Syed Saleem Shahzad’s Courage

The Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad knew he was a marked man. Mr. Shahzad, who covered national security and terrorism, had received repeated threats from Pakistan’s powerful spy agency. Yet he courageously kept doing his job — until somebody silenced him. His body, his face horribly beaten, was buried on Wednesday.

Suspicion inevitably falls on Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s chief intelligence agency. For the sake of justice, and the shredded credibility of Pakistan’s government, his murderers must be found quickly and held accountable.

Mr. Shahzad disappeared from Islamabad on Sunday, two days after he published an article suggesting a militant attack on a naval base in Karachi was retaliation for the navy’s attempt to crack down on Al Qaeda militants in the armed forces. American analysts doubt an Al Qaeda cell infiltrated Pakistani security, but they have long worried about individual sympathizers.

Whatever the case, the attack humiliated the ISI and the armed services. They were already fending off allegations that they sheltered Osama bin Laden and criticism for failing to stop the American raid that killed him.

An ISI spokesman described Mr. Shahzad’s death as “tragic” but dismissed as “absurd” charges of his agency’s involvement and said ISI would help bring the perpetrators to justice. That is not enough. The ISI’s chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, and his boss, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief of staff, must personally pledge a robust and transparent hunt for whoever was responsible. They must make clear to all who work for them that they will not tolerate attempts to silence reporters or anyone who dares to raise questions.

Under Pakistan’s civilian government, journalists are freer to work than during the years of the military dictatorship. Still, at least 16 have been murdered since 2002, making Pakistan the deadliest country for the news media last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Even as they mourned Mr. Shahzad, Pakistani journalists vowed they would keep doing their jobs. “We will not shut our voices down,” said Azhar Abbas. For the sake of Pakistan, we hope they keep up the fight.

Source: The New York Times



Latest Comments
  1. Fawad