Saturday, February 12, 2011

Raymond Davis, Jang Group's Aman Ki Asha, Shah Mehmood Qureshi & Mariana Baabar. members of the Pakistani establishment and especially those agencies (nowadays this role has been taken over by the Jang Group of Newspapers), which have assumed the role of determining what is ‘national interest of Pakistan’, and who is loyal, and who is anti Pakistan, have perhaps done more damage to Pakistan than known enemies of Pakistan. It is unfortunate that every blunder, be it at national level or in foreign affairs, is made in the name of ‘national interest of Pakistan’. People of Pakistan are perplexed as they fail to understand what is ’national interest of Pakistan. People are further bewildered when some of these leaders, perceived and declared as ‘anti Pakistan’ or ‘security risk’ are sworn in to hold some kind of office in Pakistan. There are many examples where people declared as an ‘Indian agent’ or ‘traitor’ had taken high public office; even those who had no Pakistani nationality or rescinded it, had an opportunity to become Prime Minister of Pakistan. Once these people have decided that something is in the ‘national interest of Pakistan’, they will pursue that agenda without having any system of check and balance and appraisal. If any one dares to criticize what they do in the name of ‘national interest of Pakistan’, he/she is declared as ‘anti Pakistan’. Similarly if a Pakistani person criticizes Pakistan government, or holds demonstration against the government policy, he is declared as ‘anti Pakistan’.

Now closely read what the Nincompoops (even the Senior Diplomatic Correspondents and Group Editors don't have slightest idea as to what they are talking about what to talk of Cubs like Ahmad Noorani) in the Jang Group of Newspapers have been filing in their Rag called The News International and also do read as to what they file in and Indian News Magazine and do use the same yardstick of Loyalty and Patriotism through which these Third Rate Pakistani Journalist judge everybody else (keeping in mind the Hyper Pakistani Nationalism) President Asif Ali Zardari has asked the Foreign Office in categorical terms that Raymond Davis should be given diplomatic immunity and for this purpose the Foreign Office should immediately issue a backdated letter notifying Raymond as ‘member of staff in US embassy, Islamabad’, top Foreign Office officials confirmed to The News. After taking lengthy briefings and having some decisive meetings with US officials, the Presidency has told the Foreign Ministry in categorical words that for granting diplomatic immunity to Raymond Davis, all preparations should be finalized immediately. But while the Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit maintained a very cool “No comment” on the subject, the Presidency stonewalled all requests for a version and the outspoken and unofficial spokesperson of President Zardari Senator Faisal Raza Abidi said he would not say anything but the Foreign Office should be asked to comment. So the ball was thrown back to the “No Comments” of the FO. Sources close to Presidency, however, rejected the report. They said detractors of President Zardari are behind this baseless allegation. They said the Presidency can never ask Foreign Office to do anything illegal. Privately senior FO officials are ready to share many details. “It was clarified to the president that as per record of the Foreign Office, Raymond Davis was a member of ‘consular staff in US Consulate in Lahore’ so in accordance with Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963, he did not enjoy absolute immunity especially in the case of a grave crime and that now according to article 41(1) of the same convention of 1963 only superior court could decide the issue of immunity of Raymond Davis,” a top Foreign Office source told this scribe. REFERENCE: Is Presidency pushing for backdated immunity to Raymond? By Ahmad Noorani Saturday, February 12, 2011

