When I heard the news of Syed Saleem Shahzad’s murder I inevitably felt deep sorrow. My sympathies go to his family and those like me who feel that something is now missing from their lives. Shahzad gave me hope. He gave me hope because he’s worked unbelievably hard to try to help Pakistan live up to its potential. He’s carried the torch of liberty and free speech with the best of them.
I have long campaigned that Pakistan is the epicentre of jihadi terrorism and sections of their society should be tried for the state planned and sponsored genocide which occurred in Bangladesh during the Liberation War of 1971. A Pakistani hater I may be in some eyes, however, I have always had time and respect for the Pakistani people, and they unlike sections of their elites want nothing more than a better and peaceful life.
I have always idolised the tenacious and brave reporting of Shahzad, he’s one of South Asia’s greatest exports. Shahzad has worked as the Pakistan Bureau Chief of Asia Times Online for a while now. His name has become a by-word for bravery and tenacious reporting. He has a remarkable ability to combine sublime analysis with peerless investigative skills with such profound effect. He’s also been kind to me; although I have known him for a short time. He’s helped me to navigate the byzantine web which is Pakistan’s jihadi and secular politics.
Shahzad and others like him have had to carry the burden of hope for South Asia watchers who have seen Pakistan’s media and analytical community try to wrestle with dark and powerful forces. These forces have aggressively campaigned to silence free speech through violence and intimidation. They have stopped one of their most powerful opponents, but in death his voice will only grow louder.
The majority of Pakistan’s press wants make their state accountable and they have the journalistic talent to do so, but they’ve been bullied and cajoled for so long. I would not be surprised if they seriously felt like giving up. Shahzad’s murder will probably intimidate them, but his death and his investigations should show that he was on the right track. He knew the problems and the main cause of Pakistan’s and the wider world’s problem with international terrorism. Shahzad, like Daniel Pearl, was murdered because he knew too much.
Pakistan has lost one of its national treasures. I hope that Pakistan’s intelligentsia will use his death as a rallying call for peace, security and a small piece of normality again. It is going to be a bloody struggle. There is no way around that. Pakistan has lurched from one crisis to the next often because of poor civilian and military leadership. They need and demand better. Saleem exemplified what is good at the heart of Pakistani society. He was a man of peace and was horrified that Pakistan’s national identity, which has tried to look for unity and pride amongst its people, has been eroded by communalism, violence and hatred.
The people of Pakistan deserve much better than radicalism Islamism and ultranationalism from their moronic militaristic elites. These forces have combined to make a dangerous mix which is also affecting the security of the international community. Shahzad’s death can’t be in vain. He is truly a Pakistani hero; he’s also one of mine.