|Pakistani Journalist Hamid Mir
1. What is the relationship between Pakistani journalists and the various spy agencies, including the ISI, operating in Pakistan?
2. How do Pakistani journalists work with militants to cover multiple ongoing insurgencies in Pakistan?
3. Has Pakistani media played a responsible journalistic role in covering national security issues?
Saleem Shahzad's Murder:
To answer the above questions, let us look at the media coverage of Saleem Shahzad's murder in 2011.
World media widely reported the allegations made against the ISI by former US Chairman of Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen in a Senate committee hearing in Washington. Adm Mullen alleged that Pakistani government "sanctioned" Shahzad's murder.
What the media left out of their coverage of Shahzad's murder were internal emails of Stratfor analysts leaked by Wikileaks. Stratfor bills itself as a "global intelligence" company. It is widely believed to be a leading intelligence contractor for US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The leaked emails talked about the "Fine line between an investigative journalist and spy" and added that "The poor bastard went down the rabbit hole and was neutralized".
In another secret email, Stratfor Vice President Fred Burton wrote as follows:
"I'm sure the ISI extracted a confession of his CIA work before he died. There will be a leaked story about his double agent work and the Pakis rub the CIA's nose in it. Its what intel agencies do. Tit for tat. The world will soon forget him. Price one pays for playing the game."
|Hamid Mir with TTP terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri. Mir said he also met TTP leaders
Hakimullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazlullah.
Hamid Mir has built a successful career in journalism on close contacts with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He is known to have had unusual access to Al Qaeda, Taliban and Baloch militants not granted to others. Mir is the only journalist with the distinction to have interviewed Osama Bin Laden three times, including the last interview that took place after Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. It has raised questions about his interlocutors, including the ISI and the Taliban.
A 13 minute taped audio conversation between Hamid Mir and a TTP militant (believed to be Usman Punjabi alias Mohammad Omar) was released in 2010 just after the double murder of former ISI agents Colonel Imam and Squadron Leader Khawaja Khalid by the Taliban.
Here are a few excerpts of Hamid Mir's alleged statements from the audio tape:
"... he (Khalid Khwaja) had done all this. After that Maulana Abdul Aziz was arrested and Mr Abdul Rashid Ghazi telephoned me and said, Now, I dont have any option. Now, my family and ulema have been defamed as my brother was arrested in a burqa and presented on Pakistan Television. This is a large stain which can only be removed with my blood. So, he lived up to his words and sacrificed. So, Khalid Khawaja and his wife, anyone may know or not, they will have to answer before Allah Almighty."
"He (Khawaja) himself has confessed in front me that he had links with William Casey. Ok! Leave William, ask him about the Qadiyanis, because I personally believe that Qadiyanis are worse than infidels, what kind of links does he have with Qadiyanis? What relationship does he have with Mansoor Ijaz? Why does he use his money? Why does he go everywhere with him when he comes to Pakistan? Why does he bring him to the mujahideen?"
"He (Canady) was martyred in North Waziristan. He (Khawaja) came to me with Canadys wife and a daughter, saying Canadys son, Karim, is at Rawalpindis CMH and is injured and the army had arrested him. He asked me to arrange a meeting between the injured and his mother. I said this is very difficult for me and I cant do this because already they are all against me. But, he said all that you need to do is to arrange a meeting between a mother and her son. So, I arranged it with a lot of difficulties and sent the woman to Rawalpindi CMH, but when she reached there she took a camera out of her burqa and asked her son to record a message that he is innocent, has no links with anyone and has been kept here illegally. She was arrested there because a nurse saw her and seized the camera from her. But I was held responsible for all of it as they told me that I had sent this woman. It was revealed after her arrest that the woman had a Canadian passport and had visited Canada two months ago. After that I faced a lot of difficulties. The Canadian government released the woman and her daughter and then she went back to Canada. In Toronto, she held a press conference and admitted that she worked for the CIA. Now Khalid Khawaja has a long beard and his wife wears a full veil so people like us, who are involved in worldly affairs and have committed sins, believe that if we will help them, we might be forgotten for our sins. When these kinds of people betray us, we lose confidence on the religion itself."
The Daily Times newspaper, which first reported on the tape, said at the time that the information passed on by Mir to the Taliban "could have led to the execution" of former ISI official Khalid Khwaja. Mir denied it was his voice but others authenticated it. Jang Group said it would investigate but nothing came out of it.
It appears from the above mixture of allegations and facts that Hamid Mir is not just a journalist but a player in the ongoing militancy in Pakistan. He seems to have worked closely with both the spies and the militants in the past. It also appears that he has managed to alienate both over time and made himself their target. Any serious judicial commission investigation of what happened to Hamid Mir last week must take into account his dealings with the intelligence agencies and the militant outfits to reach any credible conclusion. It is necessary to protect journalists and restore Pakistanis' faith in the media.
Here's a video discussion on the subject:
GeoTV's Hamid Mir Survives Murder Attempt, Blames ISI & Triggers Media Wars from WBT TV on Vimeo.
Here are the tapes of Hamid Mir's alleged conversation with Usman Punjabi:
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