American journalist Daniel Pearl was killed in early 2002 in Karachi. This essay will review the coverage of the abduction and assassination of the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia bureau chief in Pakistani newspapers. It will also discuss the reasons behind the angled media coverage of Pearl’s assassination.
A brief background:
At the time of his beheading, Daniel Pearl was investigating the alleged links between Richard Reid – the “Show Bomber” – and Al Qaeda. 
With the help of a fixer, who was also a reporter for a local Urdu newspaper, Pearl had arranged a meeting with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, the “spiritual leader” of the “Show Bomber”. On January 23, he left for Village Restaurant in downtown Karachi. He was abducted on his way.  His arrest was claimed by a shady group that called itself “The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty”. The group said Pearl was a CIA agent and demanded that the United States should free all the Pakistani detainees at Guantanamo and release the withheld shipment of F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistani government.
Nine days later (February 1), Pearl was beheaded. His body was found on May 16 in 10 pieces on the outskirts of Karachi.
The videotape of his assassination was released on February 21, 2002, and was titled “The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl”. It was three minutes and 36 seconds long. 
Just before the beheading, the video shows Pearl saying: “My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Jewish, I’m Jewish. My family follows Judaism. We’ve made numerous family visits to Israel. Back in the town of Bnei Brak there is a street named after my great grandfather Chaim Pearl who is one of the founders of the town… Not knowing anything about my situation… not being able to communicate with anybody… only now do I think about some of the people in Guantanamo Bay must be in a similar situation… and I’ve come to realize that… We Americans cannot continue to bear the consequences of our government’s actions, such as the unconditional support given to the state of Israel. Twenty-four uses of the veto power to justify massacres of children. And the support for the dictatorial regimes in the Arab and left-wing world. And also the continued American military presence in Afghanistan.” 
Three people were arrested on charges of killing Pearl on February 6, 2002.  The mastermind of the plot, Omar Saeed Sheikh, surrendered to an ex-ISI official, Ijaz Shah, a retired brigadier-general of the Pakistan Army who was then the home secretary of the Punjab province, on March 5. 
Omar Saeed Sheikh: the mastermind behind Pearl\’s assassination
However, Shah kept Sheikh’s surrender secret and didn’t share the information with the police till March 12. Years later, on March 10, 2007, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, reportedly number three in the Al Qaeda hierarchy, claimed responsibility, before his Combatant Status Review Tribunal, for the murder of Daniel Pearl. He said, “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan.” 
Pearl’s Assassination and the Pakistani print media:
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the role of the Pakistani media during, and in the aftermath of, the Daniel Pearl abduction was highly regrettable. The mainstream media portrayed Pearl as a Jewish American, affiliated with the CIA, and even Mossad, who was investigating the clandestine nuclear proliferation network of the Pakistani state. 
Jews are always in danger in Pakistan. That’s no secret, and the people at the Wall Street Journal, Pearl’s parents, sisters and wife knew well that his Jewish identity had to be kept secret. Till January 27, i.e. three days into Pearl’s abduction, nobody in the Pakistani media knew Pearl was Jewish. The Wall Street Journal had “made it a priority to keep Judea and Ruth Pearl [Daniel Pearl’s parents] out of view and to convince the American media not to mention Danny’s background.” [Pearl, 100]
On January 27, the front page of the largest newspaper of Pakistan, Jang, printed Pearl’s photo with an Urdu caption. It said that Pearl was suspected of being a Mossad agent and of having ‘relations’ with the Indian intelligence agency, RAW. [Pearl, 101]
This was a disaster. Not only the revelation of Pearl’s religious identity was likely to turn the public opinion against him, it could also possibly encourage his abductors to believe that he indeed was a Mossad/RAW agent.
The Pearl family was upset over this insinuation of the Pakistani press, and his wife, Mariane Pearl, noted in her book that “In this part of the world, it’s bad enough to publicly identify somebody as Jewish. To say he is a member of Israeli intelligence – of the hated Mossad – is tantamount to signing his death warrant. Not only does Arab-Israeli tension fuel the anger, but it is widely believed that Mossad has been supporting India against Pakistan in Kashmir.” [Pearl, 101]
In addition to the Jew-Mossad-CIA-RAW connection, Pearl received further bad press because of the fact that he, along with his wife, was staying in Karachi with a female friend and colleague from Wall Street Journal, Asra Q. Nomani. Nomani was an Indian-born Muslim who grew up in West Virginia. [Pearl, 7] She was staying in Pakistan to complete research on her book.
Being the South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, Pearl was based in Mumbai, India. Staying in a house with an unmarried woman of Indian origin meant more controversy for a person of Jewish faith belonging to the United States, especially when he had been suspected of being a Mossad agent by the largest newspaper of a conservative Muslim country like Pakistan.
