Geo’s anchor person, Hamid Mir, was attacked by plain clothed assailants on April 19 while on his way from Karachi Airport to his television station, the Geo News. He was attacked at Shahrahe Faisal, which goes from the airport to the down town area. He was shot six times by two motor bike riders and one person standing under a bridge. At the time of the attack the CCTV camera, installed at that particular spot, was not working for reasons unknown. However all others were working at that time.
Mir’s driver took him to the Aga Khan University Hospital, where he underwent emergency treatment.
Mir had traveled from Islamabad to Karachi. It is significant that the attack on Mir occurred during the period of the maximum security arranged for Musharraf’s arrival who came the same day from Islamabad. This, and the fact that the security camera at the location of the attack was the only one not working smacks of some conspiracy.
Mir was attacked at 5 pm and the assailants managed to escape.
Mir’s younger brother, Aamir Mir , accused Lieutenant General Zaheer-ul-Islam, the chief of the ISI, a few other ISI officials, and the ISI itself, for involvement in the attack on Hamid Mir. He stated that Mir had been receiving threats from the ISI for some months for extensively covering the issue of missing persons and the military’s involvement in the Balochistan situation, and also for criticizing the role of the military in the high treason case against General Musharraf by providing protection for him when he was hiding in the armed forces hospital.
In November 2012, an explosive device was planted in Mir’s car. It is not known whether this was an attempt to assassinate him or merely intimidate him.
A right wing journalist by his writings Mir, an anchorperson of Geo news channel, accused some ‘state actors’ and some ‘non state actors’ of involvement in planting the bomb under his car.
Mir has also been under threat from the Taliban and other groups from Al-Qaida for some time now and on many occasions receives threatening calls from unknown persons believed to be from the state intelligence agencies. He has forwarded to the federal Minister for the Interior the telephone numbers from which the threats were received but no action or investigations have been conducted in the matter.
Fifteen days before the recent attack on Hamid Mir he sent a recorded statement to the government authorities, his friends and his organisation, GEO TV. In the statement he said that he firmly believed that he would be attacked or eliminated in the coming days. He accused the chief of the ISI for responsibility of any such attack. In a recent visit to Dubai he also shared his apprehension with four other anchor persons. This was revealed by his friends.
After the failed assassination, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) of the Pakistan Military came out with a statement denying the involvement of the ISI or its chief in the attack. The director general (DG) ISPR, however, Major General Asim Bajwa said that the military will welcome the government’s commission to probe the attack. In the same tone he threatened the media houses that baseless allegations against government institutions will not be taken lightly and that stern action will be taken against the elements who blame the ISI. He said that Hamid Mir was attacked by miscreants who do not want peace to prevail in the country. He also said that pointing fingers at the military organisations is tantamount to defamation.
In the past, Saleem Shahzad, a reporter for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, and for Adnkronos International, the Italian news agency, disappeared from Islamabad on the evening of May 29, 2011. His body, bearing visible signs of torture, was discovered on May 31, near Mandi Bahauddin, 130 kilometers southeast of the capital. The circumstances of the abduction raised concerns that the ISI was responsible. In June 2011, the Supreme Court, at the request of the government, instituted a commission of inquiry into the killing. However, the commission failed to find anything substantive.
There are examples of journalists like Hyatullah, Musa Khel and many from Balochistan who were killed after their disappearances.
A prominent journalist, Umer Cheema, was also abducted by the ISI, severely tortured and sodomised by army officials. But, as is typical where the military are concerned, no perpetrator has ever been prosecuted nor has any enquiry been concluded.
Mr. Umer Cheema, a senior journalist at The News International, a daily newspaper based in Islamabad, was kidnapped, tortured and humiliated for six hours on 4 September, 2010. He was picked up in cloak-and-dagger style in the early hours by men in commando uniforms and driven to a “safe house”. Here unknown persons took over; he was beaten black and blue, humiliated beyond comprehension, he was made to strip off his clothes, hung upside down and remained in the illegal custody for hours. Finally, he was thrown out on the roadside at Talagang, 120 kilometres from Islamabad with a shaved head and a threatening message for Ansar Abbasi, the head of the newspaper’s investigative section.
