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Silenced for Telling the Truth:
Syed Saleem Shazad - A Tribute
|by K. Gajendra Singh|
"Pakistan is the world's most dangerous country for journalists."
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Pakistan bureau chief of Asia Times Online, who had been writing well informed and courageous columns almost daily since ten years, disappeared while driving for a television interview in Islamabad at the weekend. Police discovered his body about 150 kms southeast of the capital two days later. It appears from the many injuries that he was brutally tortured, quite clearly as a warning to other truth seeking journalists in Pakistan. Saleem had recently exposed a possible link between al-Qaeda and Pakistani military in the May 22 attack on Mehran naval-aviation base at Karachi, carried out like the 26/11 rampage on India's financial and cultural capital, Mumbai.
Saleem, only 40 years old, is survived by his wife and three young children.
Pakistan remains the country with most journalists killed in the world; 44 in 2010 alone and not one single killer has been brought to justice so far.
Hameed Haroon, the chief executive of the Dawn Group of Newspapers said in a June 2nd statement that Saleem had told him of receiving "death threats from various officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) on at least three occasions in the past five years". Based in Karachi, he wrote regularly on various Islamist militant networks , haunting and wrecking peace and calm in Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond to India and elsewhere.
In a surprise move, an ISI official stated on 1 June that
Haroon responded that Mr Shahzad's purpose "was not to defame the ISI but to avert a possible fulfillment of what he clearly perceived to be a death threat". "The last threat which I refer to was recorded by Mr. Shahzad by e-mail with me, tersely phrased as 'for the record' at precisely 4.11 am on 18 October 2010, wherein he recounted details of his meetings at the ISI headquarters," added Haroon.
Saleem's brutal murder has been denounced all around the world by almost everyone, even by Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State USA, a country which along with its CIA, Saudi Arabia, its Mukhabarat and other Gulf Emirates had financed, trained and created these nurseries of terrorism and some states still finance them.
Aamer Ahmed Khan of BBC Urdu Programme recalls how in 2001, while editing one of Pakistan's leading news analysis magazines, he had used a story on the ISI-Taliban nexus. A few days later he got a call from one Colonel Tariq. "I know quite a bit about you. You drive a Honda City, don't you?" he said. He knew details of my wife and family and continued: "I find myself wondering why people like you think they can be journalists and have a family at the same time."
Later Khan was called into the ISI for a dressing down. He then realized the scale of the monitoring and surveillance worse than by FBI in US under the Orwellian Patriot act, and brutality. "The entire journalist community in Pakistan knows how closely the agency monitors media and journalists. Every reporter in the country knows that if they get a telephone call from anyone who calls themselves "Colonel Tariq" it is bad news. It usually means they have fallen foul of the ISI", Khan added.
It is clear that Saleem's murder is part of a systematic campaign to eliminate truth seeking voices. "It appears that elements within Pakistan are waging a vicious and brutal war against free speech." A senior Baloch nationalist teacher and poet was recently killed which his family alleges was the handiwork of the ISI. So no wonder fingers are pointed at ISI.
Tribute by K Ghori, a former Pakistani ambassador
It is a damning statement.
I have been an admiring and regular reader of Saleem's articles which I recommended to many others. In a way we were colleagues, since I wrote 60 articles for Asia Times from 2002 to 2005, when suddenly I was asked not to send my articles. My articles were mostly most read especially on Middle East, with posts in Cairo and Algiers and as Ambassador to Jordan (1989-92) during the 1991 war on Iraq and ten years stay in Turkey in two tenures.
Following Saleem's journeys in badlands and articles was something like going through a spy thriller except that it was real life risks. I would mail him words of appreciation and some times, with my watch over Turkey since 1967 and study of five centuries of Ottoman empire, even add information about how in the history of Islam and now, the lines between the Mir and the Pir, the temporal ruler and spiritual ruler remain blurred, contested and changing.
After the establishment of a secular republic in Turkey by Kemal Ataturk, the country is sliding towards Islamism, with ample financial support and investment of yesil surmaye (green money) from Saudi Arabia. West hoping to see a pro-Sunni regime in Ankara ranged against Shia Tehran is quiet and in fact lauding the so-called Turkish model!
