Pakistan “sanctioned” the killing of a journalist who wrote about the country’s powerful security establishment, the top military commander in the US Admiral Mike Mullen, has said.
The death of the journalist, Syed Saleem Shahzad, prompted intense speculation about the possible involvement of the Pakistan military’s powerful spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), but Mullen said on Thursday he could not confirm its involvement.
The remarks by Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, are likely to place new strains on Pakistan-U.S. ties, which were seriously damaged by the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in Pakistan in May.
The Pakistan government hit back at Mullen’s claims. “If it is true, then the statement is extremely irresponsible,” a Pakistani government spokesman said. “It will not help in investigating the issue.”
Mullen said that the reported abuse of journalists in Pakistan was not a good road for the government in Islamabad.
“It’s a way to continue to, quite frankly, spiral in the wrong direction,” said Mullen, who has devoted time in the past four years to trying to improve relations with Pakistani leaders.
Murdered Pakistani investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad’s widow on Friday travelled to the Italian island of Ischia to collect a journalism prize on her late husband’s behalf.
Anita Saleem made the journey from Karachi accompanied by their 13-year-old son.
Italy’s Ischia Prize Foundation in June granted Shahzad a special international journalism award.
The annual prizes honour excellence in journalism and communication.