Pak`s ISI denies role in journo’s killing
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 01, 2011, 23:07
Islamabad: Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency on Wednesday denied any involvement in the killing of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad and said the incident should not be used to "target and malign" the country's security agencies.

"Baseless accusations against the country's sensitive agencies for their alleged involvement in Shahzad's murder are totally unfounded," an ISI official said.

It is "regrettable that some sections of the media have taken upon themselves to use" Shahzad's death for "targeting and maligning the ISI," the official was quoted as saying by state-run APP news agency.

The ISI made a rare public statement after Pakistani journalists' organisations and rights groups like Human Rights Watch alleged that Shahzad was abducted by the ISI two days after he reported that al-Qaeda had infiltrated the Pakistan Navy.

Shahzad went missing in Islamabad on Sunday evening and his body, bearing marks of severe torture, was subsequently found in Punjab province.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered a probe into the murder. The ISI official, who spoke to APP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of his job, described Shahzad's death as "unfortunate and tragic" and said it was "a source of concern for the entire nation".

The incident should not be used to "target and malign" security agencies, the official said.

Months before he went missing, Shahzad sent an email to a Human Rights Watch researcher Ali Dayan Hasan in which he wrote about being called in to the ISI headquarters by two officials to discuss a report he had authored about Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Biradar being freed by Pakistani authorities to facilitate back channel talks with the US.

Shahzad also indicated in the same email that one of the ISI officials had issued him a veiled threat.

However, the ISI official told APP: "The reported meeting between the journalist and ISI officials of the Information Management Wing was held on October 17, 2010 to discuss a story he had done for Asia Times Online on October 15, and the meeting had nothing sinister about it."

The official added: "It is part of the (Information Management) Wing's mandate to remain in touch with the journalist community.

The main objective behind all such interactions is provision of accurate information on matters of national security. ISI also makes it a point to notify institutions and individuals alike of any threat warning received about them."

The official further said that Shahzad's email to Dayan of Human Rights Watch was "being made the basis of baseless allegations levelled against the ISI" and has "no veiled or unveiled threats in it".

The official noted that Shahzad had written in his email that his conversation with the ISI officials "was held in an extremely polite and friendly atmosphere".

"In the absence of any evidence and when an investigation is still pending, such allegations (are) tantamount to unprofessional conduct on the part of the media," the official said. PTI The ISI "offers its deepest and heartfelt condolence" to Shahzad's family and "assures them that it will leave no stone unturned in helping to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice", the official said.

The media "should act with responsibility to avoid any possible legal course" the official said. "It should refrain from baseless allegations against the ISI that seek to deliberately malign the organization in the eyes of the people of Pakistan," he said.


First Published: Wednesday, June 01, 2011, 23:07

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