`Slain Pak journalist wanted to shift abroad with family`

Last Updated: Thursday, June 2, 2011 - 22:18

Islamabad: Journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad,
slain two days after he filed a report alleging the possible
infiltration of the Pakistan Navy by al Qaeda, had spoken to
close friends about relocating abroad with his family after
receiving several threats in recent months.

The topic of shifting abroad figured in Shahzad`s recent
conversations with a small group of close friends whom he
regularly spoke to, a journalist who was close to the slain
reporter said.

Shahzad also spoke on several occasions of threats he was
receiving, apparently from intelligence agencies, in his
conversations with his friends, said the journalist who did
not want to be named for security reasons.

"He was interested in moving to Britain because of the
threats. A friend even offered to host Shahzad and his family
at his home in Florida in the US. Some of us suggested he
should try to get a fellowship abroad," the journalist said.

Shahzad`s friends advised him to stop covering sensitive
issues related to the Pakistani military in view of the
threats he was receiving but he did not listen to them, the
journalist said.

Shahzad`s friends highlighted several inconsistencies
related to his abduction and death that have hitherto not been
reported in the media.

The Pakistan bureau chief of Asia Times Online went
missing on Sunday evening while driving from his home to a TV
station in the heart of Islamabad.

The TV station wanted to interview Shahzad regarding a
report he had filed two days earlier, in which he alleged that
terrorists attacked the PNS Mehran naval airbase in Karachi on
May 22 after the failure of secret talks between the Pakistan
Navy and al-Qaeda to free some naval personnel arrested for
links to the terrorist network.

Shahzad`s friends said he left home on Sunday wearing a
grey suit, an off-white shirt and a printed tie in light
colours.

When his body was found in a canal at Mandi Bahauddin in
Punjab province on Monday afternoon, it was clad in a black
suit, a light brown shirt and a dark tie.

Even the shoes had been changed, the friends said.
"It seems someone went to a lot of trouble to hide the
fact that his clothes were torn while he was tortured," a
friend said.

While it was previously reported that Shahzad`s cellular
phone was switched off just after his abduction on Sunday
evening, a friend said the mobile was active late on Monday
night and early on Tuesday morning.

"I called the mobile several times around midnight on
Monday but the calls were disconnected after a few rings," the
friend said.

Shahzad`s body was found tangled in nets in a canal at
Mandi Bahauddin, about 30 km from the spot where his car was
found at Sarai Alamghir near Jhelum.

Police at Mandi Bahauddin hurriedly buried the body after
conducting an autopsy.

The body was later exhumed on a local judge`s order and
taken by Shahzad`s family to Karachi, where it was buried
yesterday.

Journalist groups and rights organisations like Human
Rights Watch have alleged that intelligence agencies were
involved in Shahzad`s kidnapping and killing but an ISI
official yesterday denied that the spy agency was in any way
involved in the murder.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, June 2, 2011 - 22:18

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