Intelligence agencies and journalists

By Mohammad JamilFO/PAKTALK

Renowned anchorperson and columnist Hamid Mir in his column carried by national Urdu daily captioned jasoos idaray aur sahafi (Intelligence agencies and journalists), reproduced what Mariana Babar had earlier mentioned in her write-up: “Two persons from MI came to her residence. After politely introducing themselves, they told her that they were collecting some basic data about journalists. They had a form with them with different columns of questions and answers like religion, sect etc. Mariana refused to cooperate with the visitors and sent them back”.

Only MI could tell the purpose of collecting the above information, but it could be for the security of the journalist fraternity in the wake of threats to them. Anyhow, such questions are asked at the time of census. Secondly, our journalists and anchorpersons have many a time acknowledged that to collect information they have to have contacts with the agencies also. Finally, had there been ulterior motive of the MI personnel, they would not have openly asked the information from her.

Anyhow, after narrating the story Hamid Mir gives his comments: “Nowadays, some people convey an impression that a few media men are busy denigrating military under a foreign-hatched conspiracy. Perhaps Military Intelligence is after the journalists in that regard. But the truth is that some people in media are committed to upholding the rule of law and constitution, and they believe that everybody is equal before the law”. Recently, he has been frequently referring to the corruption cases against a few retired generals, and in the backdrop of COAS General Kayani’s statement he is under the impression that military leadership was trying to protect them. The fact of the matter is that not only patriotic elements in the media but people at large understand the sinister designs of some foreign powers and their cronies in the media who have sold out their souls to them. One may criticize or condemn the dictators who had trampled the Constitution in the past, but the present military leadership does not deserve vitriolic. Some anchorpersons, analysts and panelists have been subjecting the military to scathing criticism day in and day out in one way or another. It is very rare that ISPR responds to the propaganda against the armed forces and agencies. There are some patriotic media groups and media men who do not have any trepidation and fear from the agents of aliens how powerful they may be. Hamid Mir has been in general pro-Pakistan and pro-Pakistani institutions including military, and defended Pakistan in a forceful manner. But lately, he has turned against military and at least once blamed Quaid-i-Azam for having announced that “Urdu will be the national language of Pakistan”, which he thought had annoyed Bengalis. He has also become controversial because of his recent tone and tenor. When the issue of his audiotape of his conversation with interlocutor of the so-called Asian Tigers or Punjabi Taliban came to light in 2010, quite a few of his colleagues were stunned. Mariana Babar had also criticized him for his connections with the militants.

In her column captioned ‘Anchor Cast Adrift’ published on 31st May 2010 in India’s Outlook magazine, Mariana Babar started her column with the excerpts from the transcript of the tapped telecon between Hamid Mir and unidentified man, arguably interlocutor from Punjabi Taliban. She reproduced the excerpt of the conversation Hamid Mir had with him stating that “Khalid Khawaja according to my opinion is not an ISI man, rather he is a CIA agent, and he has links with the Taliban leadership”, adding that “Khawaja is a front man of Mansoor Ijaz who belongs to a very big international network of Qadianis”. Mariana Babar expressed her opinion in these words: “The transcript was sensational, providing as it did a motive for the militant group to kill Khalid Khawaja. His alleged entanglement with militants, if true demonstrates their sway over Pakistani society…Perhaps all theories about the tape happen to be partially correct, indicating the coalescing of interests to hound Mir, irrespective of whether or not he talked to UM.” In June 2010, many anchorpersons had ditched Hamid Mir, and did not raise the hullabaloo or questioned that it was an attempt to frame him. In fact, they were on the defensive so that the government may not attack on their ‘freedom of expression’ taking advantage of the Article in the Constitution that forbids insulting and ridiculing armed forces and judges. Not in the distant past, two anchorpersons belonging to another channel were caught off-guard and had to cut a sorry figure when their conversation during ‘short break’ was placed on the air wittingly or unwittingly about Malik Riaz and Arslan Iftikhar case. Once again the journalist fraternity and anchorpersons criticized their colleagues, but once again it was business as usual and they were seen taking advantage of the media being undeclared pillar of the state. Last week, in a talk show of a private TV channel there was a debate on civil and military relations in Pakistan, and a panel comprising retired generals, journalists, politicians, anchorpersons and spokesperson of movement for restoration of judiciary discussed the subject threadbare.

There was consensus among the participants that Pakistan faced an existential threat; therefore all pillars of the state should display sense of unity to overcome the challenges faced by the nation. There was candid acknowledgement that in the past persons at the helm of all pillars of the state had, at one time or another, made mistakes. They also agreed that those who imposed Martial Laws as well as those politicians and members of the judiciary who aided and abetted the military dictators were responsible in equal measure for subversion of the Constitution. A day after the above program was aired an explosive device was planted under the chassis of his car. According to another report, Hamid Mir was criticized by the Pakistani Taliban for his remarks during a programme regarding attack on Malala Yousafzai. These are the hazards of this profession, but one should exercise restraint in carrying out one’s duties.

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