Original Articles

His masters’ voice: Hamid Mir, Taliban and the ISI – by Shiraz Paracha

LUBP Exclusive

Veteran Pakistani journalist Shiraz Paracha has very kindly written the following note in appreciation of LUBP.

Over his long experience as a professional journalist, Mr Paracha has contributed hundreds of news reports, analytical articles and opinion pieces on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia for a variety of media outlets around the world. He has an extensive background in media and management, working with teams of journalists and researchers all over the world.

 

 

Mr Paracha has also written an exclusive article (provided below) highlighting the sinister agenda of Pakistan’s ISI and certain elements in Pakistani media whose analyses and reports on Taliban and Afghanistan are tightly in line with their masters’ voice in the ISI.

Dear members of LUPB,

You are doing a wonderful job. Traditional media monopolies must be broken. I would like to share with your readers some information that may help understand the present role and character of some Pakistani journalists.

Shiraz Paracha
Journalist/analyst
Cheswick London

His masters’ voice: Hamid Mir, Taliban and the ISI

I was a journalist in Pakistan between 1986 and 1998. Also, in the 1990s, I hosted and managed a talk show, ‘Awami Forum’ that was produced at PTV Peshawar studios. Once I invited Hamid Mir on our show, it was probably his first appearance on such a TV program. He was not very confident and said something that surprised the other guests on the Show.

Hamid Mir and I worked together at Akber Ali Bhatti’s daily Pakistan. It was I who recommended Hamid to Mr. Bhatti because I was impressed with the writings of Professor Waris Mir, the father of Hamid Mir. I thought that Hamid was a progressive and balanced minded person and it would be good to bring him to daily Pakistan that was emerging as a popular newspaper in Pakistan. At that time, Hamid was working at daily Jang Lahore and he had done some good stories.

When Hamid joined us at daily Pakistan, I was in Peshawar and was responsible for the coverage of NWFP, tribal regions and Afghanistan. I had started covering Afghanistan in 1986. I knew the country, its culture, its people and their language. Hamid Mir had no clue about Afghanistan because he did not cover the conflict.

In 1993, when Benazir Bhutto became the prime minister for the second time, I tried put her in contact with Ahmed Shah Masood, the then defense minister of Afghanistan and a key figure in Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance. The then Afghan government was lead by Professor Burhan-u-Deen Rabbani of the Jamiat-i-Islami (Different than the Pakistani Jamat-i-Islami) but Commander Ahmad Shah Masood was the decision maker in that government. Another Afghan commander Jamit-ullha Jalal was my friend and he was living in Pakistan. Commander Jalal was a close associate of Mr. Masood and through Jalal I got acquainted with Commander Masood.

After the new government was installed in Islamabad, Commander Jalal spoke to Ahmad Shah Masood on a satellite phone and discussed with him the idea of establishing friendly relations with the new elected government of Pakistan. Masood liked the idea and invited Commander Jalal to Kabul. Jalal and I went to Kabul and met Masood. After some discussions we agreed that Masood would send a goodwill message to Prime Minister Bhutto. Upon our return to Pakistan, we sat at Professor Iqbal Tajik’s home at Peshawar University and drafted a letter in English language on the behalf of Ahmad Shah Masood. The letter was delivered to the Prime Minister by a special person (I do not want to disclose his name).

Ms. Bhutto was happy to receive Ahmad Shah Masood’s message and she invited him to Pakistan. Mr. Masood agreed to visit Pakistan but on the condition that he would not meet the ISI or army generals. He wanted to meet the civilian leadership of Pakistan.

The ISI was staunchly against Ahmad Shah Masood and since Zia-ul-Haq time our spy agency was supporting Hezeb-i-Islami of Gulbadin Hykmatyar, who was a close ally of Pakistan’s Jamat-e-Islami. Before his visit, Ahmad Shah Masood sent his close associate Dr. Abdul Rahman to Pakistan to discuss the details of the proposed visit. It was a huge breakthrough but the ISI and its stooges were not happy. For years, the ISI and army had supported and protected people such Gulbadin Hykmatyar, Abdul Rub Rasool Sayaf, Molvi Yunis Khalis and other extremists. Jamat-e-Islami and ISI were together in pushing a dangerous and disastrous agenda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Generals like Hamid Gul and others had the ideological support of Qazi Hussein Ahmad of Jamat-I-Islami. In fact, the ISI supported Qazi Hussein Ahmed as the Jamat-i-Islami Ameer because he was a Pushtoon and so was Hykmetyar. Both of them were fundamentalists and therefore ideological allies of the ISI. Generals and the Jamat-i-Islami also got support from the media, especially the Urdu media of Pakistan. The Jang group is still dominated by Jamat-i-Islami activists who disguise as journalists. In my view, the ISI, the Jamat-i-Islami and the Urdu journalists are founders of terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

