“I am forwarding this email to you for your record only if in case something happens to me or my family in future,” Shahzad, 40, wrote in October to the Pakistan representative of Human Rights Watch, sharing details of a meeting he had just had with officers from the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI. Shahzad suggested that they had threatened him, an experience that Pakistani journalists, activists and politicians say is not uncommon.
But those threats rarely end in killing, and Shahzad’s death immediately sparked fresh criticism of Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus. The “agencies,” as they are known here, last month faced unusual public condemnation for their apparent failure to locate Osama bin Laden in a garrison city, as well as allegations that they had harbored him.
On Tuesday, the focus was on activities Pakistan’s spies are better known for domestically: punishing those who cross the influential military, the main locus of power in a nation with a weak civilian government.
An ISI official denied that the agency was involved in Shahzad’s death. “Show us the proof. Otherwise, it’s totally absurd,” the official said, noting that Shahzad’s coverage might also have angered militant organizations. Pakistan’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, told journalists that the motive appeared to be “personal enmity.”
Shahzad’s killing also renewed attention on the alleged crossover between militants and Pakistan’s security forces, some of which he outlined in a recent article for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, for which he was the Pakistan bureau chief. According to Shahzad’s reporting, last week’s attack on a Karachi naval base was a response to the Pakistani navy’s detection of al-Qaeda cells within its ranks, and it followed failed discussions between the navy and al-Qaeda about the release of naval officers arrested on suspicion of links to the terrorist group.
On Monday, Pakistani media reported that a former navy commando had been detained for questioning in the attack.
U.S. intelligence analysts are skeptical that al-Qaeda has penetrated Pakistan’s armed forces. “There’s not likely to be an organized al-Qaeda cell within the Pakistan navy,” a U.S. official said.
But U.S. officials said that there is a long-standing concern over the presence of Islamist militants — what one official referred to as “onesies and twosies” — among Pakistan’s military branches. Pakistan’s leaders privately share this concern, U.S. officials said.