By Yousuf Nazar
My take on the whole Hamid Mir’s saga is not [assuming of course the tape is authentic] just that he could have contributed to the killing of former Squadron Leader and ISI official Khalid Khawaja by telling that unknown person (who sounded like he was somewhere in the tribal areas and involved with a terrorist group) that Khalid worked for the CIA among other allegations but the fact people like Hamid Mir with known links with Al Qaeda are also alleged to be the intelligence agencies men and work for the biggest media group in the country. No wonder, no newspaper or TV channel took even notice of the story till the Daily Times broke it on its first page. And yet the media has the audacity to make claims about its independence, integrity, objectivity..etc.
The reality is that while politicians have been made to account for their deeds (even though motives related more to revenge and witch-hunting), the Army, the Media, and the Judiciary are not accountable at all. The Jang group has lobbied very effectively for not allowing the Indian TV channels to be aired in Pakistan. I think it is high time we do it. We should trust our people, their intelligence, their political consciousness, and their patriotism in that they can distinguish news from propaganda and objective reporting from spin. But Pakistani people must be freed from the tyranny of these anchors many of whom are no more than hired spokesmen of the intelligence agencies.
Hamid maintains that the tape is a concoction and doctored but is he prepared to have some independent technical experts examine the tape to verify its authenticity? Filing law suit in the controversial and ill-reputed Lahore High Court won’t cut it. If he is not prepared for such an impartial examination, his detractors would be justified to draw their own conclusions from the tape.
A DAWN columnist writes today:
“For such people to wield so much power over the airwaves should give us pause for thought. It is an open secret that many journalists in Pakistan are on the payroll of various intelligence outfits. This became most obvious during the acrimonious public debate over the Kerry-Lugar Act last year when all hell broke loose over our TV channels. It was no secret that our army high command had been annoyed by the legislation’s bid to strengthen democratic institutions, and to prevent future coups. The quick activation of the media brigade in support of the military’s position exposed their ties and their loyalties. Nor is the army’s distaste for this government concealed; and its reflection in TV chat shows is hardly a coincidence.”
It is this axis of terror and evil between the intelligence agencies, media men and the terrorists that needs closer and deeper investigation and greater public scrutiny. I remember that it was Hamid Mir who told me in February 2008 that it was former US state department official Robin Rafael who sent Dr Shahid Masood on a study tour of the US after his show was temporarily suspended during Musharraf’s government. Another senior editor from the Jang group told me that Shaheen Sehbai violently turned his guns on Zardari after the latter refused his request to appoint him as High Commissioner to Canada.
Anyway, what is curious that media men with known links with the intelligence agencies have been the most vocal supporters of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. In my op-ed for DAWN ( The Establishment Strikes Back, Dec. 26, 2009), I wrote:
“It is now too obvious that the judges got rid of Musharraf when he became a liability to the establishment. Now they could be part of a hidden agenda because an overt exercise of powers by the establishment does not fit in with the current internal and external environment. One has to be politically quite naive or a paid journalist (it does not matter by which agency, IB or the ISI) to eulogize all this as the triumph of justice or some rubbish like that. Why doesn’t the Supreme Court order the ministry of information and broadcasting to publish the names of all those media persons who have been the beneficiaries of secret funds during the past 20 years?"
We can’t build democratic institutions without a genuinely independent media that has some measure of integrity and credibility. While I never had any illusions about the media (specially the Jang Group and Nawa-e-Waqt), for common people like me another troublesome fact is that the people like Khalid Khawaja (a former ISI official) were not only close to Osama bin Laden but also worked closely as go-betweens for the CIA and the ISI with the terrorists and militants. The likes of them went around openly talking to the media how they got Osama to pay Nawaz Sharif to overthrow Benazir’s government and loudly espousing the case for the Talibans and yet hardly anyone in the media questioned what the hell was going on? How could they have the guts to do that and all they did with impunity unless some people at the pinnacles of power were protecting or using them? Before some naive young journalist utters the word “conspiracy theory”, let me just say go and study Pakistan’s and CIA covert operations’ history and then reflect.
Hamid Mir has been allegedly caught on telephone egging on someone who is apparently a terrorist, to question former ISI officer Khalid Khawaja about his connections with the CIA and his role in Lal Masjid. I listened to the tape a few times. I do not know if the tape was doctored but it definitely sounds like Hamid Mir who I have not only met many times but also appeared on his shows. He liked my views about America but wasn’t so receptive when I talked against the establishment. America, the establishment and militants are equally responsible for Pakistan’s current woes. The establishment is aided by a section of the media and superior judiciary, and the establishment has been funded and supported by the U.S. for decades. This is such a murky, dirty, vicious and clandestine web that reminds one of pages from John le Carre’s novels.
Coming back to the Hamid Mir’s tape, what transpires from the transcript is as follows:
1. This terrorist (a Punjabi Taliban, apparently) is going to meet Hakimullah Mehsud in a few days;
2. This Taliban knows that Khaild Khawaja is in the custody of one Tariq Faridi;
3. Hamid Mir alleges that Khalid Khawaja is a CIA man and was deeply involved in Lal Masjid and connected to the Maulana Aziz and Rashid Gazi of Lal Masjid;
4. Hamid Mir asks this terrorist to ask the people who are holding Khalid in their custody what were his connections with former CIA chief Bill Cassey and Mansur Ejaz ( a controversial person who has been involved in many negotiations on behalf of the CIA with Al Qaeda );
5. The terrorist alleges that Khalid Khawaja may have been involved in the murder of some senior brigadier level army officials.
How very interesting? Yes. Surprising? No.
I have been writing for a few months about the yellow journalists and particularly those who are associated with the Jang Group. Shaheen Sehbai and his ilk should know that there is no grand conspiracy against the media. Their irresponsible and self-serving agenda-driven journalism has forced independent and completely disinterested people like me to speak up and say enough non-sense before more damage is done to this country by the paid-agents of the establishment in the media. But this saga should be an eye opener for that naive and younger generation of writers who make fun of anyone who smells a plot or a conspiracy in many of the happenings in Pakistan. We must reflect on how much we are told is the truth or a lie, fact or fiction, story or spin?
Just consider the following:
1. It has been over a month that the UN report on BB’s assassination was released but there has been no, none whatsoever, progress in the investigation. The fact finding committee formed by Yousuf Raza Gilani (alleged by some PPP MNAs to be an ISI man) did nothing nor were its findings made public.
2. It has been over a week that Hamid Mir’s saga started but neither the Supreme Court nor the men in Khaki have moved.
Why the latter two because they are the ones who really matter and hold real power. If such high level crimes are committed or alleged to have been committed with impunity and there is no transparent, credible, serious, and demonstrably impartial investigation, then do not blame the commoners like me for smelling conspiracy because everyone knows that to get away with such high profile crimes so publicly, so openly and so brazenly, is only possible in Pakistan when the top men in the khakis are protecting you.
We are not talking about some men in a remote village who committed suicide bombings or a target killing in Karachi where a person came on a motor bike, fired upon someone and sped away.We are talking about a Major General who was accused in a United Nations report about a serious crime. [Some paid-columnists have also smelled a conspiracy in the UN report knowing little that Chilean Ambassador is probably one of the last persons who can be accused of working for the Western or US agenda).We are talking about one of the best known TV anchors who is accused of having more than close relations with the terrorists. This must be investigated at the highest level of government if there is some even semblance of transparency and sense of accountability left in the banana republic.
Hence, the buck stops at the highest level of government and by that I do not mean the chief executive Yousuf Raza Gilani. I mean the real man-in-command, General Parvez Kayani.