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Roots of Impunity

Sidebar: ‘In case something happens to me’

Seven months before his murder, Asia Times Online reporter Saleem Shahzad was summoned to a meeting with Rear Adm. Adnan Nazir, director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate’s media wing. During the October 17, 2010, meeting, Shahzad said, he was pressured to retract a story the agency considered embarrassing and urged to disclose his sources for the piece.

Shahzad resisted but came away with a sense of foreboding. He wrote up notes of the meeting and sent them to Nazir in an email the following day. Shahzad also forwarded copies to Ali Dayan Hasan, a Human Rights Watch representative, and Hameed Haroon, head of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, asking them to keep the notes “in case something happens to me.”

Here is the unedited text of the email to Nazir, which was introduced as evidence in the official inquiry into Shahzad’s murder: 

For future reference:

Meeting details as on October 17, 2010 at the ISI headquarters Islamabad between DG Media Wing ISI, Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir and Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Bureau Chief Pakistan for Asia Times Online (Hong Kong). Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, the Deputy Director General of Media Wing ISI was also present during the conversation.

Agenda of the meeting: discussion on Asia Times Online story published on October 15, 2010, titled Pakistan frees Taliban commander (see http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LJ16Df02.html).

The meeting discussed the following issues.

1- Syed Saleem Shahzad told Rear Admiral Adnan that an intelligence channel leaked the story. However, he added that story was published only after a confirmation from the most credible Taliban source. Syed also explained that DG ISPR was sent a text message about the story, but he did not respond.

2- Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir had the view that story caused a lot of embracement for the country but observed that issuing a denial from the government side is no solution. He suggested Syed Saleem Shahzad should write a denial of the story.

3- Syed Shahzad refused to comply with demand and termed it impractical.

4- Rear Admiral Adnan was curious to know the source of the story as it is a shame that information would leak from the office of a high profile intelligence service.

5- Syed Shahzad called it an intelligence leak but did not specify the source.

6- The conversation was held in an extremely polite and friendly atmosphere and there was no mince word in the room at any stage. Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir also offered Syed Saleem Shahzad a favor in following words.

“I must give you a favor. We have recently arrested a terrorist and have recovered a lot of data, dairies and other material during the interrogation. The terrorist had a hit list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know.”

Shahzad wrote a separate email to his Asia Times Online editor, Tony Allison, that recounted the meeting in similar terms. But his October 17 email to Allison, as described in the report of the official commission of inquiry, more explicitly laid out his fears. Shahzad said he considered Nazir’s parting words to be a “murder threat.”

In testimony before the commission, Nazir acknowledged receiving Shahzad’s email but denied making the comments attributed to him. He said he did not respond to Shahzad because he did not consider it “expedient.”

(Photo by AP)


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