PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) is shocked and saddened by the death of journalist and author Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau Chief of the Asia Times Online and author of the newly published Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11. He disappeared on 29 May 2011 two days after writing an article for the Asia Times Online suggesting complicity between Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Navy. His body was found on 31 May 2011 bearing signs of torture. PEN International strongly urges the Pakistani authorities to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the death of Syed Saleem Shahzad as a matter of urgency, and to do all in their power to bring the culprits to justice.
According to PEN’s information, Syed Saleem Shahzad went missing in Pakistan on 29 May 2011, having left his home to participate in a television programme. He never reached the television station. Early reports suggested that Shahzad was being held by Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and it was widely believed that he was being questioned in relation to an article in the Asia Times suggesting complicity between Al Qaeda and Pakistani Navy officials.
Syed Saleem Shahzad’s body was found on 31 May 2011 in Sarai Alamgir, nearly 200 kilometres from Islamabad. Reports suggest that the body, which has now been positively identified by relatives, shows visible signs of torture.
Syed Saleem Shahzad, aged forty, was the Pakistan bureau chief of Asia Times Online, as well as the author of the groundbreaking Inside Al–Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 (Pluto Press, May 2011). Shahzad had on several occasions been warned by officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) over articles they deemed to be detrimental to Pakistan’s national interests, most recently on 17 October 2010 when he was summoned for questioning and held for twenty-four hours. Recently he had complained about receiving renewed threats. He leaves behind a widow and three children aged 7, 12 and 14.
Syed Saleem Shahzad’s article
For further background on the case and the state of free expression in Pakistan see:
A statement by English PEN:
Please send appeals:
Urging the Pakistani authorities to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the death of Syed Saleem Shahzad as a matter of urgency, and to do all in their power to bring the culprits to justice.
President Asif Ali Zardari
Office of the President
Fax: +92 51 920 3938 / 920 1968 / 811 390
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani
You may wish to ask the diplomatic representative for Pakistan in your country to forward your appeals. It would also be advantageous to ask your country’s diplomatic representatives in Pakistan to intervene in the case.
Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after 30 June 2011
For further information, please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN WiPC, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER. Tel: +44 (0) 2074050338, Fax: +44(0) 2074050339. Email: Cathy.McCann@internationalpen.org.uk