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Guardian’s report on Hamid Mir’s audio tape – by Declan Walsh

Pakistani news presenter accused of link to Taliban hostage’s murder
Leaked audio tape purportedly reveals phone conversation between Hamid Mir and a Taliban spokesman about hostage

Declan Walsh in Lahore
guardian.co.uk,
Monday 17 May 2010 19.50 BST

Pakistan’s pugnacious media world was plunged into controversy today when a leaked audio tape apparently linked its most popular television presenter with the execution of a Taliban hostage.

The tape purports to be a recording of a phone conversation between the journalist, Hamid Mir, and a Taliban spokesman about the fate of Khalid Khawaja, a former intelligence agent being held by the Taliban.

In the tape Mir describes Khawaja as a CIA collaborator, questions his Islamic credentials, and accuses him of playing a treacherous role in the 2007 Red Mosque siege in which more than 100 people, including the chief cleric, were killed. When the abductor asks the journalist whether Khawaja should be released, he urges him to further interrogate him.

Last month Khawaja’s bullet-pocked body was found on a roadside in Waziristan with a warning note to other “American spies”.

As debate about the tape swirled in media circles, Mir issued a strenuous denial saying the tape had been fabricated by his enemies in government to destroy his reputation and silence him.

“I never said these things to these people. This is a concocted tape,” he told the Guardian. “They took my voice, sampled it and manufactured this conspiracy against me.”

But several senior journalists said the tape sounded authentic and one called on the government to investigate further. “There are serious allegations to be answered,” said Rashed Rahman, editor of the English-language Daily Times newspaper. “If this tape turns out to be genuine, it suggests a journalist instigated the murder of a kidnapee. A line must be drawn somewhere.”

The Taliban added to the controversy by issuing a statement that denied the tape was real but, confusingly, threatened the state telephone company for having taped the conversation.

The acrid arguments have thrown Pakistan’s normally tight-knit media community into a spin as some of the country’s most contentious issues – militancy, politics and the role of the powerful, overwhelmingly rightwing media – have come into focus around the death of Khawaja, a controversial figure in his own right.

Khawaja, a former Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agent and chief co-ordinator of a human rights group, who claimed to have met Osama bin Laden, travelled to the tribal belt in March with Sultan Amir Tarar, another former ISI agent, and Asad Qureshi, a documentary filmmaker. Khawaja had promised the journalist an interview with Hakimullah Mehsud, the Taliban leader who was almost killed in a CIA drone strike in northwestern Pakistan in January.

However, the three men were kidnapped, and the Taliban demanded money and prisoners in return for their freedom.

On 24 April the Taliban issued a video showing a strained-looking Khawaja admitting to having worked for the CIA and betrayed the Red Mosque clerics.

A week later, after his execution, Mir wrote a detailed account of Khawaja’s life. He recycled the allegations against the former ISI agent, attributing them to militant sources.

Mir has vowed to take his critics to court, but for now the controversy is playing out on the pages of the Pakistani press. Mir said the recording had been doctored by the Federal Investigation Agency, a security agency that has been frequently attacked by the Taliban.

But he said the slurs had been politically orchestrated by the Punjab governor, Salman Taseer, and Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, who, he said, had released the tape on a blog.

“This blog has a personal grudge against me and it is being operated from Washington by our ambassador, Husain Haqqani,” he said.

Haqqani said: “We do not dignify conspiracy theories with comment.” He denied any role in the tape recording.

Some Pakistani television channels have carried the allegations but others have avoided it. ”

“For too long we have protected our own,” said Rahman. “Now we have to speak out.” Mir said he was instituting legal proceedings against the Daily Times.

Khalid Khawaja’s wife declined to comment. “I don’t want to say anything,” she said. “This is a very, very dirty conspiracy and I don’t want to indulge in it.”

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11 Comments

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  • @Sarah: I think that this post should be categorised as Original Article too cuz it’s an important post and most of the viewers wont check the newspaper article section. Many Thanks !!

  • Farhad Ahmed Jarral :
    @Sarah: I think that this post should be categorised as Original Article too cuz it’s an important post and most of the viewers wont check the newspaper article section. Many Thanks !!

    Pakistani news presenter accused of link to Taliban hostage’s murder – Leaked audio tape purportedly reveals phone conversation between Hamid Mir and a Taliban spokesman about hostage Declan Walsh in Lahore guardian.co.uk, Monday 17 May 2010 19.50 BST http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/17/pakistan-taliban-hostage-murder-tape

  • Many faces of Commander Mir.: De facto Sindh CM finally transferred Monday, April 21, 2008 By Hamid Mir
    http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=14221

    ISLAMABAD: The man who has ruled Sindh as a de facto chief minister for many years finally lost his powers on Saturday.
    Brigadier Huda, who was an ISI commander in Sindh, was in fact the …
    ======================
    Journalists who are presently running the Electronic media are still living in 80s and 90s and they think that like in the past their “Investigative Stories” will topple the government [I am least bothered if it is toppled half hour later] that Time is changed and medium of expression is changed. No doubt people still read newspapers but people have multiple resources to recheck and reconfirm the news particularly the news these journalists filed earlier contradict later. Therefore, they would have to do better than just raising the bogey that such and such blog is owned by Zardari or Haqqani

  • Editorial:The Hamid Mir affair By Rashed Rahman Tuesday, May 18, 2010
    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20105\18\story_18-5-2010_pg1_4

    Hamid Mir, a prominent TV anchor, has seen fit to respond to a story carried by Daily Times (May 16, 2010, “Hamid Mir’s terrifying indiscretions”, plus a transcript of a purported telephone conversation between Mir and an unknown militant of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan) with a vicious campaign against the publisher of the paper, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. In his latest column in Jang (May 17, 2010, “Aasteen key saanp”), he has continued his canards against Mr Taseer, including implying he was an “aasteen ka saanp” (snake in the sleeve) of the PPP. While the language and tone of Mir’s campaign against Mr Taseer is deplorable, he also needs correction on a number of other counts.

