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Our lives are touched

[ by Charles Cameron – on death of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad ]


Our lives are touched by those who inform us: just a short while ago it was Tim Hetherington, today it is Syed Saleem Shahzad.

I must have been reading Saleem Shahzad for almost as long as he was reporting for Asia Times online – the first piece of his I could find on my hard drive is, ironically enough, a piece he wrote on the disappearance of Daniel Pearl:


And now Shahzad too is dead.

According to today’s ATimes report of his death, “Shahzad, who has been writing for Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online for nearly 10 years, failed to show up for a scheduled appearance on a television talk show in the capital Islamabad”…

So the Shahzad piece on Daniel Pearl must have been one of his earlier reports for ATimes, and here we are almost ten years later, with Shahzad himself in the role of the disappeared journalist.


Shahzad had interviewed the likes of Sirajuddin Haqqani and Ilyas Kashmiri on the jihadist side of things, and been recently interviewed himself by Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir and Commodore Khalid Pervaiz

Joshua Foust sums up our reasons to regret his passing on Registan:

This is a serious loss—not just for his family, which must mourn a senseless death, but for people trying to understand the inexplicable militancy in Pakistan. He often had incredible sources, embedding with the insurgency inside Pakistan and Afghanistan and bringing to light narratives, perspectives, and stories no one could even hope to touch. Shahzad also seemed to have close ties to the ISI, and he performed an invaluable service reflecting those views to the outside world.

Shahzad, in other words, helped us start to understand why things happen in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Beyond his value as a human being—which means already that he couldn’t ever deserve to be abducted off the road and tortured to death—Syed Saleem Shahzad lived his life reporting things no one else would or could. And for that, we should celebrate what he accomplished.

Huma Imtiaz writes, in an AfPak Channel post aptly — if again ironically — titled Angels of death:

In the 1990s, journalists in Pakistan used to refer to members of the ISI as farishtas, which in English means “angels.” “The angels are at work,” they used to remark, when election results were delayed, a reference to the ISI rigging the polls to achieve a desired result. For journalists, reporting on these angels increasingly means exposing yourself to great danger, and the ever-present threat of disappearing in the middle of the night, perhaps never to be seen again.


Requiescat in pace.

Syed Saleem Shahzad’s book, Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 was released two weeks ago.

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