Gunman attacks house of Pakistani columnist

AP News
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Posted: Dec 01, 2009 3:22 AM

A gunman opened fire on the house of a newspaper columnist critical of Pakistan's army and spy agencies in an attack the writer alleged on Tuesday was carried out by elements linked to the country's powerful security establishment.

Kamran Shafi recounted the attack and a death threat he received the following day in his weekly column in the respected Dawn newspaper. He and his family were not injured in the incident in the garrison town of Rawalpindi on Friday.

The army spokesman declined to comment.

Shafi, a former army major, is a prominent critic of the military and its influence over the country's weak civilian leadership. The issue has been in the spotlight in recent weeks amid rising pressure on President Asif Ali Zardari from within the military.

Shafi said a gunman fired six times at his house before collecting the bullet casings and fleeing.

Shafi, his wife and daughter were in the house during the late night attack, but in a room below the one where the bullets entered.

Yasin Farooq, a senior police officer in Rawalpindi, said officers were investigating the shooting, but no progress had been made.

The day after the shooting, Shafi received a call from a woman who said what happened was a "trailer" and that the complete movie would be shown soon.

"One does not spit in the plate one eats from," she allegedly said.

In his column, Shafi said he had filed a police complaint in which he alleged suspects linked to unidentified state security agencies were involved. He did not give any evidence to back up the allegation.

Pakistan has several powerful spy agencies, which operate independently of state control. They have been accused of targeted killings and abductions in the past, including suspected Islamist terrorists allegedly handed over to the United States.

Pakistan's freewheeling media often contains criticism of the army and the spy agencies, but Shafi is especially vocal.

He said a recent column calling for the country's main spy agency to be headed by a civilian drew several e-mails containing the "vilest abuse."

In a telephone interview Tuesday, he said he would continue criticizing the army's role in the affairs of the state.

"Absolutely, there is no other way to go," he said. "We have to have democracy in the country if we are to succeed."