yielded any lead that could help narrow down the scope of the investigation and bring into sharp relief any possible suspect(s).”
It says that non-availability of any electronic gadgets in use of the deceased has greatly hindered the investigation. Efforts to access the email account have not been successful.
The call data record (CDR) analysis is an ongoing process. Callers of the telephone numbers provided so far have largely been identified. No specific information could be culled that may provide any lead about the perpetrator.
The IGP said in the report that the investigation was under way and would be finalised purely on merit and in accordance with law.
The report mentions the evidence collected by police and statements of the family members and colleagues of the deceased journalist.
It says Mudassar Hamza Amir, who had lodged the FIR for Mr Shahzad’s disappearance in Islamabad, commented on his (Mr Shahzad’s) sterling character and professionalism. He said many quarters would possibly have been irked with Mr Shahzad who wrote on issues truthfully and bluntly. The war on terror and terrorism was his beat.
He said there was a mention in a news item in daily Dawn on June 1 of an email sent by Mr Shahzad in which he had blamed an intelligence agency for harassment. He said he did not want to implicate anyone without evidence and the investigation agencies might need to explore all possibilities.
Mr Faizaan, an Islamabad-based reporter and a childhood friend of Mr Shahzad, said the deceased had no animosity with anyone. It was, however, possible that while filing his stories he would have rubbed some people the wrong way by being truthful and forthright in his reporting, as was his wont.
He also referred to a news item published in Dawn mentioning the email sent by Mr Shahzad to some people regarding his visit to an intelligence outfit’s office and its ostensible connection with his murder.
Mr Faizaan said the matter needed to be looked into further by the authorities concerned while keeping all possibilities about the perpetrators in mind.
He said the murder had to do with how Mr Shahzad conducted himself professionally with brutal honesty that annoyed people on all sides of the divide. Since the constituencies were multiple and the dynamics extremely complex, it was extremely difficult to pinpoint the perpetrators, Mr Faizaan said.
The reports says that another journalist, Zafar Sheikh, who also wrote on terrorism and war on terror along with Mr Shahzad, said the perpetrators could be from amongst friends and enemies, though the probability of the former was greater. When asked to qualify, he said he didn’t feel at ease going beyond what he had already stated.
He said Mr Shahzad was being monitored and the perpetrators knew his timings, route and routine. He was picked up from a secure area. Mr Shahzad was a journalist of international stature and wrote about all actors in the arena, Taliban, the civilian government, the military and the West, equally emphatically and did not mince his words.
Mr Zafar Sheikh said he admonished Mr Shahzad asking him to refrain from crossing limits. He remained undeterred and continued to write in his inimitable style.
He said that Mr Shahzad was summoned to the Aabpara headquarters of an intelligence outfit on four or five occasions during the current year. Sometimes he would share whatever transpired in these meetings.
He said that while commenting on Mr Shahzad’s PNS Mehran story he termed it dangerous, the latter insisted that whatever he had written was accurate. He said that suspicion of Mr Shahzad’s murder was being rested on a particular intelligence outfit but no conclusive proof for the same existed. It was possible that international actors could be involved who did it to entangle the former (the agency).
While discussing the email sent by Mr Shahzad last year to Ali Dayan Hassan of Human Rights Watch and Asia Times Online Mr Sheikh stated that the deceased had discussed his meeting with the DG and deputy DG, Information Management (Media) Wing of ISI with him, although he came to know of the email only after the journalist’s death.
Analysing the potency of what is now being interpreted as a fateful threat, Mr Sheikh said it fell in the category of normal and was being reinterpreted owing to Mr Shahzad’s death. A journalist, particularly the one working on terrorism, was likely to be confronted with such situations not infrequently, Mr Sheikh said.
Another journalist, Asif Khan, said the intention of Mr Shahzad’s kidnappers was not to kill him. He died on account of an earlier bullet injury that had damaged his liver and rendered it fragile.
Therefore, the report says, torture inflicted culminated in his unexpected death.
It says that Ali Dayan of HRW and Hameed Haroon of Dawn Group, who have given statements in the media that they had received email sent by Mr Shahzad after his visit to the Aabpara headquarters on Oct 17 last year, were contacted telephonically and through emails. They stated that they were presently out of the country and will give statements soon.