US Admiral Says Pakistan Sanctioned Journalist’s Murder

In yet another blow for U.S.-Pakistani relations, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared that he believed that the Pakistani government had “sanctioned” the murder of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad.  Admiral Mike Mullen, who is set to retire in September, said that although he did not have a “string of evidence” linking Shahzad’s killing in May, he had “not seen anything that would disabuse that report that the government knew about this.”  He added, “It was sanctioned by the government, yeah.”

The diplomatic relationship between the United States and Pakistan has been tense ever since Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan in early May, and this accusation adds to an already fraught situation.  Shahzad was kidnapped near his Islamabad home in May; his body was found two days later.  He had, according to the New York Times’ Elizabeth Bumiller, “written scathing reports about the infiltration of Islamic militants into the country’s security services.”

Earlier this week, senior officials in the Obama administration said that they had intelligence that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had ordered Shahzad killed.  ”Every indication is that this was a deliberate, targeted killing that was most likely meant to send shock waves through Pakistan’s journalist community and civil society,” said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Writing for Time, Omar Waraich explains that Pakistani journalists are under extreme pressure.  ”Journalists now face a public campaign of intimidation bent on silencing them and holding them up as traitors,” he said.

Adm. Mullen, however, is the first American official to publicly accuse Pakistan of being involved in Shahzad’s death, a sign, according to journalists, that his patience is wearing thin.  His comments will almost certainly have an effect on the United States’ relationship with Pakistan.  Firdous Ashiq Awan, the Information Minister, slammed Mullen’s claims, saying in a news conference that he had made “extremely irresponsible and unfortunate statement.”

“This statement will create problems and difficulties for the bilateral relations between Pakistan and America. It will definitely deal a blow to our common efforts with regard to the war on terror,” Awan said.

What’s unclear is whether Mullen’s comments were approved beforehand or if Mullen, looking toward his retirement, simply let caution fly to the winds.  In his remarks, Mullen indicated that Shahzad’s death was part of a systematic pattern of violently removing troublesome journalists, which may signal that he was simply venting frustration at a country with whom he has diligently worked to create strong diplomatic ties.

“His [death] isn’t the first. For whatever reason, it has been used as a method historically,” said Mullen. “It’s not a way to move ahead. It’s a way to continue to, quite frankly, spiral in the wrong direction.”

The fragile relationship between the United States and Pakistan was certainly not helped by Mullen’s frank words.  But is there a point at which diplomatic relationships should be risked in order to condemn ongoing human rights abuses?  If, as Mullen and Waraich allege, journalists are being targeted and intimidated by the Pakistani government, maybe it’s time someone spoke up.  Whether this is the right way to do so is another question.

Photo from Medill DC via flickr


Marjorie L.
Marjorie L.5 years ago

Wow, we have plenty of corrupt, violent psychopaths right here in the good ole US of A who could use all those billions in aid money squandered in Pakistan....

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y.5 years ago


...even the Islamists if they have a responsible road map.

By the way, it was at the request of the Pakistani govt. that we're using drones. It was they who suggested we give them air support against the worst of the terrorists, in order not to have boots on the ground. So those of you who are against American policy, you are against official Pakistani govt. policy too. Drone on.

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y.5 years ago

Everyone should remember it was the U.S. who prevented war between India and Pakistan in 2002, which would most likely have involved nuclear weapons, and in which Pakistan would most likely have been crushed because India has far more of them as well as conventional forces. You're welcome.

Secretary of State Powell was sent there to cool things off after the Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on the Parliament in New Delhi. The Indian people were understandably upset at this attempted massacre of their government, and were in the streets demanding a major military response. India mobilized the largest force it had ever marshalled since the Indo-Pakistani war.

Time and Newsweek published graphs and maps of the predicted fallout patterns and their effect on populations should a nuclear exchange have occurred, leaked from Pentagon sources. It was a timely warning. Tens to hundreds of millions would have died from a full-blown exchange, and not just limited to the Asian Subcontinent.

So perhaps U.S. policy in this area is more balanced and reasonable than many people realize. We are not like the insane Takfiri terrorists who want the world to go up in flames, who WANT the major powers to fight each other so they can bring about an Islamic dictatorship. We do NOT want millions of people to kill each other. We are willing to work with Pakistan, or at least with the moderate and reasonable parties and factions which are now in control, even the Islamists if they have a responsible road

Roopak Vaidya
Roopak Vaidya5 years ago

Siusaidh C., what about the 26/11 attacks on innocent civilians in Bombay, which emanated from Pakistan?
What about Pakistan's open declaration that in case of a war it will use nuclear as a first option when India has said that it will use nuclear only as a strike back to nuclear attack?
India should have moved into Pakistan after 26/11, only the US and Europe pressurised India to "exercise restraint" and would have protested strongly and may even have protected Pakistan.
Wake up Americans! And Europeans!

Roopak Vaidya
Roopak Vaidya5 years ago

Every situation throws up some humour, tangential or otherwise; here's one that's been going around Bombay. Just for fun:

"Imagine living with three spouses in one house for five years and not being able to ever go out, not even into the garden. Not a single beer while watching TV. Bin Laden must have called the navy seals himself!"

Lori E.
Lori E.5 years ago

We need to get our military out of there asap!

Charles Edwards
Charles Edwards5 years ago

To: Siusaidh'

One last thing to consider-your comment on drones-If I have someone constantly either sneaking up on me to blindside me or covering for those that do, I damn sure will not be trying to handle it with kid gloves. I will use every tool available to remedy the situation. Have you thought for one minute how many lives these unmanned drones have saved-both Pakistani and American-by allowing for precision hits against targeted enemies? The coddling of people that are responsible for attacking us or our allies should no longer be tolerated. If attacked directly or indirectly, we should marshal every force at our command in response and hit and hit again until the threat has been taken care of in such a manner that it would never occur again. Normally I am the voice of reason that tries to quell the violence before it starts, but once a time for action has been reached you will find me at the forefront. Diplomacy first. If that fails, which it seems to have in this case, overwhelming force until the enemies back is broken and not to cease before that, should be our ccourse of action.

Charles Edwards
Charles Edwards5 years ago

To: Siusaidh ,

In the interest of free speech and free exchange of ideas, I have let you rattle on with your overly anti-american crap. In this hemisphere (made up of USA and Canada) you have the right to your opinions and the ability to voice it at the same time without fear of reprisal. Go back where you came from and see how far you would get even mildly disagreeing with the powers that be. Simple solution-You don't like it here, you don't agree with the make-up of society here, rather than sit there spewing hatred and taking full advantage of the rights and freedoms GIVEN you by your host, then pack up your crap and leave. Go to the 'wronged nations' you evidently love and try to exercise these rights there. I will gladly send flowers to your funeral when they execute you for your disagreement.

Parvez Z.
Parvez Zuberi5 years ago

Pakistan is fighting American war in Afghanistan and to assist them the have planted a puppet Govt to look after their interest at the cost of killing thousands of innocent unarmed people the only solution is to call your forces back home their will be peace in the region more over people of Pakistan will get rid of this puppet Govt and newly sincere elected govt can look after the problem people are facing because of the war in Afghanistan

Guy Kimble
Guy Kimble5 years ago

No suprise!