Washington: The Pakistan Government "sanctioned" the murder of Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, who had written scathing reports about militant infiltration in the country’s military, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen has said.
"It was sanctioned by the government," Mullen told reporters.
"I have not seen anything to disabuse the report that the government knew about this," he added.
Mullen`s comments are the first high-level confirmation that Washington believes its nominal allies in Islamabad ordered the abduction, torture, and killing of 41-year-old Shahzad in May.
His remarks bear more significance because he is one of the closest US officials to the Pakistani leadership.
Shahzad’s body- bearing signs of torture- was found from a canal in Mandi Bahauddin on May 31, two days after he was abducted in Islamabad.
Mullen said he could not confirm press reports that Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency had carried out Shahzad’s murder.
Shahzad’s colleagues have accused the ISI, which had reportedly threatened Shahzad, of being behind the 40-year-old journalist`s abduction and killing, a charge that the agency has called "baseless."
Responding to Mullen’s remarks, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said that Islamabad had already appointed a commission to inquire into the death.
“Any evidence that our American friends have should be shared with that commission. We are as interested in getting to the bottom of this matter as anyone else in the world, given our concern about human rights,” Haqqani was quoted as saying by US media.