A few words on Hamid Mir

(Viewers/readers: The following is an uncut version of my views
on Hamid Mir)

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 30.04.14

In an evolving democracy such as Pakistan where the option for defining the boundaries of
the freedom of expression is still open, the rivalry between its prime intelligence agency and
the prime media group comes as no surprise to anyone. Was it not possible that the DG ISI
Lieutenant General Zaheer-ul-Islam visited the hospital in Karachi where Hamid Mir was
being treated and enquired after Mir’s recovery from the bullet wounds? General Islam
could have shown Mir his concern about him and assured Mir of his help to nab the
attackers. A gesture of goodwill could have helped General Islam win minds which
Mubashar Luqman, Haroon-ul-Rasheed, Arshad Shareef, Moeed Pirzada and several
others together are trying to win by their anti-Mir (and anti-Geo) rhetoric. Moreover,
through his gesture of good will, General Islam could have defeated the allegations leveled
by Mir’s brother at him. Not doing so indicates two points: first, there was already an
atmosphere of antagonism and mistrust existing in the ISI against Mir and, secondly,
winning hearts by showing a moral gesture is not yet a popular theme in Pakistan.

Even if the brother of Mir blamed the ISI chief and the television channel concerned kept on
showing the picture of (who was) the ISI chief, nothing proved the involvement of the ISI in
the armed attack on Mir. Was the repute of the ISI so delicately poised as any allegation
could smear its name permanently? What Mir’s brother did or what the television channel
did was not surprising for the viewers who used to watch regularly Mir’s talk show, Capital
Talk. Mir-ISI animosity was surfaced to the viewers in May 2010 when a tape was aired in
which Mir was purportedly speaking to a Taliban about Khalid Khawaja, a former ISI agent.
Mir denied the authenticity of the tape. Later on, in May 2011, in the wake of the murder of
Saleem Shahzad, a renowned investigative journalist, Mir advised in his talk show that
journalists should refrain from talking on the phones about their movements because their
phones were being tapped. Similarly, in the middle of 2013, Mir was found brandishing his
mobile phone in the talk show and claiming that he was threatened by certain intelligence
personnel. Anyway, the implicit conflict between Mir and the ISI was so obvious that even if
Mir’s brother had not mentioned the ISI’s name, the ISI would not have escaped the
allegation as a knee-jerk reaction. One reason for the same may be that the agency has
perhaps failed to absolve the perception of its name from the fate of Shahzad and the
mistreatment of Umar Cheema, an investigative reporter of The News. Nevertheless, Mir’s
brother overlooked other possibilities of information leakage and attack.

Having taken the advantage of the current Mir-ISI resentment, anchorpersons and analysts
such as Luqman, Rasheed, Shareef, Pirzada and the like are settling a score with Mir not
because Mir scorned at them but because they could not outwit Mir. Some anchorpersons
that were jealous of Mir’s talk show have now turned against the television channel which
he represents. However, some analysts who were somehow against the television channel
represented by Mir have now turned against Mir. Generally, journalists (whether they are
anchorpersons or analysts) feel protected in Pakistan when they are pro-military and feel
vulnerable to all kind of losses when they are anti-military. In the Mir-ISI bitterness, several
media houses must have found an opportunity to win over the ISI (or the military) so that
their flaws are disregarded. Secondly, they want to feed on the emotions of people by
taking the hide of pro-ISI and pro-military stances to raise the graph of their popularity. That
is how a sudden upsurge can be noticed in the number of media persons (and houses)
vocal against both Mir and the television channel he belongs to. Poor Luqman is fighting for
relevance, since the media gate exposed him. He is ready to be handpicked by anyone who
could revive his lost media glory. Rasheed is known for his mentally living in the medieval
ages, showing his cringing attitude towards the military and cashing in on his meetings with
the military chiefs. The only one Caliph he perhaps has studied is Khalifa Haroon-ul-
Rasheed. Shareef, having a military family background, is trying to avail himself of the
opportunity of raising his anti-Mir voice higher than his own mental age. The pro-military
inclination of Pirzada is already known to every one. By the way, none of them is a match to
the zeal and courage of Mir as a reporter and none of them can speak the truth as Mir is
habitual of speaking as an anchorperson.  

A piece of news is being bandied about that the ISI has made a dossier expressing anti-
Pakistan activities of the television channel to which Mir belonged. One can surmise that
the dossier must be having the same documents which were aired by Luqman in the recent
past. Without a supplier of information, Luqman could not be resourceful. If the documents
were the same, there would be another allegation at the ISI that it used one media group to
tarnish the image of another media group. This may lead to another knee-jerk reaction
against the ISI in the future. Anyway, when the viewers did not pay any heed to Luqman’s
claims, would they now pay any attention to the dossier’s claims? Above all, if any anti-
Pakistan activities had been done by the television channel Mir belongs to, the viewers
must have noticed them. Nevertheless, the viewers have liked very much the coverage
given by Capital Talk to the missing persons issue, the Balochistan crisis, General
Musharraf’s trial and Aman Ki Asha. The viewers want Mir back and taking on the issues
once again.

If the television channel Mir belongs to does not listen to the dictation of the ISI or the
military, it does the right thing. The viewers need a news channel which is independent and
outside the influence of both the government and state institutions including the military and
the ISI to do objective reporting and analysis. To achieve that goal, the mistakes done by
the channel, its reporters and anchorpersons, can be overlooked.

Back to columns in 2014