I was immersed in preparation of my community medicine rotation test, last Saturday on 29th 2011, when at 5 pm sharp a very dear friend and comrade “Z” called me.
“We are at McDonald’s in F-9 Park having a party, why don’t you join us as well,” said Z, “Senior journalist Saleem Shahzad is also here and it would be nice if you come as well.”
“Sure, Il be there in 30 min,” I replied, closing my books and preparing to leave.
Z and Saleem Shahzad were old acquaintances of Zaid Hamid and knew much of his association with Yusuf Kazzab and also his other cross-wired personality traits. Because of our association with Zaid Hamid Exposition group Z wanted me to meet Saleem Shahzad to discuss what could be done with his help to curb this re-emerging fitnah. He was especially concerned about Zaid Hamid breaking up the marriage of his employee Tayyaba Bukhari, and marrying her despite the fact that she was a married woman with five children.
I found Z sitting with a gentleman, who I recognized as Saleem Shahzad from his media appearances. Z introduced us to each other. After ordering ice creams, and some light discussion, I asked Saleem Bhai wether he is a friend of Zaid Hamid.
“I know Zaid Hamid since 1989,” said Saleem lost in thought, “My first meeting with him in Karachi was at a wedding where I met a very charismatic fellow; Zaid Zaman. I asked him what he does and he replied that he has done his B.E. but he will not do any job. I was shocked and asked him why so, to which he replied that I will do a job only when Pakistan becomes a true Islamic state.” Saleem says that he was impressed by Zaid Hamid’s passion at that time but there was something odd which he found about him.
“At that time I really wanted to join the army. I wanted guidance and a friend recommended to talk to Zaid Hamid as his father had a military background,” narrated Saleem nostalgically “ I met Zaid Hamid at his residence and asked him whether his father could help me get into the army. He told me that his father retired ages ago and had no influence in the Army right now, but he did ask me as to why I wanted to join the Army. I replied that I wanted to fight for Islam and the army was the best place to do so. “Zaid Hamid laughed when he heard this and said sarcastically that the Pakistan army is a mercenary army. When America wants them to fight for Islam they fight for Islam and when they want them to fight against Islam they will fight against Islam.”
“Wait a min Saleem bhai…what the hell…Pakistan army is a mercenary army…??They will fight against Islam when America tell them to…this coming from Zaid Hamid…..” I said shocked. Saleem laughed really hard and said, “It is funny to see that what he said in 1989 is now being said by Al Qaeda. At that time Zaid Hamid was very radical. In that wedding when I first met him, he gave a speech against Shias calling them to be infidels, deserving death…I was impressed with him but sometimes he used to say very weird things. For instance he never used to pray in the mosque near his house as he thought that the Star of David was drawn on it which was quiet ridiculous.”
“I was in shock as today Zaid Hamid considers Pakistan army to be on a divine mission,” said Saleem. “I then left Karachi. We met again after a few years,” continued Saleem with his story, “This time when I met him he seemed very reluctant to meet to me and almost refused to have eye contact. He told me that the leaders of the Afghan Jihad betrayed the aspirations of the Muslims as they did not have any spiritual training.” Saleem says that he asked him whether he had a murshid to which Zaid Hamid replied in the affirmative.
“Zaid Hamid told me that my murshid’s name is Yousuf Ali. I asked whether is it possible to meet him, to which he replied that he doesn’t meet people just like that. You would have to read “darood shareef” ten thousand times a day to meet him. I only laughed and kept silent. After that I did not see him again for a few more years” said Saleem continuing with his story. “The next time I met him was in 2007. I received a phone call and the caller identified himself as Zaid Hamid, and told me that he really likes my articles and he would like to meet me. I told him that Zaid bhai I am Saleem shahzad don’t you recognize me. He said no. I tried very hard to remind him of the times we spent together but he didn’t remember” said Saleem while rubbing his chin.
“I mean one doesn’t just completely forget a person in just a few years. I met him as well and even then he didn’t remember me. It was a shock to me that he doesn’t remember anything. I thought he was pretending but then some people told me that he had received electric shocks to his mind for some mental disease and he has lost some of his memory as a result of it.”
“Yes electro convulsive therapy. It is one of the controversial therapies in the field of psychiatry. It is often used to treat depressive psychosis and other severe mental diseases. A common side effect is the removal of certain memories.” I added snobbishly, “I have heard that his brother is also suffering from a mental condition?”
“Yes his brother is also suffering from mental conditions” replied Saleem with a sigh and added, “Often he tells me very weird things. Lately he is conveying me messages from the establishment to behave myself otherwise I will be in trouble. I know that the army is after me. They want to silence me, but if I stop reporting what I come to know then there is no difference between me and Zaid Hamid.”
“Does he have support from the ISI?” I asked. “Well I asked an official of the ISI and he told me that Zaid Hamid is a mad man, we help him like we help many people. Personally speaking I will not be surprised if the army helps as now days the establishment can only find mad men like Zaid Hamid to defend them on TV.” answered Saleem. “Why don’t we walk, we have been sitting here for a long time?” asked Z.
We strolled in the F-9 park and our discussion changed from Zaid Hamid to Saleem’s book and his adventures while reporting in the war on terror. We could not perceive that Saleem’s last walk outside his house was with us. The next day Z told me that Saleem was kidnapped. We were very worried and last night the horrible news of his death came. Saleem Shahzad was killed for exposing the links between terrorist networks and the establishment. We live in a democracy not under Fascist totalitarian dictatorship.
This democracy was not gifted to us. We fought for it and sacrificed many lives for it. Our people fought in 54, 68, 72, 76, 80s decade, 2007 till date to ensure that we live with freedom, democracy and “Azadi”. Yet today the forces of absolutism are bent chaining our tongues so that they can control our actions and make us subservient to their will.
Today the entire Arab world is in revolt against dictatorships and people have now stood up against death squads and extra judicial killings. The world is standing up to this and yet we remain silent defending our “national assets”, which are nothing but tools of repression. The murder of Saleem Shahzad should not go unpunished. Neither the Army chief nor the intelligence agencies are above the constitution and law. An ISI official confirmed to the Human Rights Watch that Saleem Shahzad is in their custody and yet they so arrogantly tortured and murdered him. These are the very same agencies which introduced crazy fascists such as Zaid Hamid in the media.Saleem Shahzad sacrificed his life to give us a better future. In his defiance he showed us how a single man can so proudly uphold the truth and refuse to bow down before the forces which seek to silence him.