AND THE SAME NEWSPAPER When powerful men meet to discuss explosive issues, things can change in a big way. And that is precisely what happened after a highly secretive and immensely important meeting at the Presidency a few days back. The subject, not unexpectedly, being the fate of American killer Raymond Davis and that of Pakistan-US relations. Little did anyone know at the time that the huddle would instead end up deciding the fate of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. The meeting, convened by the president was attended by Prime Minister Gilani, Babar Awan, Rehman Malik, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the DG ISI Gen Shuja Pasha. The president was given an exhaustive overview of the entire situation but quite early in the meeting it became evident that two of the men were standing on the wrong side of the prevalent dominant wisdom and desire of somehow finding a way to retrospectively cough up diplomatic immunity for Davis and to just wish away all the four deaths and the lingering crisis. But since one of the ‘erring’ two dared not be arbitrarily fired, poor Qureshi’s fate stood sealed. Extreme pressure was exerted in the meeting on the former foreign minister to renege from his earlier stance and simply tell the court that the Foreign Office was in consonance with the American interpretation of Davis being a genuine diplomat and enjoying full immunity under Vienna Convention 1961. Facts be damned. According to highly reliable sources, interior ministry’s immense resources were also offered to cause any necessary change of documentation or any exceptional service warranted under these exceptional circumstances. An adamant Qureshi, who had strongly argued the case that Raymond did not enjoy unlimited diplomatic immunity under law, flatly refused and even said that if need be, he’d rather resign than become an accessory to multiple murder. The meeting ended on a rather unsavoury and unexpected note. It was a surprising outcome for all the others because Qureshi had always been perceived, and even pilloried by the media, as being an American lackey and was not expected to dig in his heels over an issue so vital for the US administration. REFERENCE: It’s not a rumour, Americans did get Qureshi’s scalp By Mohammad Malick Saturday, February 12, 2011

AND THE SAME JANG GROUP (To be precise Mariana Baabar)

[mariana+babar.jpg]ISLAMABAD: The United States made a midnight appeal to the Government of Pakistan to abide by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and immediately free American “diplomat” Raymond Davis. Washington regretted that the Lahore court did not consider eyewitness accounts and physical evidence when they stated that this was not a case of self-defence. Camela Conroy, Consul General, Lahore, sent this demand through the US Embassy in Islamabad, where for the first time since Raymond killed two Pakistanis, the US citizen was named as Raymond Davis. Previously, he was referred to a US citizen. “We understand that eyewitnesses at the scene said Ray acted in self-defence when confronted with two armed men on a motorcycle. We also understand that these men were found with stolen property and, ‘as the police stated today’, a loaded gun. We regret that authorities did not consider these eyewitness accounts and physical evidence when they stated that this was not a case of self-defence,” said Conroy.

“All countries, including my country and your country, freely agreed to abide by these rules. Under the rules, he should be freed immediately. Today, American diplomat Raymond Davis was remanded into judicial detention in Lahore in connection with an incident in this city on January 27.” Diplomatic sources in Washington told The News that there was now a realisation within the US government that they had failed to properly handle the Davis case from the very begining. “As a member of the Administrative and Technical staff at the US Embassy in Islamabad, Raymond Davis is entitled to full immunity from criminal prosecution by Pakistan under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. All countries, including my country and your country, freely agreed to abide by these rules. Under the rules, he should be freed immediately,” added Conroy’s statement. Conroy says that the US respects the law and Pakistan’s sovereignty, and expects all representatives of our government to respect the laws of its host nation. “We respect the people of Pakistan and enjoy working and living in this country. Americans and Pakistanis can accomplish so much together. We need to resolve this case immediately and continue our work, including cooperation in education and health, our common fight against extremist violence, and building bridges between the people of Pakistan and America,” she added. This incident, says Conroy, was a tragedy, and we feel tremendous sorrow over the loss of life. “We extend our deep sympathy to all the family members who have been affected.” REFERENCE: Eyewitness accounts ignored, says US By Mariana Baabar Saturday, February 12, 2011

And the same Mariana Baabar in Urdu Version of the events

And the same Marian Baabar in 2008 on the same Shah Mehmood Qureshi


[mariana+babar.jpg]ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has detached himself from the little known Balusa Group, a Track II initiative involving well known Pakistanis and Indians, funded by an American, Shirin Taherkheli. A spokesman at the Foreign Office when asked said that since Qureshi had taken charge as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, he no longer remained connected to the Balusa Group. Another prominent Pakistani, Major General (retd) Mahmud Ali Durrani, who will take charge as the National Security Adviser, has also been part of Balusa, but it is not known whether he would still be part of this initiative after he took over as ambassador to the United States and now after his new charge in Islamabad.

