Syed Saleem Shahzad was a rare journalist. His reporting on the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other heads of the jihadist hydra based in Pakistan was always essential reading. He never wavered, as far as I can tell, in giving readers as complete a picture as he could. Oftentimes, that meant Shahzad reported on the nexus between the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment and the terrorist groups it helped spawn. Shahzad did this while working deep inside the heart of Pakistan – a brave rarity, indeed.
Shahzad went missing a few days ago. The Asia Times, for which he wrote, reports that his body has been found in a canal. Pakistani police say that torture marks were left on his body. The Asia Times also says that Shahzad had “been warned by officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) over articles they deemed to be detrimental to Pakistan's national interests or image.”
It is too early to tell if Shahzad was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the Pakistani ISI, or its clients. But it would not be surprising.
Shahzad’s murder is reminiscent of Daniel Pearl’s in 2002. Pearl, like Shahzad, dared to ask questions about jihad and its sponsors inside Pakistan. For that, Pearl was kidnapped by terrorists long sponsored by the ISI and then murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and al Qaeda, which of course has had its own Pakistani patrons.
Less than one month ago, Osama bin Laden was killed near a Pakistani military cantonment. The Obama administration couldn’t trust the Pakistanis with foreknowledge of the raid, despite all of the counterterrorism cooperation they have given the West through the years. Such is the duplicitous nature of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment.
Shahzad’s reporting on the relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda, which is mistakenly downplayed by many in the West, was particularly important. Equally important was his reporting on the Taliban’s reorganization several years after losing its emirate in Afghanistan.
Few inside Pakistan did more to expose the evil that lurks there than Shahzad. He will be missed by readers around the globe.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.