When Ahmad Shah Masood’s representative Dr. Abdul Rahman came to Pakistan in 1994, elements in the ISI and the media were furious over the bridge building efforts between Pakistan and Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance. Dr. Rahman was offered money and weapons at a meeting in Islamabad. He refused the offer and said:” We want to be your friends not puppets”. Dr. Rahman returned to Kabul. The mission failed. After that threats and dirty tricks were used to spoil any possibility of friendly relations between Pakistan and the Northern Alliance. A bus full of school children was high-jacked from Peshawar and was driven to Islamabad. The ISI and its puppets in the media blamed Ahmad Shah Masood for the act. Later the Pakistan embassy in Kabul was attacked. The ISI, Hykmatyar and Jamat-e-Islami, and elements in the Pakistani media, particularly the Jang and News group again blamed Ahmad Shah Masood and India. Masood was angry and he told commander Jalal to leave Pakistan. He said: “I told you before not to trust them”.

But playing foul the ISI and their supporters deprived Pakistan from moving towards peace. A golden opportunity was missed because of the adventurism of the some. A meeting between Masood and Benazir Bhutto could have changed the whole situation in the region. The disastrous events that followed could have been avoided.

I was present at a meeting in Peshawar where General Naseer-ullha-Babar and Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former chief secretary of NWFP and a God Father of the jihidis, had misled Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto about the situation in Afghanistan. The then Chief Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao was also present at the briefing and I could see that he was not comfortable with what was discussed. General Babar seemed to have a mission.

Soon the Taliban emerged in Baluchistan. In 1994 with emergence of the Taliban Hamid Mir started writing on Afghanistan in our newspaper. At that time, I was regularly writing about the Taliban. Hamid Mir called me several times and warned me not to criticize the Taliban and to stop writing about Afghanistan. He told me that secret services were upset that I (Shiraz) was opposing the Taliban project and that writing against the Taliban was not in Pakistan’s interest. I disagreed with him. Hamid wanted to promote the Taliban but it was not possible as long as I was there. I received threats from different sides. Interestingly, during those days my friend and NWFP minister Syed Qamar Abbas was member of a media foundation that was established by Ms. Bhutto’s government. One day Qamar Abbas told me that the foundation was giving apartments to journalists in Islamabad. He said he would recommend that Hamid Mir be given an apartment. In 1997 Qamar Abbas was wrongly accused in the accidental death of Haji Gulam Ahmed Baliour’s son and in one of his articles Hamid Mir called Qamar Abbas a murderer.

In 1997, my friend Jamiat-ullha-Jalal disappeared from his home in Peshawar. We tried our best to find him but one ISI officer in Peshawar told us to forget about Jalal. I was still receiving threats from the Taliban and Hamid kept the pressure on me by then he was the editor of daily Pakistan Islamabad. Eventually, Hamid had to leave the newspaper. He joined daily Ausaf Islamabad and continued his jihad from there. However, I still faced difficulties and in 1998, I left for London. Between 1999 and 2007, I held several long conversations with Mothermma Benazir Bhutto in London on the issue of Afghanistan. She understood who played what role in the promotion of Afghanistan.

About the author

Shiraz Paracha

Mr. Paracha has worked as a journalist, with newspapers, television, radio and online companies in Britain, Central Asia and Pakistan. Between 1995 and1996, hosted and presented very popular television programs (Awami Forum and Awami Jirga) in Pakistan. His former employers include the BBC and Press TV among other notable names. Mr. Paracha is also a journalism professor and has taught journalism and communication courses at international universities outside Pakistan.

16 Comments

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  • I appreciate the author for writing this courageous piece on Pakistani media and its links with its masters in khaki.

  • Wajahat Khan too wrote a series of articles on this topic. Here is a relevant piece:

    The Might (and Plight) of Pakistani Media (Part 2 of 3)

    (Part 2 – Journalists and Generals)

    Last week, I tried to connect the dots that line the burgeoning and anarchic landscape of Pakistani journalism.

