Islamabad: Denying role in the journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad’s murder, Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency on Wednesday said the incident should not be used to target and malign country's security agencies.

" Accusations against the country's sensitive agencies for their alleged involvement in Shahzad's murder are totally unfounded," an ISI official said.

It is "regrettable that some sections of the media have taken upon themselves to use" Shahzad's death for "targeting and maligning the ISI," the official was quoted as saying by state-run APP news agency.

The ISI made a rare public statement after Pakistani journalists' organisations and rights groups like Human Rights Watch alleged that Shahzad was abducted by the ISI two days after he reported that al-Qaeda had infiltrated into Pakistani Navy.

Shahzad went missing in Islamabad in  Sunday evening and his body, bearing marks of severe torture, was recovered from Punjab province.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered a probe into the murder. The ISI official, who spoke to APP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of his job, described Shahzad's death as "unfortunate and tragic" and said it was "a source of concern for the entire nation".

The incident should not be used to "target and malign" security agencies, the official said. Months before he went missing, Shahzad sent an email to a Human Rights Watch researcher Ali Dayan Hasan in which he wrote about being called in to the ISI headquarters by two officials to discuss a report he had authored about Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Biradar being freed by Pakistani authorities to facilitate back channel talks with the US.

Shahzad also indicated in the same email that one of the ISI officials had issued him a veiled threat.

However, the ISI official told APP: "The reported meeting between the journalist and ISI officials of the Information Management Wing was held on October 17, 2010 to discuss a story he had done for Asia Times Online on October 15, and the meeting had nothing sinister about it."

The official added: "It is part of the (Information Management) Wing's mandate to remain in touch with the journalist community.

The main objective behind all such interactions is provision of accurate information on matters of national security. ISI also makes it a point to notify institutions and
individuals alike of any threat warning received about them."

The official further said that Shahzad's email to Dayan of Human Rights Watch was "being made the basis of baseless allegations levelled against the ISI" and has "no
veiled or unveiled threats in it".

The official noted that Shahzad had written in his email that his conversation with the ISI officials "was held in an extremely polite and friendly atmosphere".

"In the absence of any evidence and when an investigation is still pending, such allegations (are) tantamount to unprofessional conduct on the part of the
media," the official said.

Shahzad killing outrages: CJA

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Journalists' Association (CJA) expressed outrage over the slaying of Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad and urged the Pakistan government to do all it can to find the perpetrators.

CJA president Hassan Shahriar said he and his colleagues at the CJA were alarmed and dismayed over the rising incidents of violence against journalists in Pakistan especially those journalists who were working in tribal areas.

The Rural Media Network of Pakistan's website has reported that nine Pakistani journalists have lost their lives since the start of 2011 whereas 17 journalists were killed in 2010.

'We demand that Pakistani government take steps to provide security for journalists and allow them to carry out their duties without any fear and intimidation,' said Shahriar.

The body of Syed Saleem Shahzad, Islamabad-based journalist, was found May 31, two days after he was reported missing and a day after both the Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists had sent a joint letter to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani calling for immediate action to find Shahzad.

Shahzad's latest article for Asia Times was about a Taliban-led attack on Mehran naval base in Karachi May 22 in which 11 soldiers and four attackers were killed.

He said in his report that Al-Qaeda had established a 'good network' within the Pakistani navy and that 'there were negotiations between an Al-Qaeda operative in North Waziristan and naval officers.

Agencies