Pakistan is denouncing comments by the top U.S. military officer that elements within the Pakistani government sanctioned the killing of a journalist in late May.
Pakistani Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan on Friday called Admiral Mike Mullen's remarks "extremely irresponsible and unfortunate." The minister said such comments will create problems in bilateral ties between the United States and Pakistan, and could negatively impact joint efforts against terrorism.
Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Washington Thursday that he has not seen anything to counter reports that Islamabad approved the beating death of Pakistani reporter Saleem Shahzad. But Mullen said he could not tie the killing to a specific Pakistani government agency.
Pakistani's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has dismissed allegations of any involvement in Shahzad's killing as "baseless."
Shahzad, who worked for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, disappeared from Pakistan's capital Islamabad on May 29. His body was found in a canal two days later bearing signs of torture.
Before his death, the journalist had been investigating alleged ties between Pakistan's military and militant groups. Shahzad had also told a human rights activist that he had been threatened by the ISI.
A Pakistani government spokesman earlier on Friday said the government has set up a judicial commission to investigate Shahzad's death and that any information should be shared with the panel. The unnamed spokesman said any other statements issued on the subject may be considered an attempt to influence the probe, and warned that some elements are trying to use the case against the Pakistani government.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists named Pakistan the most dangerous place for journalists in 2010, with at least eight killed.
In his comments to reporters Thursday, Admiral Mullen said the reported abuse and killing of journalists in Pakistan is "not a way to move ahead" and is instead is a way for the Pakistani government to "spiral in the wrong direction."
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff also acknowledged U.S. relations with Pakistan are "under extraordinary pressure."
He said Islamabad's already fragile bond with Washington became severely strained when U.S. special operations forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a raid on his compound deep inside Pakistan in May.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters