The Case of Saleem Shahzad: A Timeline of Events
As Pakistan plays its part in the war on terror and fights back against militants plotting against the state (and against the people), a war of information rages too. Players on all sides and in every corner are trying to direct the narrative. And some of them are trying to ensure certain facts remain hidden. In the middle of all this are the brave journalists, such as Syed Saleem Shahzad, who risk their lives trying to ferret out the facts.
In six weeks, the commission headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar will report its findings on the murder of Saleem Shahzad. Ever since the disappearance and death of the investigative journalist in late May, fingers across the country have been pointing at the ISI.
In an interview with India’s The Economic Times, author and journalist Mohammed Hanif was asked if Saleem Shahzad died because he knew too much. “In Pakistan you can criticise the military and its intelligence agencies in general terms, but as soon as you start naming names, investigating specific events, you are in trouble,” said Hanif.
Now it is time to investigate the specific events around Saleem Shahzad’s death. (Click here to vote in our poll).
Below is a timeline of events in this case.
Timeline of the Disappearance and Murder Saleem Shahzad
May 27: Syed Saleem Shahzad’s explosive article on the PNS Mehran attack appears on Asia Times Online, for which he was the Pakistan Bureau Chief. Shahzad reports that Al-Qaeda attacked the Navy base after negotiations broke down between the terror group and the Pakistan Navy over the release of detained Navy officers with Al-Qaeda links.
May 29: The journalist goes missing while on his way to an interview at Dunya TV’s studios in Islamabad.
May 30: News of his disappearance travels fast on Twitter. Ali Dayan of Human Rights Watch tweets that HRW has “credible information” that Shahzad is in the custody of the ISI and should be released by that evening.
May 31: Omar Wariach, a correspondent with Time, reports about an email written by Shahzad in which Shahzad describes an October 17 meeting with the ISI last year. Shahzad sent the email to three different trusted parties and wanted its contents to be shared if he went missing, as he believed the ISI issued a veiled threat in that October meeting.
Later, on May 31, police announce that Shahzad has been found dead approximately 140kms outside Islamabad with multiple signs of torture on his body. Journalists accuse the ISI. They say Shahzad’s death is a message to reporters to not cross certain “red lines.”
June 1: ISI issues a statement saying, “It’s regrettable that some sections of media have taken upon themselves to use the incident for targeting and maligning the ISI,” and further warns, “The media should act with responsibility to avoid any possible legal course.”
June 10: Italy’s Ischia Prize Foundation announces its International Journalism Award goes to Shahzad posthumously for his in-depth reporting on the war on terror. They describe him as “inquiring and enthusiastic.” Shahzad was a correspondent for the Italian news agency Adnkronos International, in addition to his position at Asia Times Online.
June 15: Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists holds a protest rally in front of Parliament House against the government’s delay in forming a commission to probe the death of Saleem Shahzad.
June 16: Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan announces the formation of commission, which will be headed by a Supreme Court judge. But there is criticism about the government’s approach in appointing a judge without consulting the chief justice of the SC. SCBA President Asma Jehangir says, “The government cannot just disturb benches of the apex court by picking judges of its choice to head such commissions.”
June 17: An ISPR spokesman is reported saying, “The case must be investigated thoroughly and facts made known to the people.”
June 20: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry approves Justice Saqib Nisar as the head of the commission to probe the murder of Saleem Shahzad.
June 22: In a misleading report based on faulty conclusions, Ansar Abbasi of The News International reports that an interim report of the Punjab Police into the Saleem Shahzad murder case “absolves” the ISI from the crime, even though the investigation is not yet complete (some phone and email records are yet to be accessed and people to be interviewed) and despite the fact the federal commission has yet to start its probe.
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