ISLAMABAD: A commission constituted by the government to investigate the circumstances leading to the killing of journalist Syed Salim Shahzad has blamed various ‘belligerents’ involved in the war on terror for his murder.
But it didn’t single out any person or organisation, who could have killed him, leaving the room open for further probe. In its set of recommendations, the most important was to rein in the Inter-Services Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau and make them accountable within their organisations and to the parliamentary committees concerned.
According to the executive summary of the commission available with Dawn, “Salim’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,” said the report.
The incident may also have been linked, as asserted by some of the witnesses examined, to the subsequent drone attack on Ilyas Kashmiri, it said. The government plans to make the report public on Friday.
The commission said it had been unable to identify the culprits despite having looked very hard for the kind of substantial evidence/tangible material, direct or circumstantial, which would allow it to single out the culprit from among various suspected quarters. “Yet such evidence has not surfaced,” it said.
The commission has said the more important agencies (ISI and IB) be made more law-abiding through a legislation, carefully outlining their respective mandates and role; that their interaction with the media be carefully streamlined institutionally and regularly documented.
Similarly, all the agencies should be made more accountable at three levels: within the agency and before the minister-in-charge, i.e. through internal administrative review; through a parliamentary committee responsible for oversight over their affairs; and through a suitably tailored judicial forum for redressal of grievances against them.
It said the press should be also made more law-abiding and accountable through the strengthening of institutions mandated by law to deal with legitimate grievances against it.
The commission also 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 institutions of the state.
Islamabad and Punjab Police should continue to investigate the matter diligently, impartially without any fear or favour by interrogating all those (whosoever) who should in the normal course be interrogated in the present incident.
The commission asked the competent authority to ensure immediate disbursement of Rs3,000,000 announced by the president of Pakistan on the insistence of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) as compensation to the widow of Salim Shahzad and said his children should be provided free education at least till graduation.
Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, the judge of Supreme Court, headed the commission with Justice Agha Rafiq Ahmed Khan, Chief Justice of the Federal Shariat Court, PPO Punjab Javed Iqbal, IG Islamabad Police Binyamin Khan and PFUJ President Pervaiz Shaukat as members.
The commission held 31 formal meetings and examined 41 witnesses.
Salim Shahzad was kidnapped on May 29 last year from Islamabad and his body was found near the Head Rasul area in Mandi Bahauddin, about 130km from Islamabad, on May 31.