Where does one draw the line between a devoted journalists right to sift the truth from fiction and report, and an assassins bloodlust to silence him? The kidnapping and murder of Asia Times Onlines Pakistan bureau chief, Syed Saleem Shahzad, only days after he had exposed a possible link between Al-Qaeda and Pakistani servicemen, in the macabre incident of Karachis naval-aviation base, Mehran, invaded on May 22 by a handful of terrorists. I had written a piece for Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online on that incident and was informed that the article would appear on Thursday, May 26. But my take on the brazen development didnt appear because on the same day Saleem had filed a copious, two-part story on what had actually transpired and who might have been involved in that obvious breach of security at a prestigious naval base in the heart of Pakistans largest city. I felt sorry that my story had been killed, but appreciated the editors compulsion for doing it. Saleem was the man on the spot, whereas I was a distant observer from thousands of kilometres away. But how I wish, now, that Asia Times Online hadnt carried Saleems no-holds-barred analytical expose of what is without doubt a cloak-and-dagger story of which we havent, yet, seen all. Saleem, 40, disappeared on his way to a television interview in Islamabad on Sunday evening. On Tuesday, police said they had found his body in Mandi Bahauddin. There were indications that he had been tortured. He is survived by his wife, Anita, and two sons aged 14 and seven, and a daughter aged 12. Those assassins whove silenced him forever may not have read what he wrote. But once a man makes a blip on their radar, he stays there, in their gun-sights, until they get him. Saleem isnt the first, nor will be the last, Pakistani or foreign journalist whose life flame has been put out by the merchants of death who have apparently been roaming the land and plying their trade with virtual impunity. Pakistan had the most journalist deaths in the world in 2010 - 44 - and not one killer has been brought to justice. Pakistan is the worlds most dangerous country for journalists the Paris-based press-monitoring group Reporters Without Borders said last month. A senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in South Asia, Ali Dayan Hasan called for a transparent investigation and court proceedings. In mid-October last year, Saleem sent an e-mail to the editor of Asia Times Online, Tony Allison, which contained part of an exchange between Saleem and a Pakistani official. It read, I must give you a favour. We have recently arrested a terrorist and recovered a lot of data, diaries and other material during the interrogation. The terrorist had a list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know. Saleem told Allison that he specifically interpreted this as a direct threat. At this point, Allison suggested to Saleem that he lay low for a little while. His response was abrupt and summed up the man, If I hold back and dont do my job, I might as well just make the tea. Saleem began his journalistic career as a bit-part reporter in the early 1990s in the southern port city of Karachi covering the municipal beat. He began writing for Asia Times Online 10 years ago and through a doggedness and burning desire to get to the truth that became a hallmark of his career he became internationally recognised as a leading expert on Al-Qaeda and militancy. His book Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 was released by Pluto Press last week. Saleems journey took him into the badlands that span the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the mountainous region. In November 2006 he was held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan for six days, but within days he was back in business, literally sweating, as he would joke, up and down the valleys of North and South Waziristan. He interviewed some of the most notorious militant leaders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, a major player in the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, and Ilyas Kashmiri, a militant who heads 313 Brigade, the operational arm of Al-Qaeda. Except for a small segment of the intelligentsia bemoaning the debasing of Pakistans moorings, there is hardly any backlash in evidence against the corrosive damage the fundamentalists are doing to its social order. Those few voices that articulated against terrorists have been brutally silenced. The ruling elite has become almost irrelevant to the countrys crying need for wise and enlightened leadership to arrest the inexorable slide into anarchy. Their sole concern is with remaining in power by any means, even if it means subcontracting Pakistan to a United States agenda. Its latest decision to sign on to Washingtons demand for military action in North Waziristan - a central piece of Clintons visit to Islamabad on May 27 - is evidence of the US agenda in the region ruling the roost in Islamabad. A blitz in North Waziristan will, inevitably, lead to a more virulent terrorist backlash in the rest of the country and more spilling of innocent blood like Saleems. Asia Times Online