Maj. Gen [R] Mahmud Ali Durrani, PK US Ties & Security Breach - Part 1

Maj. Gen [R] Mahmud Ali Durrani, PK US Ties & Security Breach - Part 2


Some of the others are Syed Babar Ali, General Farrakh Khan, Shaharyar Khan and Toufiq Siddiqi. On the Indian side, some of the members are General Satish Nambiar, Kuldip Nayar, Raja Mohan, Bharat Bhushan and Salman Haidar. A former RAW official is also part of this group. Toufiq Siddiqi is an environmentalist and energy expert based in Hawaii and Shirin Tahirkheli, his sister, with support from the United Nations Development Programme and the Rockefeller Foundation, brought together a group of Indian and Pakistani generals, politicians, bureaucrats and others to discuss ways to bring "sense and direction" to the India-Pakistan relationship. This loose gathering that came to be known as the Balusa Group, is named after two adjacent villages in the Pakistani Punjab.

Maj. Gen [R] Mahmud Ali Durrani, PK US Ties & Security Breach - Part 3


In a July-August 2005 interview with the Nepalese magazine Himal, Durrani was asked how he got involved in lobbying for transnational natural gas pipelines in the Central and South Asian region. He replied, "Shirin Tahirkheli (now in-charge at the State Department for the UN reform effort) is really the 'mother hen' of all this. I was still in service when I told her of wanting to retire and devote my life to promoting India-Pakistan peace. Within two years, she and her brother Toufiq (Siddiqi) had organised a group of Pakistanis and Indians to discuss energy cooperation. I attended the first meeting with the backing of the Pakistan military. There was a feeling that we needed peace. There was even an ex-RAW chief in our group."

Maj. Gen [R] Mahmud Ali Durrani, PK US Ties & Security Breach - Part 4


However, DG Institute of Strategic Studies, Dr Shirin Mazari, is skeptical about the Balusa group and says, "The Americans have increased their intrusive activities on all fronts. We have had rising Predator and missile attacks from across the international Pakistan-Afghanistan border even as US-linked/supported personnel continue to occupy positions in the corridors of power. The Balusa Group members funded through an American, Shirin Taherkheli, are a key US investment in Pakistan's power echelons that continue to pay dividends for the US, and this is only one of the many influence-generating channels."

Maj. Gen [R] Mahmud Ali Durrani, PK US Ties & Security Breach - Part 5


Dr Ayesha Siddiqua, an independent strategic and political analyst, who seldom agrees with Mazari, recently noted that "The PPP selected Washington's dream team to run foreign relations and national security. One is not sure that appointing Durrani as the National Security Adviser will do the job. The appointment (of Durrani) is in consideration of the general's close ties with the US Pentagon. Not to mention the fact that Durrani owes his intellectual growth to Shirin Tahirkheli, a Bush administration adviser and former senior official of the UN National Security Council". REFERENCE: Pakistan: FM Qureshi quits American-funded Balusa Group By Mariana Baabar Monday, 07 April 2008 16:11 (The News link is Dead)


Judiciary in all this:)


'Medal of Freedom' or Slavery??ISLAMABAD, June 5: Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry met visiting US envoy Richard Holbrooke in the Supreme Court building on Friday. “The meeting was held at the request of the visiting US envoy Mr Holbrooke who came to meet the chief justice in his chambers,” said Dr Faqir Hussain, Registrar of the Supreme Court. He said that officials of the Foreign Office were present at the meeting. “Matters relating to judicial reforms as per national judicial policy and the whole judicial structure of Pakistan were discussed,” Dr Hussain said. The meeting comes at a time when Pakistani judiciary is seized with litigations that directly involved interests of the United States. A particular case of concern to the US is that of the missing persons in which intelligence agencies have been accused of either abducting people on suspicion of terrorism or handing them over to the United States. The case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who was reportedly abducted from Pakistan and is now in US detention, is also pending in courts. The Supreme Court spokesman denied that the issue of missing persons came up in the meeting. When contacted, the firebrand leader of lawyers’ movement and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Ali Ahmed Kurd, declined to comment on the meeting.

