`Pak intel agencies be made more accountable`

The Pakistani judicial commission that investigated the killing of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad has suggested he could have been murdered by "belligerent" elements involved in the war on terror.

Updated: Jan 13, 2012, 14:59 PM IST

Islamabad: The Pakistani judicial commission
that investigated the killing of journalist Syed Saleem
Shahzad has suggested he could have been murdered by
"belligerent" elements involved in the war on terror and said
all intelligence agencies should be made more accountable.

The commission`s report, submitted to the Prime Minister
on Tuesday, did not single out any person or organisation who
could have killed Shahzad but left room open for a further
probe, the Dawn newspaper reported today.

The executive summary of the report said Shahzad`s
"writings probably did, and certainly could have, drawn the
ire of various belligerents in the war on terror, which
included the Pakistani state and non-state actors such as the
Taliban and al Qaeda and foreign actors".

"Any of these could have had the motive to commit the
crime, as clearly, he was also in close contact with all of
these," the report said.

It added that Shahzad`s killing might have been linked,
as asserted by some witnesses, to the US drone attack on al
Qaeda-linked militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri.

The report recommended that the ISI and Intelligence
Bureau should be reined in and made more accountable.

The report said all intelligence agencies should be made
accountable at three levels within the agencies and before
the minister-in-charge through an internal administrative
review; through a parliamentary committee responsible for
oversight of their affairs; and through a suitably tailored
judicial forum for redressing complaints against them.

It said the more important intelligence agencies ISI
and IB should be made more law-abiding through legislation
that carefully outlines their mandates and role. It further
said their interaction with the media should be carefully
streamlined institutionally and regularly documented.

The commission said it had been unable to identify the
elements responsible for the murder despite having looked very
hard for substantial evidence and tangible material, direct or
circumstantial, which would allow it to single out the killers
from various suspected quarters.

"Yet such evidence has not surfaced," it said.
It said the press too should be made more law-abiding and
accountable through the strengthening of institutions mandated
by law to deal with legitimate grievances against it.

The commission urged the media to maintain a balance
between secrecy and accountability in the conduct of
information-gathering which should be appropriately readjusted
with the aim of restoring public confidence in all state
institutions.

The panel recommended that Islamabad Police and Punjab
Police should continue to investigate the murder diligently
and impartially without any fear or favour by interrogating
all those who should be questioned in the normal course.

The commission asked authorities to ensure the immediate
disbursement of the Rs 3 million announced by the President as
compensation for Shahzad’s widow and said his children should
be provided free education at least till graduation.

Shahzad was abducted while driving from his house to a
television station in Islamabad on May 29 last year, two days
after he alleged in an article that al Qaeda had infiltrated
the Pakistan Navy.

His body, bearing marks of severe torture, was found the
next day in a canal near Mandi Bahauddin, a district of Punjab
province. Rights groups and journalists` bodies had alleged
that he was killed by the ISI, a charge denied by the spy
agency.

PTI