New York, Jul 5 : US officials say they have intelligence that Pakistan's powerful spy agency ISI ordered the killing of a Pakistani journalist who had written scathing reports about Islamist militants having infiltrated into the country's military.
New classified intelligence obtained before the May 29 disappearance of the journalist, Saleem Shahzad, 40, from the capital, Islamabad, and after the discovery of his mortally wounded body, showed that senior officials of the spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, directed the attack on him in an effort to silence criticism, ‘New York Times' reported quoting two senior Obama Administration officials.
The intelligence, administration officials said they believed was reliable and conclusive, showed that the actions of the ISI, as it is known, were “barbaric and unacceptable”. But the disclosure of the information could further aggravate the badly fractured relationship between the US and Pakistan, which worsened significantly with the American commando raid two months ago that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistan safehouse.
The newspaper said Obama administration officials will deliberate in the coming days how to present the information about Shahzad to the Pakistani government, an official said. The disclosure of the intelligence was made in answer to questions about the possibility of its existence, and was reluctantly confirmed by the two officials.
“There is a lot of high-level concern about the murder; no one is too busy not to look at this,” said one.
In Islamabad, Pakistan's Information Minister today said the fresh allegations by US officials were part of an “international conspiracy” to malign the country's security forces.
“There is an international conspiracy to malign the law enforcement agencies and security forces. (These allegations) are part of that conspiracy,” Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters on the sidelines of a SAARC seminar here.
She was responding to a question about a report in The New York Times.Awan did not give any details of the “international conspiracy” that she referred to.
Referring to the current impasse in Pakistan-US relations, she said friendship between any two countries is a bilateral matter and “everybody safeguards their own interests”.
She added: “Whenever there is a clash of interests, such things happen”.
There had been “ups and downs” in relations between Pakistan and the US but “good relations are in the interest of both countries,” she said.
To a question about the Shamsi airbase in southwest Pakistan that is believed to used by the US for drone flights,
Awan said the Pakistan People's Party-led government has not given the airbase to “anyone” and there was no written
agreement on the use of the facility by any party. PTI