PML-N spokesman Siddiquul Farooq who has a case pending in the apex court said: “It was a courtesy call by Mr Holbrooke and we believe in the person of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and we believe that no one can derail him from the judicious path.” Immediately after the meeting, the chief justice went to the presidency to attend the oath-taking ceremony of newly appointed Federal Shariat Court Chief Justice Agha Mohammad Rafique. There he had a one-to-one meeting with President Asif Zardari. It was for the first time since his restoration that the chief justice visited the presidency and met President Zardari. Justice Iftikhar, it may be mentioned, did not accept earlier invitations from President Zardari.

The last time the chief justice met Mr Zardari was at the Zardari House just before he moved to the presidency after becoming president. After becoming president, Mr Zardari publicly resisted the restoration of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, till the success of the long march by lawyers in March this year. One case pending before the Supreme Court and that directly affects President Zardari relates to the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) through which former President General Pervez Musharraf allowed the quashing of corruption charges against PPP leaders, including President Zardari. Under the new judicial policy reforms spearheaded by the chief justice, judges of the superior court are required to strictly follow the judicial code of conduct which, among other things, require them to stay away from public functions and not to assume executive offices to temporarily fill vacancies created by the president and governors going abroad. After his first restoration on July 20, 2007, Justice Chaudhry had stopped meeting the president or the prime minister and attending functions hosted by them. REFERENCE: CJ receives Holbrooke, calls on Zardari By Matiullah Jan Saturday, 06 Jun, 2009,-calls-on-zardari-669 Shame on CJ and Shame on Ansar Abbasi Published June 9, 2009


Now where is the Hyper Nationalism and Islamic Rhetoric of Jang Group Correspondent, Ms. Maraian Baabar


A rally in Quetta protesting the deteriorating law and order situation
Pakistan: Hindus
No Country For Kafirs?
Insecurity envelops Balochi Hindus after a series of abductions. Many are emigrating.
Mariana Baabar

In the inhospitable terrain of Balochistan, perennially outside Islamabad’s shrinking circle of control, marauding gangs have made it a habit of targeting people even on days of celebration. It was so with Maharaj Lakhmi Chand Garji, the 82-year-old head priest of the ancient Kali Mata Mandir in the town of Kalat. On December 17 last year, he and four of his companions were driving down the RCD (Regional Cooperation for Development) highway, on their way to attend a wedding in Khuzdar. A vehicle began tailing them. Finally, 100 km away from Surab, it shot past them on the deserted stretch of the highway, only to menacingly manoeuvre so as to bring Garji’s vehicle to a screeching halt.

Garji, the abducted Hindu spiritual leade
Armed men poured out of the vehicle to accost the group of Hindus. Blindfolded, their hands tied, they were driven into wilderness. Three of them—Sajan Das, Ram Chand and Babu Lal—were subsequently set free; Garji and Vinod Kumar, a prosperous trader’s son, were whisked away. Babu Lal later told the media, “Because we were blindfolded, it is impossible for us to know where we were taken.” Nor does the provincial government have any clue about Garji and Vinod’s whereabouts, more than a month after the abduction. It’s said the kidnappers have demanded a ransom of Rs 3 crore to free Garji, whom the Hindus of Balochistan revere as their spiritual leader. His exalted status is precisely why his kidnapping has continued to hog headlines, stoked the simmering anger among the Hindus, and prompted some to file applications in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad seeking asylum. The federal minister for human rights Saeed Ahmad Khan confirmed, “As many as 27 Hindu families from Balochistan have applied for asylum to India.” This symbolises the minority community’s lack of faith in the Pakistan nation-state and is testimony to its faltering ideals. Hence the media’s dogged focus on the plight of Balochistan’s Hindus.