Umar Cheema was a 2008 Daniel Pearl Fellow. In 2004 during General Musharraf’s government, he was deliberately hit by a moving car while doing a story on the international inspection of Pakistan’s nuclear power installations.
In the murder of Hyatullah Khan, a judicial commission was formed which came out with the opinion that the secret agencies of the military were involved. However, the government has not made the report public and when the widow of Hyatullah Khan began to pursue the case she was also murdered.
The PM of Pakistan has now announced a three-member judicial commission to probe the attempted murder and asked the Supreme Court to nominate three judges. The PM knows himself that in the past, such commissions were formed and the judiciary failed to implement its own investigation.
We are unlikely to ever find out as to who attacked Hamid Mir. This is the tragedy of Pakistan and amounting to complete lawlessness. The country is bordering on anarchy now and being classified as a banana republic and a failed state by outside forces for failing to have any semblance of rule of law.
ISI may have attacked Hamid Mir. But the problem with accusing somebody in advance is that forces opposed to such an entity can then also perpetrate the crime to get the accused maligned in the eyes of everybody which in this case is the international community.
We should not forget that Benazir Bhutto after the October 2007 attack at Karsaz on her procession accused the ISI and the PML-Q leadership, including Pervez Ilahi, for the attack and said that they would be responsible if anything happens to her. He less than three months, she was killed. Within a year, her Party and husband had aligned with the very forces that she had accused of being responsible for her assassination.
On April 24, Hamid Mir recorded his statement with the police. In the statement, he provided details of his arrival at Karachi airport, attack on him and reaching the hospital.
The probe team including SSP Investigation and other police officers recorded the detailed statement of Mir for nearly an hour. Police recorded two-page statement under sections 161 and 162 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Hamid Mir said as soon as he reached at Jinnah bridge from airport he heard bullet sounds. “I felt some pain in the stomach after window of my vehicle smashed”, he said.
Mir said his drive took him to Agha Khan hospital in critical condition, adding he only remembered that he was got into the stretcher.
Later the same day, he issued his first formal statement after regaining consciousness. In his statement Hamid Mir said it was due to the grace of Allah and the prayers of the people of Pakistan that he got a new life. Hamid Mir said even before the murderous attack on him on April 19, he had informed the Geo management, family members and close friends of the threats he has been receiving. He said he had identified the elements from whom he was facing threats, and who have been mentioned by his brother Amir Mir in his statement following the attack.
According to Hamid, besides Amir, he had informed other close associates as to who would be held responsible if he were murdered. Hamid said he had been receiving threats both from state and non-state actors, but in the recent past some events had taken place which led him to inform his colleagues about the elements who could be involved in conspiracies to kill him.
Hamid Mir said that a few days ago some members of intelligence agencies came to his house and informed him that along with some other journalists, his name appears in a hit-list. Despite insistence, these people did not provide any detail about those who had made the hit-list. After this meeting Hamid Mir informed officials at the concerned department that he had been receiving threats from state and non-state actors because sometime, state actors use the name of non-state actors to threaten journalists to prevent them from telling the truth.
According to Hamid Mir he had informed the visiting intelligence personnel that he felt the most threatened by the ISI and they should convey what his suspicions were to their officers.
Hamid Mir further said that the ISI was upset with him because of a Capital Talk program which covered the long march of Mama Qadir Baloch. Hamid Mir added that he was aware of the ISI being upset over his criticism of the role of intelligence agencies in politics.
Hamid Mir said that if officials had reports of threats to his life why he was not informed in writing. He questioned why those who had planted a bomb underneath his car in November 2012 were not exposed though the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had claimed responsibility for it?
According to Hamid Mir the phone numbers of those who had sent him death threats were provided to the Islamabad Police, but the police did not take any action against them? He said that despite a police report, action was not taken against those who had attacked his children in Islamabad.
Hamid Mir said that he would provide further details of these incidents when the time comes. He said his life was in the hands of Allah and he was answerable to the Almighty.
