`ISI should probe charges of its involvement in scribe murder`

ISI should conduct a probe into allegations of its involvement in the abduction and killing of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad.

Last Updated: Jun 08, 2011, 17:11 PM IST

Islamabad: ISI should conduct a probe into
allegations of its involvement in the abduction and killing of
journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad and stop interfering in affairs
of the civilian administration, a noted columnist said today
in an open letter to the Pakistani spy agency`s chief.

The letter to ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, written
by columnist Ejaz Haider, in The Express Tribune newspaper,
referred to a wide array of accusations levelled against the
powerful spy agency, including the allegation that the ISI was
involved in the abduction of Shahzad last month.

"I would expect that you would do everything to prove
that Saleem was not murdered by the ISI. Conversely, if the
spook is traced back to your agency, that you would ensure
that whoever is responsible for it, no matter how highly
placed, would face the law as a common murderer," wrote
Haider, a leading commentator on defence and strategic issues.

"That is the only honourable thing to do and nothing
less would do, or be acceptable. That is also the only way you
can save this country," he said.

Haider wrote that Pasha must be aware "that the ISI
is widely reviled and dreaded at home. For an agency that was
set up primarily for strategic intelligence, this is quite an
achievement."

He added: "It is accused of driving in its own lane,
monitoring the media, kidnapping, torturing and sometimes
killing dissenters, political and otherwise, determining,
arbitrarily, what Pakistan`s national interest is and how best
we should go about pursuing it."

Noting that the ISI was answerable to elected
representatives, Haider wrote: "The military-ISI combine has
no business defining Pakistan`s interest. That is our job and
we, the civilians, will do it through our representatives.
Your job is to implement, not formulate, policies."

Rights groups and journalists` organisations have claimed
that intelligence agencies were involved in the abduction and
killing of Shahzad, who went missing from Islamabad two days
after he wrote an article on May 27 that alleged the Pakistan
navy had been infiltrated by al Qaeda.

Shahzad`s body was later found in a canal in Punjab
province.

In a statement issued to state-run APP news agency
recently, an unnamed ISI official denied that the spy agency
was in any way involved in Shahzad`s killing.

The official said that while the "unfortunate and
tragic death of Syed Saleem Shahzad is a source of concern for
the entire nation, the incident should not be used to target
and malign the country`s security agencies."

Haider said the explanation offered by the unnamed ISI
official was "totally unacceptable."

He added: "What makes the security agencies exempt from
criticism or accountability, especially if they are considered
enemies by the very people they are supposed to protect?"

He further noted that some former ISI personnel "have not
only admitted to electoral fraud, rigging, making and breaking
of political alliances, buying people through a mix of carrots
and sticks, and browbeating the media, but consider having
done so as part of their remit and in the best national
interest."

Since it is the ISI chief`s job to identify threats,
"you must understand the deep fault lines developing in this
state. Today`s disarray is the product of flawed policies and
even more flawed attempts at nation-building," Haider wrote.

"Strategic vision, like charity, begins at home. If the
people of this country feel proud to be Pakistanis, you will
have that strength at your back. If they don`t, that makes you
very weak too. And you can`t beat people into submission; nor
kill them and expect all will be hunky-dory," he wrote.

PTI