Rise and Fall of Janissaries in Ottoman Empire
I referred to Saleem the 'Devshirme' system of recruiting Christian young boys mostly from Balkans but even from Anatolia for its shock troops, the Janissaries and also the top civil service cadre in the Top Kapi Palace.
Like the Konya Sultante the Pakistanis under its religious President Zia-ul- haq with financial support from US led West and Saudi Arabia and other Muslim states trained and sent Jihadist and militants' aka modern day Ghazis into Afghanistan in 1980s, who forced the Soviets' exit from Afghanistan. Eventually the Communist edifice undermined by Slav nationalism, Orthodox Christianity and economic overreach, collapsed by the beginning of 1990s.
The modern day version of Janissaries, a conglomerate of various militias, free-booters, religious fanatics, nationalists and tribal chieftains classified as Al Qaeda,Taliban, Pakistani Taliban etc., are somewhat like the Janissaries of the Ottoman empire , their most effective fighting force which terrorized European Christians and helped extend the Ottoman empire into Europe. But soon instead of terrorizing the enemies of the Ottomans, they threatened the Sultans. Finally the Janissaries had to be destroyed. Would Pakistan be able to do the same i.e. destroy the terror groups and its supporters in the military, ISI, the civilian regime and the clerics.
When I sent such material to Saleem, his gracious reply was "Thank you, Sir".
Once when he enquired why I stopped writing for Atimes, I said that I am too blunt and honest in criticizing US and western policies. He wrote back humorously, why do I not tailor my stories like some others do. Of course he held to the highest canons of journalism, even sacrificing his life. Only Pepe Escobar, another of my favorite journalists gets away with blunt criticism of western policies.
Although I have served in north Africa, Middle East, Turkey and Azerbaijan and travelled widely and interacted with people, I am now only an arm chair analyst of international affairs and events. I do sometimes get a small percentage of abusive letters but run little personal risk.
Enter Gen Pervez Musharraf
I had great hopes for Pakistan and peace in the subcontinent, when Gen Pervez Musharraf took over power in Pakistan. Young Pervez had spent four impressionable school years in Ankara, where his father was posted as an attache. I wrote many articles on him and his policies because of the role of military in Pakistan and Turkey.
At his very first press conference soon after taking over in October, 1999 as Pakistan 's chief executive, General Musharraf spotted some journalists from Turkey. Speaking in fluent Turkish, Musharraf told them that he was a great admirer of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic and its first president. "As a model, Kemal Ataturk did a great deal for Turkey. I have his biography. We will see what I can do for Pakistan." Apart from being more at home with Turkish in 1999 than Pakistan's national language, Urdu, Musharraf also admired Turkey's generals and the country's political model. Ataturk's legend of forging a new, vibrant, modern and secular Turkey out of the ashes of the decaying deadwood of the Ottoman Empire left an indelible mark on young Pervez, as evidenced by his remarks above.
But by 2003 it was clear that the Mohajir General was but a time server and I wrote;
Fault Lines in Pak Polity
A weak and reliant (on West) state of Pakistan was created by the British as UK archives show, to keep India, which under Nehru and Gandhi was unlikely to join western alliances, away from direct contact with south west, central and west Asia, with West controlled oil wells, the new fuel to power and dominance. Since WWII, Washington, the new Rome till 2003, so they thought, with oil money of protected Saudi dynasty and Rawalpindi with support from Israel (Iran up to 1979) has humiliated, ruled and robbed the people of these regions of their wealth, who are now risen against Western domination as had the people of East Europe in 1990 against the Communist domination. It will be hard and long bloody battle but the people of former Ottoman Vilayats of north Africa taken over by European nations before WWI and the Arab lands of west Asia, divided and ruled after the defeat of the Ottoman forces in the WWI, will succeed in achieving freedom.
Saleem like other Pathans did not appear too enthused by the Punjabi Musalman, who got Pakistan as a gift from London and have dominated and abused people from other provinces. Their wish to have Afghanistan and dominate it as their backyard or as strategic depth will remain a pipe dream. But till the ruling Saudi dynasty remains in power, Muslims are unlikely to make much progress, since Riyadh only distributes Qurans, finances Mosques, Madrasas and various kind of rightwing regimes and terror and other groups. Signs are that it might happen following the Arab uprisings across north Africa and the middle East.
Until than truth seekers like Syed Saleem Shahzad will continue to be martyrs for 'Al haq'.
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