New York, May 31, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed and angered by the targeted killing of senior Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan bureau chief of the Asia Times online website. Shahzad, considered an expert on Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, disappeared on Sunday night as he was on his way to participate in a talk show on Dunya Television, media reports said. His body, showing signs of torture, was later found outside Islamabad, according to local and international media reports.
Pakistan had the most journalists deaths in the world in 2010. On World Press Freedom Day (May 3), a CPJ delegation met with President Asif Ali Zardari and Interior Minister Rehman Malik and several other members of the government to press for a reversal of the abysmal record of impunity with which journalist are killed in Pakistan. The country ranks 10th on CPJ’s global Impunity Index.
“President Zardari and Interior Minister Malik each personally pledged to address the vast problem of uninvestigated and unprosecuted targeted killings of journalists in Pakistan,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “With the murder of Saleem Shahzad, now is the time for them to step forward and take command of this situation.”
Shahzad, who wrote Inside al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11, had recently reported in an Asia Times article, “Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike,” that members of Al-Qaeda conducted the May 22 attack on a naval air station in Karachi. In 2006, he was held for five days by Taliban forces in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
Shahzad’s death is the third this year in which a journalist was clearly killed because of his work. Nasrullah Khan Afridi died when his car blew up in Peshawar, and popular TV reporter Wali Khan Babar was gunned down on January 13 in Karachi. At least one other reporter, Naveed Kamal with the local news channel Metro One TV, has survived a targeted attack, with a gunshot through his jaw.
CPJ counts 15 cases of journalists apparently targeted for their journalism in Pakistan since the 2002 killing of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. None of their killers have been brought to justice.