Hamid Mir said his fight was the same as that of his father Professor Waris Mir. This was a fight for Pakistan’s survival, safety and to strengthen the country. His fight was for democracy, elimination of terrorism, supremacy of law, protection of freedom of expression, rights of small provinces and to be the voice of the poor. He added that this voice could not be silenced. Hamid Mir said that he was working alongside the media, civil society, and political parties in this fight. He d that he would continue to wage this fight till his last breath and the last drop of blood. He added that no institution or individual in Pakistan was above the law or the Constitution.
Hamid Mir said one who has been hit by bullets can better appreciate the importance of the sacrifices being laid by the jawans of the Pakistan Army and security forces. Mr. Mir said this does not mean that he should remain silent on the unconstitutional role of the intelligence agencies in politics in the name of being patriotic.
Hamid Mir strongly condemned the governmental efforts to forcibly shutdown Geo transmission, adding that in the past Geo News had stood firm when it was banned during the dictatorship of General Musharraf. With the support of the people and God willing, Hamid Mir said, the Geo team would once again defeat such moves.
Hamid Mir expressed fear over the security of his brother Amir Mir and other family members and said if they were harmed the responsibility would lie on state elements and the government. Hamid Mir said that Allah had saved his life which proved that the savior is more powerful than the attackers.
On April 25, Hamid Mir’s Wife has said that the matter of threatening phone calls to her husband were made at the end of the PPP’s term in government.
In a response issued through his wife to Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar’s statements, Hamid Mir said the PML-N had raised the matter of threatening phone calls in the National Assembly.
Mir’s wife said that over PPP leader Khurshid Shah’s advice the speaker of the assembly constituted a committee led by the opposition member Ahsan Iqbal. The committee’s report is available in the record of the National Assembly.
Earlier, talking to media, Nisar had said that former Islamabad police officials denied that any complaint was lodged over an attack on Mr. Mir’s wife and children.
However, Mir’s wife said that the incident had taken place in Islamabad after which Geo News Islamabad’s Admin Officer Younis Arain had lodged the complaint. Younis Arain lodged complaint over the attack on Hamid Mir’s wife and his children.
She said Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had issued a statement in 2010 against the secret agencies harassment to Hamid Mir. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) had also issued condemnation over the issue.
Mir’s wife said phone numbers were sent to IG Islamabad through speaker National Assembly.
The security provided to Hamid Mir by the PPP-led government was withdrawn by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, she said.
She asked as to where the investigation has reached over the issue of bomb planted under Mir’s car in Islamabad.
New York Times Reports on Hamid Mir Attack
By Declan Walsh
The vicious gun attack on Hamid Mir, the country’s most famous television newscaster, seems to have set off a divisive media battle in which the truth itself has become bitterly contested. At issue are claims aired by Geo News, Mir’s employer and the largest station, that the ISI was behind the April 19 attack in which Mir was shot six times as he traveled to a Karachi television studio.
Even staunch ISI critics thought the station’s personalized attacks, which singled out the ISI spy chief as the culprit, were hasty and premature, especially at a time when Islamist militants were also targeting reporters.
But rival stations took the controversy a step further, using it to cudgel Geo and question Mir’s motives — one station even suggested he engineered the shooting as a publicity stunt — at a time when the ISI was formally trying to have Geo shut down for good.
The vituperative exchanges have exposed troubling aspects of Pakistan’s oft-lauded media revolution: Along with the military’s concerted campaign to muzzle the press is the heavy hand of querulous media barons who, driven by commercial concerns and personal grudges, may be endangering the sector they helped create.
The way this has played out is extremely disturbing. If better sense doesn’t prevail, whatever we have earned in press freedom will be lost.
The stakes are high on all sides. Since 2007, when television coverage played a key role in fanning the street protests that led to the ouster of General Musharraf, the news media has grown into a powerful factor in Pakistani society. Television news has widened public debate and exposed abuses, but it has faced sharp criticism for shoddy reporting and for giving a platform to Islamist extremists.
The exploding market has also turned prime-time talk show hosts like Mir into powerful figures, and made fortunes for a handful of newly minted media tycoons.
For reporters, however, it has been a perilous time: Some 34 journalists have died in the line of duty since democracy was restored in 2008. It is supremely dangerous to be a reporter in Pakistan.