Writing in the January 30 edition of English-language The News, the sister publication of Jang, Pakistan’s top reporter Kamran Khan said, “Some Pakistani security officials… are privately searching for answers as to why a Jewish American reporter was exceeding ‘his limits’ to investigate Pakistani religious group [sic]. These official [sic] are also guessing, rather loudly, as to why Pearl decided to bring an Indian journalist as his full time assistant in Pakistan, Ansa [sic] Nomani, an American passport holder Indian-Muslim lady who had come from Mumbai to Karachi with Pearl, [and] was working as his full time assistant in the country. The same group of officials is also intrigued as to why an American newspaper reporter based in Mumbai would also establish a full time residence in Karachi by renting a resident [sic]. ‘An India based Jewish reporter serving a largely Jewish media organization should have known the hazards of exposing himself to radical Islamic groups, particularly those who recently got crushed under American military might,’ remarked a senior Pakistani official.” [Pearl, 147]
The duplicity of Pakistani reporters doesn’t stop here. The same Kamran Khan, who fumed over Pearl’s ‘nosiness’ and Jewish background in a Pakistani newspaper on January 30, wrote another story along with Molly Moore for The Washington Post on the same day under the headline “Kidnappers Set Elaborate Trap For Journalist.” 
Khan didn’t say anything about the Jewish factor or Indian connection in his Post story.
Khan’s reason for writing for Pakistani and foreign readers with different angles is not difficult to understand. While no respected foreign publication would allow virulent commentary on its pages, Pakistani reporters don’t want to lose any opportunity to win brownie points with the military either.
Writing two stories for the domestic and international media with different angles was easy to get away with in 2002 when the Internet wasn’t widely available to Pakistani readers. But with the emergence of powerful social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and a hyperactive blogosphere in Pakistan, few mainstream journalists are now likely to succeed in playing on both sides of the fence.
In addition to trickery and deception, another factor behind the media’s lack of sympathy for Pearl was the alleged pressure from the ISI that according to many people tried to hamper independent investigations into Pearl’s murder. A case in point is Bernard-Henri Levy’s book on the subject. Levy is a French investigative reporter who wrote a 450-page book titled “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” The book is a remarkable piece of investigative journalism. Levy’s findings are too many, and too long, to share here. But given the scope of the essay, quoting a few references to the Pakistani media from his book wouldn’t be out of place.
Levy said when he reached the office of Jang to meet journalist Hamid Mir, he was rudely told off. Although Levy had already talked to Mir and had an appointment with arguably the most influential journalist of Pakistan — who is the official biographer of Osama bin Laden and has interviewed the Al Qaeda chief before as well as after 9/11– Mir harshly accused Levy of working for western interests and refused to talk. This was in stark contrast with the polite tone of Mir on the phone just a few hours ago. Levy detailed in his book how he felt the presence of ISI spooks in the office. He asserted that within a few hours between the phone conversion and his arrival at Mir’s office, the ISI had ordered Mir not to talk to him. Hence the cold shoulder and sudden allegations of working on a foreign agenda. But on the other hand, Levy praises in the following words probably the only Pakistani journalist who bravely took up the case of Pearl: “Shaheen Sehbai, the courageous editor of the Karachi News threatened with death by the secret service for going too far on, precisely, the Pearl affair.” [Levy, 9]
Levy quotes an editorial from weekly Zarb-e-Momin, without giving the date of publication, wherein a religious leader warns the government that should the rulers give in to the “American Zionists”, the whole nation will rise up in protest. [Levy, 438]
Levy quotes another newspaper that published the “declaration” of a most senior mufti of Pakistan, Nizamuddin Shamzai, the rector of Binori Town Mosque, that condemned “treacherous non-proliferation treaties that the Zionist enemy is imposing” on Pakistan. The mufti called the likely signing of the treaty by the government an act of “high treason,” a “non-Islamic” action and “a rebellion against the commandments of almighty Allah.” [Levy, 439] Levy wonders if there is any other country in the world where a bomb has gained importance in religious terms.
There is little that suggests that the Pakistani print media (there were no private TV channels at the time) played a positive, let alone neutral, role in the Pearl case. Mariane Pearl’s utter disgust for the Pakistani media can be felt by her reaction when the crime reporter for Jang approached her for the abduction details.
“I distrust all the Pakistani press, which seems to have no tradition of objectivity or neutrality… [the crime reporter] is doing a poor job at disguising the fact that Danny’s abduction represents a real scoop for him. He intends to make his mark with this story… I see [him] turn into a vulture, with his little eyes emptied of all humanity.” [Pearl, 67-68]
 Time Magazine. On the Trail of Daniel Pearl. Deren Fonda. December 2, 2010.
 In the Line of Fire: A Memoir, Pervez Musharraf, Simon and Schuster, 2006, December 2, 2010.
 The Guardian. Body parts believed to be of murdered US reporter. Rory McCarthy. December 2, 2010.
 Wretch.cc. December 2, 2010.
 The Guardian. Pakistan holds three as net closes on US reporter’s kidnappers. Rory McCarthy. December 2, 2010.
 Wikipedia. Ijaz Shah. December 2, 2010.
 Jurist. Militant convicted of Pearl killing to rely on KSM Guantanamo confession on appeal. December 2, 2010.
 The BBC. Pearl ‘killed over secrets’. December 2, 2010.
Pearl, Mariane. A Mighty Heart:The Brave Life and Death of My Husban Danny Pearl. 1st ed. Scribner, 2003. December 2, 2010.
 The Washington Post. Kidnappers Set Elaborate Trap For Journalist. Kamran Khan and Molly Moore. December 2, 2010.
Levy, Bernard-Henri. Who Killed Daniel Pearl? 2nd ed. Melville House Publishing, 2003. December 2, 2010.