ISLAMABAD: Justice Saqib Nisar of the Supreme Court, who is presiding over a judicial commission set up to investigate the kidnapping and murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad, has expressed concerns over lack of assistance, saying that despite requests through media advertisements no one has stepped forward in aid of the commission.
He said all the assistance the commission could get was a call by someone suggesting to approach one ‘Pir Baba’ in Chakwal who would lead it towards the murderer and a compact disk (CD) from Quetta, sources told Dawn after a six-hour meeting of the commission held at the Supreme Court building on Saturday.
Saleem Shahzad was abducted from a posh locality of the federal capital on May 29 and his body was found from a canal in Mandi Bahauddin the following day by police who buried it the same day. The brutally tortured body was identified on May 31.
At the last hearing held in Lahore, the commission had summoned prominent journalists — Najam Sethi, Syed Talat Hussain, Zahar Shah, Imtiaz Alam, Zahid Hussain, Umar Cheema, Irtaza Sheikh, Nasim Zahra, Matiullah Jan, C.R. Shamsi, Absar Alam, Zafar Sheikh and Hamid Mir — besides Ali Dayan Hassan of the Human Rights Watch and Hameed Haroon for recording their statements.
All except Hameed Haroon, Talat Hussain and Ali Dayan appeared before the commission comprising Justice Nisar, Federal Shariat Court Chief Justice Agha Rafique, Islamabad Police Inspector General Binyamin, Punjab IGP Javed Iqbal and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) president Pervez Shaukat.
Federal Investigation Agency Cyber Wing Additional Director General Shahid Nadeem Baloch, a representative of the National Highway Authority and officials of Mandi Bahauddin police station also appeared.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Chairman Dr Yasin informed the commission through a letter that directives had been issued to mobile phone operators to preserve the cellular data of the deceased journalist.
The commission asked the journalists to submit their written statements by July 18 when it will meet at 1pm.
Talking to reporters, the PFUJ chief said a statement of US military chief Mike Mullen that the government had sanctioned the killing was mere allegation without any evidence which would be needed to draw a final conclusion.
According to sources, senior journalist Matiullah Jan expressed reservations over the procedure adopted by the commission and requested that journalists should be summoned separately and asked to submit written statements.
He submitted a written statement divided in three parts, including a brief regarding a roundtable discussion held earlier in the capital and attended, among others, by Saleem Shahzad and himself.
During the discussion, Saleem Shahzad had referred to alleged close liaison between the intelligence agencies and the military spokesman’s office to identify “trouble-making journalists”.
Mr Jan also shared some measures with the commission which, according to him, could help prevent such happenings in future, like requiring the government to present before it all previous reports about violence against journalists and making them public for a healthy debate.
He said the journalists’ bodies should come up with a code of conduct for regulating professional contacts with intelligence agencies and ensuring that journalists should not become a tool in the hands of rogue military and intelligence elements in destabilising constitutional governments.