It’s also true that the Hindus, despite their minuscule numbers, haven’t allowed the kidnapping of Garji to sputter into oblivion. As news of his abduction broke out, the community organised protests in the towns of Kalat, Khuzdar, Naushki and also blocked the national and RCD highways. Outside the Khuzdar Press Club, leaders of the community blamed the government for its inability to protect the life and property of the people, particularly those of minority groups. In Balochistan’s capital, Quetta, the Hindu Panchayat organised a spectacular march that wended its way through the streets of the city, a form of protest minorities rarely resort to. Santosh Kumar Bugti, a member of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), told Outlook, “We are very scared and desperate and need protection. We will do anything to release our Maharaj.”

“We are very scared and desperate and need protection. We will do anything to release our Maharaj.”Santosh Kumar Bugti, Pakistan Muslim League (M)

What, though, has embarrassed the government and aroused sympathy is the repeated assertion of Hindu leaders that migration to India is a definite option for them. Simultaneously, they have also harped upon the exemplary Baloch tradition of religious tolerance, a subtle reminder about Balochistan’s alienation from its own moorings. For instance, earlier this month, Radhay Shyam openly justified the migration option, “The kidnapping of Hindus has increased. The kidnappers didn’t even spare our 82-year-old spiritual leader. This has deeply shaken our community. For centuries, we have been living with Baloch nawabs and sardars; assaulting the weaker Hindu community is against Baloch tribal traditions.” This combination of threats and placatory appeals has mounted moral pressure on the government and opposition, prompting them into issuing statements in support of the Hindus of Balochistan. Chief minister Mohammad Aslam Raisani said, “The Hindus are an integral part of Balochistan and the government will provide them with complete protection.” This week saw Pakistan Muslim League (Q) leader and National Assembly member Marvi Memon visit the Arya Samaj Mandir in Quetta, a commendable step in the prevailing atmosphere of religious intolerance. Memon told a gathering of Hindus, “We have condemned the kidnapping on the floor of the National Assembly. The government should ensure the security of all citizens, including minorities. It’s also the responsibility of tribal chiefs and sardars to ensure the security of the Hindu community.”

Perhaps never before has a minority group as small as the Hindus of Balochistan so effectively reminded the nation about its ideals, its hallowed traditions. Look at their population—the 1998 census reported a little over 30,000 Hindus; the locals, though, say their number is as high as 1,50,000. Unlike their religious brethren in Sindh, the Hindus of Balochistan are prosperous, an important factor underlying their visible campaign against the abduction of Garji. As Prof Mansoor Akbar Kundi of Quetta University wrote in Balochistan: A Socio-cultural and Political Analysis, “They belong to the business class.... Some of them are wealthy merchants owning jewellery and general stores, but the majority are of middle and lower middle class businessmen with their shops/stores in the bazaars of various towns.” But the Hindus here are not a monolith community. A 2003 report of the Minority Rights Commission, prepared by Akram Mirani, notes that Baloch and Brahui tribes in some areas hire lower-caste Hindus to perform tasks that Muslims consider below their dignity.

It’s the Hindu businessmen who are often the target of kidnappers. Their wealth, not religion, is the reason why they are targeted, many told Outlook. Before Pakistan was sucked into the vortex of violence, the Hindus were a distinctive strand in the social tapestry of the province—they were treated as members of the tribe holding sway over the area where they lived. Balochistan’s minister for minority affairs and human rights, Engineer Basant Lal Gulshan, told Outlook, “Baloch Hindus have lived here before the Muslims came and have always been protected by tribal leaders. Why, Nawab Akbar Bugti (killed during the Musharraf era) would say that Hindus are like the hair on your chest and very dear. Of course, the new generation of tribals are different.”