The military, in particular, has squirmed under the media’s relentless scrutiny. Tensions have been bubbling for some time between the Jang Group, the country’s largest media conglomerate, and the ISI. Jang is owned by Mir Shakil ur-Rehman, a reclusive editor who lives with his two wives in Dubai, where he keeps a tight grip on a media empire that includes Geo News, several sports and entertainment channels, and a stable of newspapers in Urdu and English.
Last fall, Mr. Rehman came to believe that the ISI was sponsoring a new television station, Bol, to dilute his commercial and political clout. His newspapers ran hostile reports about Bol, prompting competing media organizations to hit back with stories that painted Geo as sympathetic to Pakistan’s old rival, India.
Senior figures at Geo claimed the spat had put their lives in danger. In November, Rehman’s son Ibrahim, who is chief executive of Geo, said he had received warnings of an attack by “the ISI or one of their proxies.” Mir claimed the ISI tried to lure him away from the station, and had threatened his life.
The tensions erupted publicly after the attack on Hamid Mir. His brother, Amir Mir, who is also a journalist, accused the ISI of orchestrating the shooting in an emotional denunciation that was broadcast for hours on Geo, often against a backdrop of a photo of the ISI director general, Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam.
The ISI leadership, stung by the unusually open challenge, reacted angrily. The military leadership sought to have Geo shut down and its editors prosecuted for “a libelous and scandalous” campaign that it said violated the country’s media law. Subsequently, television viewers in major cities found that Geo had disappeared from its usual position on their cable television sets. The next day, posters appeared across central Islamabad that praised the ISI and carried glossy photos of the spy chief, General Islam, a first in a country where many citizens fear to say the letters ISI out loud.
Few doubt the ISI, which has a dismal record of attacks on the press, is capable of such an attack. The spy agency’s media cell, infamous among journalists, is known to bribe select journalists with money, vehicles or other inducements.
Critical reporters have been subjected to harassment, abduction and torture. In May 2011 the body of an investigative reporter, Saleem Shahzad, was found in a canal south of Islamabad after he was abducted by presumed ISI agents.
But other groups are also targeting journalists, in particular the Pakistani Taliban and the MQM, the dominant political party in Karachi, according to Amnesty International. Both of those groups have infiltrated Geo.
In 2012, the militant group Lashkare Jhangvi recruited a junior reporter at Geo to help plan the assassination of a news editor and a prominent talk show host at the station, said a former Geo manager with direct knowledge of the case. The plot was foiled when the reporter confessed.
A second Geo employee was identified as a militant after the Taliban assault on Karachi’s Mehran naval base in June 2011, the former manager said. The station also believes that insider information played a role in the death of Wali Khan Babar, a Geo reporter who was killed by the M.Q.M. in 2010, a current Geo manager said.
The controversy over Hamid Mir’s shooting is unlikely to be resolved. In the past two decades, Pakistan’s courts have produced convictions in just two fatal attacks on journalists: Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter killed in 2002, and Mr. Babar, the Geo reporter.
“Even if we discover who pulled the trigger on Hamid Mir,” said Mr. Qadri of Amnesty, “it’s very unlikely that the people behind them will be found out.”
Unlike in the Musharraf era, when journalists united against military attempts to muzzle them, virulent rivalries between the businessmen who own the major stations have pulled the news media apart.
Shakeelur Rehman of the Jang group has a rancorous relationship with Sultan Lakhani, who owns the smaller Express media group, which includes a television station and several newspapers. (One of those papers, the English-language Express Tribune, prints The International New York Times in Pakistan.) A third station, ARY, is owned by a family of gold dealers that has little love for Mr. Rehman.
The control of the owners and their say in what happens has increased tremendously. No editor or journalist can take a stand against them.”
The turmoil has partly obscured the plight of Mr. Mir, who has an ambiguous history with the ISI. He shot to prominence after interviewing Osama bin Laden in 1998, and was initially seen as sympathetic to the pro-jihadi agenda of the Pakistani military and the ISI. But in recent years he has championed the cause of Baluch nationalists, angering the army, and highlighted human rights abuses during military operations.
He is now under close protection at a Karachi hospital, where flowers are piled outside his door and doctors report a steady recovery.