A few words on Hamid Mir
In an evolving democracy such as Pakistan, where the option for defining the boundaries of the freedom of expression is still open, rivalry between its prime intelligence agency and its prime media group comes as no surprise to anyone. There was already an atmosphere of antagonism and mistrust existing in the ISI against Mir.
Even if the brother of Hamid Mir blamed the ISI chief and the concerned television channel kept on showing the picture of the ISI chief, nothing proved the involvement of the ISI in the armed attack on Mir. What Mir’s brother did or what the television channel did was not surprising for viewers who regularly watch Mir’s talk show. The Mir-ISI animosity surfaced in May 2010 when a tape was aired in which Mir was purportedly speaking to a Taliban militant 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 during the talk show and claiming that he was being threatened by certain intelligence personnel. The implicit conflict between Mir and the ISI was obvious. Nevertheless, Mir’s brother overlooked other possibilities of information leakage and attack.
Having taken advantage of the current Mir-ISI resentment, some anchorpersons and analysts are settling a score with Mir, not because Mir scorned them but because they could not outwit him. Some anchorpersons who were jealous of Mir’s talk show have now turned against the television channel that he represents. However, some analysts who were for some reason against the television channel represented by Mir have now turned against Mir also. Generally, journalists (whether they are anchorpersons or analysts) feel protected in Pakistan when they are pro-military and feel vulnerable 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 wearing the garb of pro-ISI and pro-military stances to raise their popularity. That is why 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.
A piece of news is being bandied about: that the ISI has made a dossier listing the anti-Pakistan activities of the television channel to which Mir belonged. One can surmise that the dossier must have the same documents that were aired in the recent past. If the documents are the same, there will be another allegation against 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. When the viewers did not pay any heed to some anchorpersons’ claims, will they now pay any attention to the dossier’s claims? Above all, if any anti-Pakistan activities were conducted by the television channel Mir belongs to, the viewers would have noticed them. 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 that 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 made by the channel, its reporters and anchorpersons can be overlooked.