Perhaps circumstances have transformed the younger generation. The social fabric of the province was torn asunder as the secessionist movement gathered momentum and the state adopted repressive measures to crush the rebels; the rise of Islamists and the growing culture of violence undermined the moral authority of traditional leaders. Islamabad’s neglect of the province has led to the breakdown of the law and order machinery, enabling criminal gangs to operate with impunity. Says Kamaluddin Ahmad, a businessman who has shifted from Quetta to Karachi, “These kidnappings are not religiously motivated, the Hindus have been caught in the crossfire. They are easy prey as they readily pay ransom after being kidnapped.”

PML(Q) leader Marvi Memon meets Lal Gulshan and members of the Hindu community.
Gulshan concurs on this: “Balochistan is reeling under the terror that has gripped the entire country. Hindus are easy targets as they readily pay the ransom. The community has lived in peace, you will never find a Hindu traitor. It’s only when life becomes difficult that they migrate to other parts of Pakistan or abroad.” Gulshan cites the example of Gardari Lal Bhatia, a politician-businessman whose family had to mortgage their property to pay the ransom to kidnappers. Financially ruined, Bhatia migrated to India.

Causes for kidnapping apart, there’s no denying that the Hindus in Balochistan have a perilous existence. The Balochistan Home Department says 291 people were abducted for tribal or political rivalries; another eight were kidnapped for ransom—most of them Hindus. In the provincial assembly debate on January 25, though, former minister Jay Prakash quoted a higher figure of 20 Hindus who were abducted last year. Eight or 20, both figures seem an insignificant number for a strife-torn province but is large enough to undermine the confidence of a community as small as the Hindus. A Hindu businessman told Outlook, “I have no choice but to leave the country. I’m in touch with relatives abroad, some in India, to help my family. It’s not easy to migrate either but it’s better than the fear that we live with every day.”

There’s no official statistics available, but locals confirm that Hindus are gradually trickling out of Balochistan—to destinations as far as Canada but mostly to India next door. Some claim that at least 400-500 families have moved out over the last decade. This is indeed alarming for the small community. For Pakistan, it’s a gauge to measure the depths to which it has fallen. No Country For Kafirs?    Magazine, Feb 07, 2011


Read as to how Ms. Mariana Baabar supported Hamid Mir in Khalid Khawaja Fiasco in an Indian Magazine.


TV host Hamid Mir
pakistan: hamid mir
Anchor Cast Adrift
What’s behind the tapes of TV host Hamid Mir’s chat with a Taliban man?
‘Khawaja Is A CIA Agent, An American CIA Agent’
Excerpt from the transcript of the tapped telecon between Hamid Mir and an unidentified man (UM). India, Kashmir, A.B. Vajpayee figure in this chat.
Unidentified man ( UM): So, are they men of the government or ISI?

Hamid Mir ( HM): Who?

UM: Khawaja and Colonel Imam.

HM: Khalid Khawaja, according to my opinion, is not an ISI man, rather he is a CIA agent, an American CIA agent, and he has links with the Taliban leadership.

UM: Yes, he met with Hakimullah (Mehsud) and others when he came here last time.

HM: I personally know Khawaja has links not only with CIA but he is also a front man of Mansoor Ijaz who belongs to a very big international network of Qadianis. Once he came to me along with Mansoor... Khalid saab told me Mansoor is a key representative of the US government, so arrange his meeting with Syed Salahuddin, and he along with him would resolve the Kashmir issue.

UM: All right.

HM: I asked him what charm or magic lamp does he possess for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

He said he had links with the Indian government and (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee ji, which surprised me. I didnt arrange the meeting, but I asked Mr Salahuddin who said Khawaja is sending messages that you should directly talk to India and the US and exclude Pakistan.
Lollywood film directors searching for a script to produce a thriller are best advised to read Let Us Build Pakistan (LUBP) on the website, which is advertised as a project of critical supporters of the Pakistan People’s Party. The website has all the ingredients for a racy film—the transcript of a conversation between renowned TV anchor Hamid Mir and his Taliban interlocutor, the murder of a former ISI official known for his links with militant Islamic groups, spies from foreign intelligence agencies and their dirty games, and the blackmail tactics of those in power. As the hits on the website register a sharp spurt, the plot has enlarged to include Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari, his interior minister Rehman Malik and Punjab governor Salman Taseer, father of Indian writer Atish Taseer. Underlying it is the war the government has declared on the media. There are no punches pulled, friends are betrayed, new villains are discovered.

