Hamid Mir Now Lives Like A Fugitive
The most famous television journalist in Pakistan lives like a fugitive. Hamid Mir tells no one where he is going, how he will get there or where he will spend the night.
At Mir’s office, his curtains are always drawn. He uses at least two cellphones and, until recently, he rotated among three residences to obscure his precise location, even from friends.
“Most nerve-racking part of the day,” says the 49-year-old father of two, clenching the grab bar above him on a recent morning as the driver careens through the city taking last-minute instructions on which roads to take. Mir ignores incoming calls from unknown numbers and swivels from side to side, watching traffic to see whether any vehicle stays too close for too long.
Mir is not just trying to avoid recognition; he also is desperately trying to avoid a repeat of what happened to him a little over a year ago as he was being driven from the airport to the Karachi offices of Geo Television, the network that employs him.
That day, a man standing along the road opened fire on his car.
The attack on Mir and the continuing death threats against him are emblematic of a broad backlash against transparency and independent journalism in many parts of the world.
Pakistan, with its volatile mix of shadowy security forces, internecine political battles, terrorist groups and criminal networks, is one of the most dangerous countries for local journalists outside of war zones, according to the United Nations and press freedom groups. Since 2001, 52 journalists have been killed there because of their reporting. Criminal charges have led to convictions in only two cases.
Who nearly killed Hamid Mir on April 19, 2014, remains a mystery.[*]
[*] People in the know, know who is responsible; in the same way, they know, who is responsible for bumping off of Saleem Shehzad .
The media wing’s larger goal is to keep the military’s influence on society obscured, its operations secret, and to promote its strategic interests, according to officials. This includes distancing itself publicly from the US, even though its military has received billions in US taxpayer money, records show.
Reports by Mir and other Pakistani journalists on the military’s secret support for the Afghan Taliban and the ISI’s involvement in CIA covert armed drone strikes deeply embarrassed the military establishment.
In the Wild West province of Balochistan, for example, security forces have been blamed by human rights advocates for the deaths and disappearances of many of the thousands of missing civilians. In that province, 13 journalists have been killed since 2008.
Mir produced more than 38 shows on the topic in the two years leading up to the attack on his life.
In 2012, a senior government official warned Mir to stop reporting on it: “Your life is under threat; you should stop raising your voice,” Mir quoted the man as saying.
Mir’s response: Another report on his show about Balochistan’s missing.
Several weeks later, a neighbour’s driver spotted an explosive device hidden in the undercarriage of Mir’s car outside his home. A bomb squad defused it. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, as they had for shooting Malala. A war against Hamid Mir had begun.
He scrambled to defend his life and that of his wife and children.
Mir rented a second house, then an apartment and kept the locations a secret. He moved his family every few days.
The people closest to him, he said, pleaded for him to leave the country.
Two weeks before the attempt by gunmen on Mir’s life, an ISI official beckoned him to come to the Serena Hotel in Islamabad, he said.
There, according to Mir’s affidavit, a senior official “pleaded with me” to stop reporting on the army and the prosecution of former president Pervez Musharraf. He is accused of abrogating the constitution when he declared a state of emergency for six weeks in 2007. Mir had done 44 reports on the issue.
“If the army stops interfering in politics, then I will never do a programme on it again,” he told the man from the ISI, the affidavit says.[*]
[*] If the truth be told, Hamid Mir, in past times, has also allowed himself to be used by the Deep State
Weeks later, when Mir was strong enough, he wrote the affidavit, providing investigators the names of people who had threatened him and what they said.
He hadn’t seen the people who shot him, he wrote, but “I suspected that some elements from the ISI were behind the attack.” He recounted for investigators that senior ISI officers had confronted him about his reporting nearly a dozen times.
The assassination attempt had to be ISI-directed, he told investigators. That same day, former president Musharraf was in Karachi, too. The city was on high alert to protect him.
“Only they can manage that the CCTV cameras were not working. And only they could have known about my travel plans,” he wrote.
Some believe Mir is motivated by money and fame. Others believe he is driven by a need to defend his colleagues.
At 8.55, the show ends. Mir escorts his guests to the elevator, laughing and back-slapping until the doors close.
Then, he huddles with his staff and thinks to himself, “Who have I hurt?” He rushes downstairs.
The answer portends the next round of threats. He inspects the dark parking lot and dashes to the waiting car. Two uniformed, armed guards climb into a second security vehicle. Mir zooms out into the night.[*]
[*]Mr Mir is obviously a brave man; but after his recent experience, he knows what are the 'red lines'
of the Deep State