Islamabad, Jan 13: The Pakistani judicial commission that investigated the killing of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad has suggested he could have been murdered by “belligerent” elements involved in the war on terror and said all intelligence agencies should be made more accountable.
The commission's report, submitted to the Prime Minister on Tuesday, did not single out any person or organisation who could have killed Shahzad but left room open for a further probe, the Dawn newspaper reported today.
The executive summary of the report said Shahzad's “writings probably did, and certainly could have, drawn the ire of various belligerents in the war on terror, which included the Pakistani state and non-state actors such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda and foreign actors”.
“Any of these could have had the motive to commit the crime, as clearly, he was also in close contact with all of these,” the report said.
It added that Shahzad's killing might have been linked, as asserted by some witnesses, to the US drone attack on al Qaeda-linked militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri.
The report recommended that the ISI and Intelligence Bureau should be reined in and made more accountable.
The report said all intelligence agencies should be made accountable at three levels - within the agencies and before the minister-in-charge through an internal administrative review; through a parliamentary committee responsible for oversight of their affairs; and through a suitably tailored judicial forum for redressing complaints against them.
It said the more important intelligence agencies - ISI and IB - should be made more law-abiding through legislation that carefully outlines their mandates and role. It further said their interaction with the media should be carefully streamlined institutionally and regularly documented.
The commission said it had been unable to identify the elements responsible for the murder despite having looked very hard for substantial evidence and tangible material, direct or circumstantial, which would allow it to single out the killers from various suspected quarters.
“Yet such evidence has not surfaced,” it said. It said the press too should be made more law-abiding and accountable through the strengthening of institutions mandated by law to deal with legitimate grievances against it.
The commission urged the media to maintain a balance between secrecy and accountability in the conduct of information-gathering which should be appropriately readjusted with the aim of restoring public confidence in all state institutions.
The panel recommended that Islamabad Police and Punjab Police should continue to investigate the murder diligently and impartially without any fear or favour by interrogating all those who should be questioned in the normal course.
The commission asked authorities to ensure the immediate disbursement of the Rs 3 million announced by the President as compensation for Shahzad's widow and said his children should be provided free education at least till graduation.
Shahzad was abducted while driving from his house to a television station in Islamabad on May 29 last year, two days after he alleged in an article that Al Qaeda had infiltrated the Pakistan Navy.
His body, bearing marks of severe torture, was found the next day in a canal near Mandi Bahauddin, a district of Punjab province. Rights groups and journalists' bodies had alleged that he was killed by the ISI, a charge denied by the spy agency.