Rights group raps impunity for Pakistan's spies

January 31, 2012


Slain journalist Saleem Shahzad.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: US-based Human Rights Watch on Tuesday condemned the impunity of Pakistan's intelligence services and again called on the government to punish the killers of a prominent local journalist.

A government commission set up to investigate the murder of Saleem Shahzad, who wrote about links between al Qaeda and rogue elements in the military, wrapped up its work this month, saying it had failed to find his killers.

Shahzad vanished days after US troops found and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last May, and his body was later found.

The journalist told HRW that he had been threatened by intelligence agents.

Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, said the failure to get to the bottom of what happened “illustrates the ability of the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) to remain beyond the reach of Pakistan's criminal justice system.” The rights organisation urged the Pakistani government to “redouble efforts to find the killers of the journalist Saleem Shahzad, following the failure of the judicial inquiry commission to identify those responsible.”

Adams said ISI abuses “will only stop if it is subject to the rule of law, civilian oversight, and public accountability.”

“It is the government's duty to insist on such accountability and the military's duty to submit to it. The ISI needs to stop acting as a state within a state,” he added.

Pakistan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with at least 10 killed in 2011, according to HRW.

The ISI denies allegations that it was involved in Shahzad's murder.