The film could have as its opening shots former ISI officials Sqn Ldr (Retd) Khalid Khawaja and Col Sultan Amir Tarar (popularly known as Col Imam) accompanying Pakistani-origin British journalist Asad Qureshi to the North Waziristan badlands, ostensibly to shoot a documentary. But their real mission is to convince the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders to declare a ceasefire in their ongoing battle against the Pakistani state. The two are ideal for this sensitive task, boasting as they do formidable contacts in the Taliban. The mission, however, soon goes into a tailspin—the three are kidnapped by militant group Asian Tigers (supposedly a group working under the TTP umbrella), who raise several demands for their release. Negotiations are tortuous and protracted. Weeks later, on April 30, the body of Khawaja is discovered: he has been killed in captivity. The group demands $10 million for the release of the British journalist and Col Imam. The story, as always, disappears from the front pages of newspapers.

Mir denies the voice is his, saying Pak agencies have technology that can make one’s voice sound like another’s.

Cut to May 12: the LUBP site features the transcript [Also on Youtube in two parts: Part I and Part II] of what it says is a phone conversation between the popular host of Geo TV’s Capital Talk, Hamid Mir, and an unidentified man (UM) belonging to, or known to, the Asian Tigers. UM asks Mir about Khawaja’s background, and whether or not he’s an ISI spy. Mir allegedly answers, “I personally know that Khalid Khawaja has links not only with the CIA, but he is also a frontman for Mansoor Ijaz, who belongs to a very big international network of Qadiyanis.” The transcript has Mir telling UM that Ijaz is a key representative of the United States and had requested him to fix a meeting with Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin for resolving the Kashmir issue. “I didn’t arrange the meeting,” Mir goes on to add, “but I asked Mr Salahuddin who said Khawaja is sending messages that you should directly talk to India and the US—and exclude Pakistan.” Mir asks UM to interrogate Khawaja on his role in the July ’07 Lal Masjid siege, which ultimately saw a bloody military operation. 

Khalid Khawaja, who was killed (AFP (From Outlook, May 31))
The transcript was sensational, providing as it did a motive for the militant group to kill Khawaja. The excerpted conversation mentions a cast of characters whom Pakistani militants detest—the CIA, the US, Kashmir, and the Qadiyanis, a sect considered non-Islamic by the community. The LUBP’s disclosure prompted Khawaja’s son, Osama Khalid, to declare, “This audiotape is enough proof of Mir’s role in my father’s murder.”

Despite the LUBP’s sensational disclosure, no newspaper reported the issue until the Daily Times, owned by Punjab governor Taseer, published the transcript on its front page. Its editorial made a scathing comment, “If it is indeed a genuine transcript, Mir’s credentials should come under the scanner. If these charges are proved against Mir, he could attract the mischief of the Army Act and Pakistan Penal Code for aiding and abetting terrorists who have declared war on the state of Pakistan and against whom our forces are fighting and dying.”

It was legitimate now to follow the story—and everyone did. Mir, after all, is among the more high-profile TV anchors, winning acclaim for interviewing Osama bin Laden. His alleged entanglement with militants, if true, demonstrates their sway over Pakistani society. For Mir belongs to a family known for its progressive ways and for opposing dictators—his father Waris was an intellectual who took on Gen Zia-ul-Haq; his grandfather Abdul Aziz was a leading Punjabi and Persian poet.

As the story grabbed headlines, denials from principal players poured in. The Asian Tigers issued a denial, saying they had had no such conversation with Mir. To Outlook as well as others, the celebrated TV anchor denied outright the conversation and the transcript. He said this was a ploy to defame him and the Jang Group, owners of Geo TV, which has been relentlessly exposing corruption in the Zardari government and its poor governance record.