    DT’s story that has aroused the ire of Hamid Mir had been circulating on the web and in the new media for days before DT picked it up. The allegation in the story was that the above referred to a telephone conversation, if genuine, that showed Mir giving information on Khalid Khwaja that might have led to his execution on April 30 by the Asian Tigers extremist group who had captured him. Now that the story has been aired, Mr Mir, instead of becoming apoplectic and missing the point, should consider the following.

    The publisher of DT has a track record of not interfering with the policy of the paper. It remains one of the few newspapers that adhere to the safeguarding of the institution of a professional editor and editorial autonomy. If Mr Mir has a bone to pick, it should be with the editor, not the publisher, and that too while adhering to civilised norms and language. Tilting at the publisher betrays some preconceived prejudice, if not depreciating and denigrating the editorial independence enjoyed by the paper’s editor.

    In DT’s editorial “Shocking revelations” (May 17, 2010), we argued: “There should be a thorough investigation into the matter by the security agencies. It should first be ascertained whether it was actually Hamid Mir or an impersonator on the audiotape.” We did not pass judgment on the genuineness or otherwise of the audiotape, but left room for the possibility that it was a forgery, as Mir has subsequently claimed amidst his loud protestations of innocence. In an inadvertent admission, however, he says the audiotape is an amalgam of bits and pieces of other conversations (innocent journalistic exchanges, according to him). Even if this is conceded, there is sufficient in the ‘bits and pieces’ to arouse alarm. Surely Mr Mir should welcome the opportunity to clear his name if the tape is indeed a forgery. On the other hand, if it turns out to be genuine, Mir has a lot to answer for and the law should take its course. The country is in the middle of a life-or-death struggle against the homegrown jihadis who have declared war on the state. Journalists, who are engaged in an increasingly precarious and dangerous profession in conflict areas, may be required for professional reasons to keep lines of communication open with the ‘enemy’. However, this does not give anyone, journalist or not, room to transcend the law of the land or the ethics of his profession. If the tape is genuine and Mir did say the things about Khalid Khwaja that are on the tape, a prima facie case is made out for his arraignment on charges that could include being an accessory before the fact to the murder that followed, as well as in possible violation of the Army Act (applicable to civilians in times of war). The statement released by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan denying the contents of the tape and trying to clear our intrepid anchor’s name has done more to muddy Hamid Mir’s case than anyone else could have. With friends like these…

    Unlike Hamid Mir’s personalised diatribes since the storm broke around his head, which we do not wish to dignify by stooping to the same level, we advocate a thorough investigation to allow Hamid Mir a chance to prove his innocence or otherwise. Whichever way it goes, let the wheels of justice be set in motion to get to the bottom of a sordid and murky episode that reveals nothing more than the possible hidden links of the extremists at war with Pakistan with certain sections of our ‘free’ media. The turn from the pro-jihadi policy of old to open conflict and war against the cancer within our body politic that threatens the state may have left such ‘linked’ parts of the media nostalgic for the past ‘good times’ and desperate to see these enemies of a civilised democratic society succeed by hook or by crook. History, however, appears to have passed on and left these antediluvian warriors whistling in the wind. *

  • now this is real face to our jouralist .hamid mir is a minion character of the insidious part to our socity.if we focus the whole fraternity of hamid mir ,like talat AAJ TV ,kashif ARY NEWS or many more who instigate the common people of PAKISTAN and distract the right issue of our country,have saw many time to these achor programs they always blame government an tangle to Pakistani people in what purpose like banazir assination or hilite peoples party internal matters,all they time they discuss these obsolete matters could they can’t see the real issue of Pakistan the hunger of lay man the high inflation of basic commodities prices once they try to appease someone hunger instead they aggrevate the emotion of common man.regarding this tape some of karachi jouralist imputation to hamid mir that he is a cia agent during he take an interveiw of osama bin laden he saw nuke weapons with him.ALLAH KNOW BETTER WEATHER HE IS A AGENT OF CIA OR TEHREEK-I-TALIBAN.

  • Hamid Mir’s email in which he also threatens about Musharraf to be exposed in every news item on Geo, for he tried to subdue their channel. He has fragile and lingering attitude. Journalist doesn’t mean all like Riz Khan, Christiana Amanpur etc…especially in this part of the world. These idiots are trying hard to blackmail any government into freeing them of taxes levied by Government on entertainment channels…..

  • The law must take its course – Hamid Mir should be detained and questioned of his involvement with these Taliban Groups. The country is in the midst of collapse and these bas****s are playing in the hands of terrorists.

    He should be ashamed of himself and never ever come on the TV again unless he’s cleared his name from the courts of non-involvement in the partaking of all those terrorist activities in the country!

  • Hamid Mir has become the focus after his real face is unveiled. It seems that Khalid Khawaja must have upset him at some point in time. If not, while alive, then his son is definitely bent upon upsetting Hamid Mir. Khawaja’s son has pointed his finger at Hamid Mir as a perpetrator of his father’s death.
    As it is a moral issue, all media persons must clearly indicate which side they are on, a responsible, nationalistic individual must be above board and confident of his or her convictions and support them or revise them in a civilised, democratic manner. This should also be applicable to media owners.

  • The tape appears to be genuine and Hamid Mir has proved himself to be a real think tank behind the murderous policies of the Taliban. How could a sane person talk like this about a person who is in captivity. The media has become too strong and arrogant. The most experienced anchors in the world are Larry King and David Frost. See how do they question their guests and see how do our anchors shout at their guests. Hamid Mir and the type need to be put at their rightful place .