After his disappearance on May 29, 2011, Shahzad’s body was found two days later near Mandi Bahauddin. – File Photo by AP

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan army has shown serious concerns over the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, which tried to malign the country’s premier intelligence agency and crticised the commission investigating the murder of a journalist Saleem Shahzad for failing to identify those responsible.

A statement issued by the media wing of the army on Thursday rejected the allegations leveled by the HRW and termed them extremely derogatory, biased and contradictory.

The HRW in its report published on January 30th, 2012 had urged Islamabad to redouble efforts to find the killers of the journalist after no culprit was pointed out by the commission in its report.

The journalist told HRW before his death that he had been threatened by intelligence agents. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency denies any responsibility for his death.

“The commission’s failure to get to the bottom of the Shahzad killing illustrates the ability of the ISI to remain beyond the reach of Pakistan’s criminal justice system,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“The government still has the responsibility to identify those responsible for Shahzad’s death and hold them accountable, no matter where the evidence leads,” he added, in the report.

According to the statement, “Adams attempted to discredit the judicial commission, demonised the ISI and castigated the government of Pakistan.”

“Brad Adams may have his head buried deep in sand and HRW may be choking under heaps of bias but it is quite apparent that such diatribe is exceptionally disparaging,” it said.

“To expect the judicial commission probing the murder to spare or shy away form the so called ‘culpable ISI’ is not only disrespectful but also out of character of the honourable court,” it added.

HRW said in January that the ISI should “stop acting as a state within a state” after the government failed to identify and punish Shahzad’s killers.

“It is unclear where Mr Adams forms opinions like these from but one thing is evident that his thought process and ability to logically analyse a situation suffers from serious bias,” the statement hit back.

It then launched a vigorous defence of the Supreme Court and the judicial investigation that was set up to investigate the murder, pointing out that the courts have recently initiated investigations into the intelligence services.

It also raised serious questions on the partisan nature of HRW and Adams’ objectivity, and advised the body to study the judicial report, which had “categorically denied involvement of ISI in Shehzad’s murder.”

A judicial commission set up to investigate the death, comprised senior judges, provincial police chiefs and a journalist representative but was unable to trace Shahzad’s killers.

In concluding remarks, the report released by the panel had said that Shahzad’s death should be examined in the context of the “war on terror”.

“The Pakistani state, the non-state actors such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, and foreign actors” could all have had a motive to commit the crime.

But “the commission has been unable to identify the culprits”, it had said.

After his disappearance on May 29, 2011, Shahzad’s body, bearing marks of torture, was found two days later near Mandi Bahauddin, 130 kilometres southeast of Islamabad.

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