Who is Faisal Shahzad?

Report for The Friday Times, 21-27 May, 2010

In 2009, it is reported that Shahzad pressurized his wife to wear a hijab. He had started looking for a job in the Middle East and insisted the family return to Pakistan

Faisal Shahzad joined the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut in 2000 and, according to his CV, was on a scholarship. In 2005 he graduated with an MBA in Finance. For a year he worked at Elizbeth Arden Inc. as a financial analyst. In June 2005, he joined Affinion Group as a client reporting analyst. In recent years he struggled to pay his bills but it is unclear if financial hardship led to his radicalization.

It is reported that around 2006 he started turning away from the liberal, elite world of his father, Bahar ul-Haq, a retired Vice Marshal in the Pakistani Air Force.

The New York Times has reported that in April 2009, the same month he got his US citizenship, he sent an e-mail message to friends in which he criticized moderate views of a Pakistani politician. He writes, “I bet when it comes to defending the lands, his opinion would be we should do dialogue”. He argued against calling mujahedeen “extremist” and encouraged his friends to find “a proper Sheikh to understand the Quran.” One of the recipients responded by asking him which sheikhs he followed and he replied, “My sheikhs are in the field.”

A few months later, Faisal Shahzad abruptly quit his job and left for Pakistan. It is speculated that he was later trained in bomb-making by the Pakistani Taliban.

Faisal is said to have identified proudly with his Pashtun heritage. Like many children of parents belonging to the military, he moved around a lot as a child living in Jeddah, Quetta and Rawalpindi. He is said to have a liberal yet disciplined upbringing. In the mid 1990’s he attended a high school in Karachi and there is nothing out of the ordinary about his younger days spent in Pakistan. He was an average student but ambitious. In 1999, at the age of 19 he left Pakistan for study in the US.

At Bridgeport he is said to have been very social and amicable, and never seemed pressed for cash. His job at Elizabeth Arden frustrated him; he complained to a friend that the company never raised his $50,000 salary. In 2004, he got married to Huma Mian in Peshawar. Huma was a 23 year old from Denver, who had graduated with a degree in accounting. Her father was an American-Pakistani engineer working in the oil industry.

In 2009, it is reported that he pressurized his wife to wear a hijab. He had started looking for a job in the Middle East and insisted the family return to Pakistan. On June 2, he called his wife from Kennedy Airport. He said that he was leaving for Pakistan, asked her to follow. She refused and later that month moved to Saudi Arabia with their two children, where her parents were living.

As a senior reporter based in Peshawar tell us, Faisal Shahzad had met a foreign diplomat during his latest visit to Pakistan in February 2010. During his last visit to Pakistan, he had attended a wedding in his ancestral village, Mohib Banda, in Nowshera district. While he was in Peshawar, he seldom visited his parent’s house in Hayatabad. According to reports from Peshawar, no arrests have been made from Peshawar or Nowshera.

He returned to the US on February 3 and his movements till May remain a mystery.

In The Friday Times, 21-27 May, 2010



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