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    South Asia
     Jun 2, 2011

Target: Saleem
By Pepe Escobar

See Pakistan: Silencing the truth-seekers, Justice, not words, Why is he not alive? and Tributes to Saleem.

Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) deserves a medal of honor. Quite an intel op; whether it did it directly, subcontracted by military intelligence or through ''rogue'' elements, it has set the bar very high.

After all, when a Pakistani journalist - not a foreigner - writes that al-Qaeda is infiltrated deep inside the Pakistani military establishment, one's got to act with utmost courage.

So you abduct the journalist. You torture him. And you snuff him. Target assassination - the low-tech version. After all, if the Pentagon can drone their way to tribal heaven - and get away with it - why not join the fun?

Saleem was a brother. In the aftermath of 9/11 we worked in tandem; he was in Karachi, I was in Islamabad/Peshawar. After

the US ''victory'' in Afghanistan I went to visit him at home. He plunged me into Karachi's wild side - in this and other visits. During a night walk on the beach he confessed his dream; he wanted to be Pakistan bureau chief for Asia Times, which he regarded as the K2 of journalism. He got it.

And then, years before ''AfPak'' was invented, he found his perfect beat - the intersection between the ISI, the myriad Taliban factions on both sides of AfPak, and all sorts of jihadi eruptions. That was his sterling beat; and no one could bring more hardcore news from the heart of hardcore than Saleem.

I had met some of his sources in Islamabad and Karachi - but over the years he kept excavating deeper and deeper into the shadows. Sometimes we seriously debated over e-mails - I feared some dodgy/devious ISI strands were playing him while he always vouched for his sources.

Cornered by the law of the jungle, no wonder most of my Pakistani friends, during the 2000s, became exiles in the United States or Canada. Saleem stayed - threats and all, the only concession relocating from Karachi to Islamabad.

Now they finally got him. Not an al-Qaeda or jihadi connection. Not a tribal or Taliban connection, be it Mullah Omar or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. It had to be the ISI - as he knew, and told us, all along.

So congratulations to the ISI - the ''state within the state''. Mission accomplished. 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His latest is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

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