A prominent Pakistani journalist has been found dead on the roadside outside Islamabad, less than two days after he was allegedly abducted by the country's powerful military intelligence service.
Saleem Shahzad disappeared on his way to a television interview on Sunday evening. Human Rights Watch said it learned he been abducted by the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI).
Shahzad's body was found six miles from his car in a small hamlet on the edge of Islamabad. Local media reported that he had torture marks on his face and a gunshot wound to the stomach.
"This killing bears all the hallmarks of previous killings perpetrated by Pakistani intelligence agencies," said Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch, noting that Shahzad had previously warned that his life was in danger from the ISI.
Hasan called for a "transparent investigation and court proceedings". Other journalists reacted angrily, directly accusing the ISI of responsibility.
"Any journalist here who doesn't believe that it's our intelligence agencies?" tweeted Mohammed Hanif, a bestselling author and BBC correspondent.
Shahzad, the Pakistan correspondent for the Hong Kong-based news service Asia Times Online, vanished two days after publishing a story alleging negotiations between Pakistan military officials and al-Qaida.
The story claimed that al-Qaida attacked the Mehran naval base in Karachi on 22 May in retaliation for the arrest of two naval officials with militant links. Al-Qaida had been secretly pressing the military to release the men, Shahzad said.
Pakistani security forces battled for 17 hours to contain the assault, during which at least four heavily armed men slipped into the base, blew up two American-built surveillance planes and killed 10 soldiers.
On Tuesday Pakistani media reported that military intelligence had picked up a retired navy commando and his brother in Lahore in connection with the raid. The detained men, who allegedly have militant links, were previously questioned in connection to an earlier militant assault.
Shahzad was abducted from central Islamabad on Sunday evening as he travelled to the studios of Dunya television to discuss his report on the naval base attack. The following day, after being alerted by Shahzad's wife, Hasan said he had been informed through "reliable interlocutors" that Shahzad was being held by the ISI.
Last October Shahzad sent Human Rights Watch an email saying he was afraid he would be killed by the ISI, Hasan claimed. In the email, intended to be released in the event of his death, Shahzad said he had been summoned to ISI headquarters in Islamabad to discuss an article about Mullah Brader, a Taliban commander captured in Pakistan with American help months earlier.
The two ISI officials Shahzad said were present at the meeting, Rear Admiral Adnan Nawaz and Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, were both naval officers. Last week Pervaiz was made commander of the Karachi naval base that was attacked.
"We believed [Shahzad's] claim that he was being threatened by the ISI is credible, and any investigation into his murder has to factor this in," Hasan said.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan called for a government inquiry into the "heinous crime", but avoided mention of the ISI, focusing blame on the "servile policies [of] a corrupt and inept government".
As a reporter, Shahzad was known for delving deep into the murky underworld of Islamist militancy. He had interviewed some of the most notorious leaders including Sirajuddin Haqqani, a major player in the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, and Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani militant who works for al-Qaida.
His new book, Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11, had just been published.
Pakistan is the world's most dangerous country for journalists, according to Reporters without Borders, which says that 16 journalists have been killed in the past 14 months.
Last September Umar Cheema, another investigative reporter, was abducted from Islamabad for six hours and tortured before being released. He said he suspected that his kidnappers belonged to the ISI.http://www.guardian.co.uk...tan-journalist-found-dead