    Tracing the media’s inherent biases that are related to its structural efficiencies and/or deficiencies, I questioned the media’s use of language (English versus Urdu) in targeting, developing and exploiting preordained opinions among sectors of the polity and also presented evidence of how its family-owned nature allows for ‘personal’ agendas to be inducted into the national information mainstream.

    For example, around the time I ‘got the call’ earlier this year from the Express Tribune to write a column, the death anniversary of the founder of Pakistan’s largest media group was running as headline news.

    In every bulletin that ran that day on the country’s most popular television network, millions were reminded and updated about the religious ceremonies commemorating the founder’s demise. Thus, on a random day in January, a cult of personality for one of Pakistan’s most powerful media moguls was being propelled along with breaking news about Osama bin Laden’s latest audio recording and the national cricket team’s dismal performance against the Australians.

    This ‘internal focus’ of the Pakistani media is another rare yet critical occurrence that needs to be studied. Often, this self-obsession also manifests itself through the clear political alignments and re-alignments of media houses with the different special interest groups and institutions that govern Pakistan: the establishment.

    A case in point is the media’s complicated relationship with the cornerstone of the Pakistani establishment: the military, which is Pakistan’s feared ‘state within the state’ and most powerful and organized institution.

    That’s right. Journalists and Generals. Working together. Advertently and/or inadvertently. Consider.

    During the last days of the Musharraf dictatorship, the media took on the Army by leading the charge against the former general’s quasi-parliamentary government. Though he had effectively been its midwife, the media played a heroic Brutus to Musharraf’s praetorian Ceasar. While thousands scoffed at the bias, millions lauded this pro-democracy power play.

    After Musharraf, however, the media warmed up to the military but through a different, more commercial dynamic. It readily absorbed a surge in the military’s public relations expenditure as billions of rupees worth of airtime was purchased by the Armed Forces on all mainstream channels during last summer’s Swat Offensive (when there were alarming reports that the Taliban were a 100 kilometers from the capital, Islamabad). This investment, along with carefully placed news stories about Taliban atrocities that were a product of trips ‘arranged’ by the Army for journalists to the warzone, compounded by an actual increase in terrorist activities across the country as the militants ‘overextended’ operations into Pakistan’s urban centers, managed to turn the tide in the media in favor of the military.

    Suddenly, mainstream news channels that had been ambivalent at best about the war effort were airing patriotic songs and stories about the gallant soldiers of the Pakistan Army. Military funerals – never aired on national television before, even though the Army has been taking casualties for several years – were now being timed for live broadcast coverage.

    Language changed too, of course; “militants” and “extremists” were now, unequivocally, “terrorists”. Not since the blitz of mainstream American media after 9/11 (which played a critical role in empowering the Bush White House to invade Afghanistan and Iraq) have I witnessed such a ‘pro-establishment’ editorial shift in media.

    Although engaged in the conflict since 2001, Pakistan, it seemed, had finally gone to war.

    Serving with one of the of the country’s premier media groups, witnessing this sudden u-turn was significantly more dramatic, even bizarre. Stories from freshly hired ‘defense connection’ correspondents were now leads. Our broadcast ‘run-down’ was dominated by ISPR generated briefs which we were made to assume had the highest editorial sanctions. And it wasn’t just us. The same pattern was being repeated everywhere else. From inside the media foxhole, it was quite a turnaround.

    However, as Pakistan’s War on Terror evolves, the local media continues to change its focus as well, presenting its views through another lens. While cross-border drone strikes by the U.S. into Pakistani tribal areas bordering Afghanistan increase in frequency, the media’s support for the war effort in that theater of conflict is shifting, powered by what seems to be a wave of anti-American bias.

    Is this editorial shift developing due to U.S. involvement in the affected area – a media-generated thumbs-down for disappointing America’s noblesse oblige? Watch this space for furthering that debate.

    Also published with edited changes in The Express Tribune on April 22 as “The Evolution of Our Media – Part II” on

    http://wajskhan.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/the-might-and-plight-of-pakistani-media-part-2-of-3/

  • I do not appreciate this article at all.Why were you silent before? Actually people like you are real enemies of Pakistan and its nation. You are just finding holes in others and I am sure getting money form different sources just to do this. From London, what was your contribution to Pakistan and Islam…nothing.
    Shame on such people!!

