As many of us were eating hot dogs, tending BBQs and watching fireworks to honor our fundamental freedoms, seven words in the New York Times caught my eye, “Pakistan’s spies tied to slaying of journalist“. Seven words among the several thousand that pass my eyes every day before I even reach for a cup of coffee, that made me think about the Constitution, and the struggle for human rights.
A forty year old journalist, Saleem Shazad, disappeared on May 29, after writing an exposé of an attack on a Pakistani military base which indicated collusion from inside the armed forces. Shazad’s body was found in a canal 60 miles from Islamabad. “Mr. Shahzad suffered 17 lacerated wounds delivered by a blunt instrument, a ruptured liver and two broken ribs, said Dr. Mohammed Farrukh Kamal, one of the three physicians who conducted the post-mortem.”, according to the Times, which said he was the 37th journalist to be killed in Pakistan since 9/11.
The Obama Administration believes that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence directed the attack on him to silence his criticism. The Administration called the treatment of Shazad “barbaric”. Yet, if anyone is in any doubt Pakistan is a crucial ally of the United States and a democratic state. It remains the single most important regional country in the struggle against Al Qaeda, and the recipient of more than 20 billion dollars of US assistance since 9/11. These were not the crazed acts of frenzied tribesmen, they were the deliberate calculated acts of agents employed by the state.
There are many countries around the world in which press freedoms are under attack and where writers face the constant threat of violence and intimidation, just like them the treatment of Shazad was clearly meant as an example to all those wishing to exercise their most basic human rights and civil liberties.
It is too easy for us as we reach for the paper to flick through stories and discard them to the trash can. But once in a while, between cups of coffee and a quick flick through the travel section and the sports pages, it would be good to think about the cost of the freedoms that we cherish and those around the world that are still fighting to attain them.