December 15, 2018

Press Freedom

Pakistan

OPC Calls Journalist’s Murder “A Stain on Pakistan’s Democracy”

H.E. Asif Al Zadari
President
Office of the President
Awan-E-Sadar
Constitution Avenue
Islamabad
Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Fax: (011.92.51.2) 920.3938

Your Excellency:

The shocking torture and murder of well-known journalist, Syed Saleem Shahzad, over the weekend of May 29 is a dark stain on Pakistan’s democracy.

Disturbingly, the circumstances surrounding Shahzad’s death suggest that individuals within Pakistan’s military services may be implicated in Shahzad’s murder.  The evidence implicating government officials is circumstantial but strongly compelling.

As reported by multiple news organizations, the 41-year-old Shahzad was bureau chief of the Asian Times Online and the Italian news agency, Adnkronos International.  He only recently published a story suggesting that Pakistan’s Navy had been incompetent in allowing an attack on its base in Karachi on May 22 by militants affiliated with Al Qaeda.  Reports say the navy was deeply embarrassed and angered by the disclosures.

Shahzad had written previously about security failures and told friends and colleagues he believed he was in danger from officials exposed in his reports.  Days before he was abducted, Shahzad told friends that for the last several years, he felt under threat from the Directorate for InterServices Intelligence (ISI), and that ISI officials had threatened him with death if he did not reveal sources for a previous article published last October.  These acquaintances believe Shahzad was being held by ISI for questioning shortly before he was killed.

Ali Dayan Hasan, the country representative for Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, said he had been told by sources within the ISI that Mr. Shahzad would be released on May 30.  “It is quite clear by his own account and from his reports that they were deeply unhappy with his reporting,” Mr. Hasan was quoted in various news reports.

As you know, Shahzad’s body was found June 1 two days after he left for a television interview about his story on the Navy’s security failure.  He completed the interview but never returned.  His body was found about 100 miles from his abandoned car outside of Islamabad.  Pictures of his face showed that sometime before his death, he was badly beaten.

Intimidating journalists with brutal repression is the last refuge of dictators, and unworthy of a U.S. ally like Pakistan.  Murdering journalists has nothing to do with increasing a nation’s security — on the contrary, it makes the public ever more distrustful of their government.  And yet, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Pakistan is now the most deadly place for the press in the world.

It is imperative that Pakistan, beginning with the office of the president, begin to change course with an unwavering dedication to the arrest and prosecution of the killers of Syed Saleem Shahzad.

Respectfully yours,
Robert Dowling
Kevin McDermott
Freedom of the Press Committee

cc’s:

H E. Hussain Haqqani
Ambassador of Pakistan to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
3517 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008 

Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC  20520

Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the United Nations
8 East 65th Street
New York, NY  10021
Fax: (212) 744.7348

H.E. Cameron Munter
U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan
Embassy of the United States of America
Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5
Islamabad
Pakistan
Fax: (011.92.51) 227.6427

Nurul Kabir
New Age
Holiday Building
30, Tejgaon Industrial Area
Dhaka-1208
Bangladesh
Fax: (011.880.2) 811.2247

Mr. Abbas Nasir
Editor-in-Chief
Dawn TV
Haroon House, Dr. Ziauddin Ahmed Road
Karachi 74200
Pakistan
Fax: (011.92.21) 569.3995
webmaster@dawn.com

Rana Qaisar
Islamabad Resident Editor
Daily Times
Aquhbar Market, Moti Plaza
Murree Road
Rawalpindi
Pakistan
(ranakaisar@hotmail.com)

M.A. Zubari
Editor-in-chief
Business Recorder
Recorder House
531 Business Recorder Road
Karachi 74550
Pakistan
(edkhi@br-mail.com)

Pakistan Press Foundation
ppf@pakistanpressfoundation.org