  • Nothing new in the article, just typical reminiscinces of someone who wants boast of his connections while sitting somewhere abroad. Another arm-chair revolutionary writing from their comfort zone in the West; they are a dime-a-dozen these days.
    What is hard to find is good quality, balanced, objective writing from Pakistani “journalists,” on issues that are relevant to the problems faced by Pakistanis today.
    How does this trip down someone’s personal memory lane help the common Pakistani living in Lahore, Karachi, or anywhere else for that matter in Pakistan?

  • @Zehsan Zahida Ehsan, your logic is silly. You say “I am sure you are getting money from different sources just to do this’. Are you a science student? May I ask for a scientific evidence please?

  • Mr Parcha, you are right on spot. General Naseer-ullha-Babar and Rustam Shah Mohmand are two key persons to mislead Pakistan into a quagmire known today as the Taliban (zaliman).

  • Excellent article

    Hamid Mir is finally caught and his crookedness has come to light for every one

    Live long Pakistan

    Shame to Taliban and Jamat e Islami, the worst enemies of Islam and Pakistan

  • Sorry for this article Shiraz, Shiraz I know you very well, and we are quite good friends, you are brilliant person, but unfortunately always against own nation and motherland, against our proud national security (ISI), you want to prove that you are neutral one, but I always realized that in your heart is only PPP, that is why your article regarding our Proud Nation is always negative, please for God sack stop writing such negative article, blaming ISI and Jumate Islami is now your habit, by such effort you are blaming yourself, wish you all the best in your life and wish you to be a Patriotic Pakistani.

  • I would just like to ask one question from the writer how much have u been paid for writing such stuff against your motherland .

  • I dont know why people like u set aside everything and start tarnishishing the image of ur nation u people are a parisite 4 the nation and i would ask u to stop playing this blame game and write something positive for the nation

  • Sahar Khan, I am not saying that Pakistan belong to some group or agency, sorry to say that people like you not trying to understand, I just want to write something positive and I mention these two because Shiraz mention in his article these two names, blaming ISI is like blaming ourselves, every country has its National agencies, they are like safeguard of the country and their nation, there may be some people misusing it, but blaming as a whole our system is not wise, we discussed many time on such topics with Shiraz, I love my country, I love my nation and I am proud of it, unfortunately we have lack of political leaders, and we should to be optimist for our bright future. In such a difficult and sensitive time we all nation needs to say, write and show something positive, because we need it too much specially now. Regarding Shiraz that he may getting money, I don’t think so, because he is generally smart and fair person, I know him since 2001, never found anything that he may be getting money for writing against own country or someone else. I advised before and advising now to please stop writing such article, which can only and only mislead the other people of his such imaginary stories, which is only in his (Shiraz) mind, if you can’t throw them out then please at least keep it inside. Shiraz trust me that I not belong to any party, I am with those who are honest, fair and have self respect.

  • Dear Sadaqat, thanks for saying that no one has ever paid me for writing or expressing my views. I have nothing personal against Hamid Mir, Jama-i-Islami or the ISI. I knew a part of the history and I honestly shared it with LUBP readers.
    You know that I have been single handedly writing about some American projects in Central Asia and you were witness to the resistance that I faced from some very powerful Americans. They were angry and thought that that I challenged their interests in Central Asia. Some influential American Christian groups are still after me. But I am fighting them because they are wrong.
    I don’t need an ISI certificate to be a good Pakistani. I am not aware of the current role of the ISI in Pakistan. May be they have changed for the better that is why you are proud of them but in the 1980s and in the 1990s what I saw in Pakistan was terrible. That role of the ISI was certainly not patriotic. No sane Pakistani should be proud of the games that resulted in the death and destruction in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    Exposing such acts is a service to our country.
    We need to build our image not on a hateful and narrow vision. The world should know that we are not blind. Yes, we should be proud but before we should figure out the source of our pride. We should sort out our true identity. Pakistan faces a very serious identity crisis. The identity imposed upon us is confused and false. It is based on a distorted and imaginary past. We need real soul searching such as why we are so insecure? Is our insecurity has a link with our arrogance and stubbornness? What is source of our superiority? If we are so good than why do some of us have a deep inferiority complex towards other nations and cultures? Some of us are proud of our Arab past, other Pakistanis find Central Asian roots as their origin and a large number of us copy Anglo-Americans and and in our day to day life display Victorian manners and values which even the Brits have given up. Yes, we have reason to be proud but those are different than what the Jamat-i-Islami and the ISI would like to tell us.