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Taliban tape puts Pak journalist Hamid Mir in a spot

In Pakistan's world of journalism,the man who until now was believed to know the inside story,has now himself become the story.

Written by Ruchika Talwar | New Delhi |
May 20, 2010 2:08:54 am

In Pakistan’s world of journalism,the man who until now was believed to know the inside story,has now himself become the story. Hamid Mir,executive editor of Geo TV,Pakistan’s premier Urdu news channel,is being accused of instigating murder. In what could grow into a long,murky legal battle,Mir finds himself “wronged.”

Over the past weekend,an audio clip began doing the rounds on the Internet in which Mir and a suspected Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) operative are allegedly heard having a conversation.

The voice on tape,said to be Mir’s,instigated the TTP operative against Squadron Leader Khalid Khwaja,a former ISI officer who had been abducted by the TTP along with another ISI officer,Col Imam who is still missing. Mir accused Khwaja of being a CIA agent and a sympathiser of Israel and the Qadiani sect,also known as the Ahmadi sect,which is officially condemned of heresy by Pakistan. Mir told the TTP operative that the Qadianis in his view were “worse off than kaffirs (infidels)”.

Khwaja’s body was found in North Waziristan days after this conversation. Subsequently,Mir also wrote a piece in The News,titled ‘What was the last mission of Khalid Khwaja,’ in which he tried to establish that Khwaja was playing the role of a conduit between the Taliban and Pakistan Army.

Mir has refuted the charges and termed the audio clip as being “manufactured” with bits and pieces from “his innocent conversations”. This conversation was first reported by Pakistan’s English newspaper,Daily Times. The paper also ran two editorials demanding legal action against Mir,who has served legal notices to the publisher,editor and reporter of Daily Times demanding an unconditional apology within two weeks.

Salman Taseer,a PPP stalwart,governor of Pakistani Punjab and owner of the Daily Times is out of the country. Its editor,Rashed Rehman has decided to fight it out in court. “Journalists in Pakistan operate with absolute impunity. All I want is Mir to be properly interrogated and the law to take its course. But considering the dominant view about the man in question,a lot of muck will be raked out once we go to court,” he told The Indian Express on phone from Lahore.

Mir knows the knack of being in the news: be it his much-suspected interview of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden post 9/11 or that of Phoolan Devi who denied having given him any interview,after which his services from Jang were terminated. The influential journalist is visible frequently on Indian news channels. In March,Mir visited India during the 33rd SAARC Literature Festival.

However,the current controversy has left him unable to garner support for himself. Even his employers have distanced themselves. The story is developing with every passing day but there has been no disclaimer from Jang Group,which owns Geo TV,Jang and English daily The News,in which Mir writes. When approached,the Jang Group remain tight-lipped. Sources in Pakistan have told The Indian Express that the Jang Group doesn’t wish to be part of this story which could irreparably tarnish its image as Pakistan’s leading media group.

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