A friend remembers Saleem Shahzad

By Mazhar Abbas/CPJ Guest Blogger on May 31, 2011 3:27 PM ET

When I received an unexpected call early Monday morning from Saleem Shahzad's wife, I knew I was in for some bad news.

"Saleem has not come home since Sunday evening, when he was on his way to a television studio," she said. She told me that she then remained as composed as possible until she received a call informing her of his death 48 hours later.

Shahzad, the Pakistan bureau chief of Asia Times, was abducted from one of Islamabad's most secure areas on Sunday, on his way to participate in a talk show on Dunya TV. In a dark coincidence, the subject he was going to discuss was security threats to Pakistan. According to news photographs and media accounts about the post mortem, he apparently died from injuries he sustained while being tortured. His body was found near his car some 250 kilometers (165 miles) from Islamabad. 

Shahzad's kidnapping, in the Pakistani capital's most protected area, has shocked the media community, although there have been other killings: Shahzad was the fourth journalist killed this year.

So far, no one has so far claimed the responsibility for the murder but some of his colleagues suspect intelligence agencies are responsible for his abduction and killing. His book on "Inside Taliban and Al-Qaeda," was about to be published and it was going to name names.

I've know Shahzad since 1990, when he joined the Karachi-based newspaper The Star. At that time, I was the chief reporter at the paper. It was Shahzad who always looked for stories linked to ethnic, sectarian or Islamist terrorism. He was always outspoken. Despite my advice to be more careful after the 9/11 attacks, Shazhad continued reporting on terrorism after he joined Asia Times. After he received threats from many sources, he moved to Islamabad.

For years, I worried his beat would lead him to his death; that his bold writing on intelligence agencies, Al-Qaeda and Taliban, would make him a mark for the very groups he wrote about. It has done so, apparently. But it was also his greatest reporting.


Well said. My condolences on the loss of a brave journalist, great source of information and a man with a purpose.I hope you guys succeed in mobilizing support. It is now or never. Everyday spent thinking the threat to be too large is a moment spent magnifying it. Tough as it is, beginning now is the only solution possible. Each day diminishes you and allows the crazies more power.

I am shocked and saddened at the kidnapping, torture and killing of a man who spoke truth to power when it counted the most and where it counted the most.

It's absolutely condemnable. The security apparatus of the state of Pakistan has been carrying out such murders since a long with immunity. These abductions, torturing to death and throwing away the dead bodies of the political activists, right activists and journalists is not new, Saleem Shahzad is not the first such person to have been abducted and tortured to death allegedly by the security agencies, nor will he be the last person! The only possible way to fight against these crimes against humanity is to agitate them in international bodies such as UN Security Council, ICC, or right-based organisations!

May his soul RIP...it certainly is condemnable, seems like you cannot even search for truth or you will be abducted by the intelligence agencies...may Allah bless Pakistan and Pakistanis..

how many saleem shazad they are going to kill?
I am deeply saddened at the waste of another valueable life. well said mazhar.

tahira mussarat hussain May 31, 2011 6:17:07 PM ET

am shocked and saddened at the kidnapping, torture and killing of a man who spoke truth to power when it counted the most and where it counted the most.

Saleem, my dear friend and colleague...always prepared to go further and dig deeper... anyone who thinks the truth is buried with his body, should perhaps revise their thinking... he was a man who planned ahead...

The death of Saleem shahzad is highly condemabl but this the price we are paying for the policies of the army. The army establishment is not ready to accept the reality that their game is over. Now they want to break the mirror. long Live Saleem Shahzad.

The news of fearless journalist Saleem Shahzad’s murder is heartbreaking. He was a good friend of mine and I spoke to him on May 27 after reading his story. I appreciated his efforts and he told me "Arfeen my next story will be a huge blast, this was just a small piece.”

He told me that he had written that story very carefully, and that he had lots of inside information about the Mehran base attack. He was very much excited about his book "Inside al Qaida and the Taliban" that launched on May 20. I asked him if he would add to the buck after Osama's told me "No it doesn't need it because ideologically Osama was dead for AQ a long time ago."

Saleem said he had held off on doing any big or controversial stories because he did not want an anything to cause waves before launching the book. He also said that he was under huge pressure from people in power living as he did in the heart of the capital, Islamabad.

But, he told me, he would start soon after the book was launched. Which is what he did. The May 27 Asia Times story was the first shot and he had lots more to reveal.

He used to live in Karachi, but years ago shifted to Islamabad because he had to make to frequent trips to the tribal areas. Shortly before the Osama killing he visited South Waziristan and interviewed Mullah Nazir, the militant leader there. That was the first interview he had given to any private news organization. While on his way back to Islamabad he was injured in a road accident and advised by the doctors to take bed rest. He filed the news about Osama killing while resting in his bed. He also told me that he would soon start reporting about the extremist element within the armed forces.

Must be condemned utterly and totally.And the B team( PR department of GHQ9PPP) must also be condemned and realised that this is no more party of dissent anymore.
The fearlessness and courage shown by Saleem must be upheld.

A great professional. Thoughts with his family

Mazhar, I have always been appalled with your and PFUJ's indifference toward the journalists of Balochistan who have gotten killed. I simply regret how you guys apply your activism selectively to certain journalists from certain areas working for certain publications.

Shahzad gave his life not just for journalism, but for his country. He tried to let us be informed about his beloved country and with his work with AKI tried to help his nation to become more democratic and free. We will never forget Shahzad and we are sure that AKI will continue its great job

Freedom has lost one of his greatest son, he was a man that always believed in justice and his death was not for nothing because his agency AKI, after Shahzad death, will be more determinated to discover the truth and will report us all the dramatic situation in that country.

Shahzad was killed because he discovered some incredible truths, his agency AKI will honorate him continuing his great job !!! AKI and Shahzad wanted to let people informed about all the truths of that dangerous country but Talibans make an error if they think that the agency will stop the great job of Shahzad

An important award of italian journalism has been given to Shahzad in memory of his sacrifice for the truth, we are glad about that and we know that his agency AKI will work stronger to inform people and commemorate his great journalist.

The mission of Shahzad was not just to report us events, but he helped us to know better his country and he tried to teach to his country what freedom and justice mean. Shahzad and and his agency AKI always tried to do this, he lost his life and AKI will always remember him by doing its best to inform people and let this 2 different countries more near.

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