Even as Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency issued a statement on Wednesday denying any involvement in the murder of reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad, the country's journalist community continues to insist that he died in ISI custody.
Shehzad, 40, who worked for an Italian website and the Asia Times Online website, published a story on the possible links between al Qaeda and the navy on the former's website. After the story appeared, Shehzad was brutally tortured and killed. A post-mortem revealed that he might have been beaten with iron rods, which led to multiple organ failure.
The journalist community widely believes that the ISI may have captured Shahzad for not heeding their warning and not disclosing his sources.
Journalist Umar Cheema said that blindfolding captives and beating them up with iron rods is a form of torture used frequently by the ISI.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Hameed Haroon, president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, said "...an ISI spokesman, while speaking to the official national news agency in Islamabad, questioned the "baseless allegations" leveled at them by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the basis of an email from Shahzad. I wish to state that the email in the possession of Ali Dayan, the monitor for the HRW, is one of the three identical emails sent by Shahzad to HRW, his employers (Asia Times Online) and to his former employer, myself. I also wish to verify that allegations levied by the HRW are in consonance with the contents of Shahzad's email."
In an email sent by Shahzad to Haroon on October 18, 2010, the slain journalist recounted the details of his meeting at the ISI headquarters in Islamabad with the director general-media wing (ISI) Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir and the deputy director general-media wing, with Pervez also being present on the occasion.
The agenda of this meeting was Shahzad's story in which he accused the government of freeing senior Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Baraadar. Shahzad told the officials that the story was leaked by an intelligence channel in Pakistan, and confirmed by the "most credible Taliban source". The officials asked Shahzad to officially deny the story, which he refused.
At this meeting, Pervez, who was then heading the domestic press wing of the ISI, told Shahzad that a terrorist with a hit list had been arrested. "I will do you a favour. If I find your name on the list, I will let you know," Pervez is reported to have had told Shehzad.