One of our friends recently wrote: “Two highly recommended books for those who wish to understand Pakistan: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and The Castle by Frank Kafka”.
This is not a cynical view of Pakistan. Pakistan is a country that is a conundrum wrapped within a puzzle inside an enigma. As the previous proxy state militia broke into different factions and is now fighting the state, the lines between friends and foes are blurred. ISI that used to formant proxy militias to further its causes in Kashmir and Afghanistan is now itself being attacked by its very own Frankenstein.
The previous masters of the Taliban are now either their prisoners or being killed by them. A case of Khalid Khwaja and Colonel Imam is a sad reflection of the evil of the religious extremism that is consuming itself due to the utter chaos that it represents.
Mr. Khwaja’s life was remarkable in itself for all the intrigues that were associated with him. Not many people have accused General Zia-ul-Haq for not fully implementing the Islamic Sharia in Pakistan. He was one of the accusers, and after promptly being dismissed by the General, Mr. Khwaja went on to play significant roles in assembling alliances against the PPP government of Ms. Benazir Bhutto. Taking on the causes of Jihadis, he managed to appear in the news on and off, even volunteering to take on the case of five Americans who were apprehended in Pakistan while allegedly looking to train for Jihad.
Mr. Khwaja was killed two weeks back. And now we have a stunning story breaking on various blogs that Mr. Hamid Mir, one of the most renowned TV anchormen in Pakistan, was caught talking to a Taliban person on the phone.
See the full transcript of the phone conversation here:
In the phone call, the voice that seems to be of Mr. Mir, implicated the then imprisoned Khalid Khwaja as a CIA agent, responsible for shameful tactics by the Maulana at the red mosque (where he was caught escaping while wearing a burqa), being in touch with CIA agent William Casey and another person named Mansoor Ijaz. In almost 12 minutes of recording, the voice resembling Mr. Mir is heard giving Taliban details about Pakistan Army plans to attack North Waziristan with 40,000 troops, condemning Qadianis as worst than infidels, and condemning Khalid Khwaja roundly as worst of the worst (read CIA agent), and responsible for the defeat and humiliation of the Jihadis hold up inside the Red Mosque in Islamabad.
Unlike Mr. Mir, or his brethren in the media who have been vociferously denouncing anyone who disagrees with their make believe world of CIA agents roaming in Pakistan, Blackwater and evil PPP government, we would like to say that Mr. Mir deserves the benefit of the doubt. While Mr. Mir, or his erstwhile Pakistani anchors have been quick in condemning their detractors as liberal fascists or American agents, we believe that the following should be carefully considered since the taped conversation, if proven genuine, already has resulted in the death of Mr. Khwaja and casts a lot more disturbing questions:
1 . Who taped this conversation and why was a news anchor phone being tapped? One likely reason would be that Mr. Mir was under suspicion being in contact with the Taliban and his phone was duly tapped by the intelligence agencies. However it is imperative that the source of this leak be established to verify the legality and reasons behind tapping of a journalist’s phone calls.
2. Whose voice on the phone is there? For anyone who has listened to Mr. Hamid Mir, the voice seems remarkably like Mr. Mir’s. This is a full 12 minutes conversation, and if some how the government machinery has been able to replicate Mr. Mir’s voice with all the intonations and frankness while talking to a Taliban person, then Pakistani intelligence may have scaled new heights in scientific innovation. Most likely, after hearing the conversation it is hard to imagine that somehow a voice with all its variations and occasional passion was a concocted fake.
3. In an ideal world, a respectable High Court judge would investigate the phone tape, the events surrounding its leak, and the authenticity of the voice on the tape. This is important because Mr. Mir has accused the earth and the skies for planning a grand conspiracy against him and the free media in Pakistan. A simple question to ask is: is this voice Hamid Mir’s or not?
Unfortunately, Pakistan is anything but an ideal world. Yet, Mr. Mir is one of the leading anchors of the country and a person who influences thousands of Pakistanis with his reports and commentaries. For someone to be talking to a group that proudly says that there are more suicide bombers on their way, and glean information about ex-Pakistani military men to decide on their execution are irresponsible and outrageous. Does anyone in Pakistan possess the ability to appoint a neutral investigator to fully investigate these serious charges?
4. Unfortunately, Mr. Mir’s first response to this tape raises even more suspicions. A normal response would probably read something like this: “I would like to unequivocally state that a forged tape has been attributed to my name. The voice on this tape is not mine. I have not talked to Taliban to give any information about Mr. Khalid Khwaja or Pakistan Army’s plans to attack the North Waziristan. I will treat any such accusations as casting aspersions on my character and would duly pursue my accusers in the court of law”.
However, Mr. Mir’s response was condemning a one-sided concocted story, bits and pieces of his previous conversations (innocent journalistic pieces) combined in that tape, and a long list of grand conspiracy charges against Mr. Salman Taseer (owner of the Daily Times) and Mr. Hussain Haqqani (alleged owner of the LUBP blog).
If the voice belongs to Mr. Mir, then we can be sure that there are no holy cows in any profession. Just because Mr. Hamid Mir is a well known journalist doesn’t mean that he is above the law. The possible charges are extremely serious if the voice is confirmed to be that of Mr. Mir’s.
And finally, only an independent investigation can help Mr. Mir clear his name. The extreme similarity in the voice over the phone versus his own, his muddled response after the tape release, and the similarity between his claims over the phone vs. what he has been writing about Khalid Khwaja are enough to cast serious doubts about his protestations for innocence. It is just not enough for him now to blame grand conspiracies for this tape. The first and foremost question is establishing if the voice over the phone is indeed Mr. Hamid Mir’s or not. This is an extremely serious matter; either a leading news anchor has instigated a cold blooded killing of an ex-ISI official by colluding with the Taliban, or he is under an enormously false accusation designed to destroy his professional career and personal life. Either way, a complete judicial enquiry is in order right now.
P.S. For a better reading on Mr. Mir’s response and likely reasons behind the leak of the story, the following link to Cafe Pyala is recommended: http://cafepyala.blogspot.com/2010/05/smoking-gun_15.html
The Daily Times editorial in response to Mr. Hamid Mir’s accusations is at the following link: http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20105\18\story_18-5-2010_pg1_4