But isn’t the voice on the tape his? Columnist and defence analyst Ayesha Siddiqa is convinced that it is. This is what she wrote in her blog: “The man in the tape is Hamid Mir beyond doubt. The voice and style of conversation is his. I have had conversations with him on several occasions and he breaks stories in this very style. The conversation should not surprise people, as Hamid Mir has old links with the Islamists and the intelligence agencies.”

But Mir claims that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have procured a special gadget capable of taking someone’s voice and changing it to resemble that of another. “Through this special gadget they made the voice on the tape sound like mine.... The ultimate goal is to silence the voice of the Pakistani media on certain issues. Khalid Khawaja was assassinated at least two weeks ago, but no tape about his murder surfaced anywhere then.”

And then he drops the bombshell considered credulous here. In early 2009, he reveals, Zardari invited him to Lahore’s Governor House. “It was basically to shake hands with Salman Taseer,” says Mir, “who as Pervez Musharraf’s governor, had been very harsh with the media, even abusing us. As a journalist, I did not have any problems, and shook Taseer’s hand. Then both of them asked me to leave Geo so that they could take on Geo and the Jang group. I was offered Rs 2.5 crore a month as a bribe.” Mir, no doubt, has very good connections among the powerful. For instance, he reveals that Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif had requisitioned his service to convey to the authorities about the threat to his life emanating from Karachi. The recipient of that message was Zardari, whom Mir met then. In doing so, he forgot he was overstepping journalistic lines, inadvertently becoming a player in politics.

AFP (From Outlook, May 31)

Zardari offered Mir Rs 2.5 crore a month to leave Geo; the tape was leaked the day Rehman Malik told Mir he had a copy.

Apart from the meeting with Zardari, Mir says he was summoned to interior minister Rehman Malik’s chamber in Parliament House as late as May 12. Malik said he had been given a copy of the tape of Mir’s conversation with UM, and the journalist should consider it as a warning to him. “On the evening of May 12, the alleged telephone conversation appeared on the website.” Mir rubbishes the accusation that he is close to the Taliban, saying he often receives threatening faxes, calls and e-mails for taking a stance against them on his TV shows. And when Swat was a no-go area for journalists during the military operation there in February 2009, he did a report accusing the Taliban of indulging in gang rapes. Sounding pugnacious, Mir told Outlook, “I have hired Asadullah Jaral, a lawyer with experience in international cyber crime, and I have issued a legal notice to the Daily Times.”

What then is the truth about the tapes? About Mir’s denials, The Dawn pointed to some discrepancies: “Mir has now moved a step further—from describing the taped conversation as doctored or concocted to completely denying that it is his voice.” Supposing it is Mir’s voice, Siddiqa raises fresh questions: “In the world of the armed forces, information is difficult to access. The only matter of concern really is that how and why was the audio recording made available on the internet? The real story is the disclosure rather than the conversation.”

So who leaked the tape? For one, only the ISI, IB and the Military Intelligence have the expertise to tap telephone conversations. It’s anyway their favourite pastime to tap phones of journalists and politicians for blackmailing them. No wonder, Siddiqa argues, “one explanation is that one of the army-run agencies leaked it, wanting to deflect attention from itself to Hamid Mir”. She further says that the Mir-UM conversation illustrates the presence of “multiple groups within the intelligence agencies”. Why else would a militant group ask for information on a man whose contacts in the shadowy world of jehadists is formidable? According to this theory, a group in the intelligence agency could have conveyed to the Asian Tigers about Khawaja’s past, and Mir’s interlocutor wanted to verify the information. There’s a more simple, third possibility—the ISI blames Mir for the murder of its former official and made public the tape to sully his reputation. The appearance of the transcript on the website does prove that Mir is no favourite of Asif Zardari and his friends. 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. Magazine, May 31, 2010


No comments: