Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist and news anchor was shot on Saturday as he left Jinnah Airport in Karachi. Mir was on his way to his office at Geo News when assailants in a car and two motorcycles chased him and opened fire. According to Shahid Hayat, the police chief of Karachi, the well-known newsman was struck thrice during the attack. The bullets hit his intestines, leg and pelvic area. Mir was taken to a nearby private hospital, where he underwent surgery and is stated to be in stable condition.
Mir is known to be a fierce critic of the Taliban and the Pakistani government. An erstwhile newspaper reporter and editor, Mir writes columns and hosts a political talk show on Geo News. His program has hosted a range of guests, including members of Pakistan’s ruling government and the opposition. Mir is also writing a book on the late al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.
This is not the first time that the well-known journalist has been targeted. There have been previous attempts on his life, including a car bombing in 2012 that failed because the explosives did not detonate. That attempted assassination was alleged to be a Taliban endeavor.
But this time, the scribe’s brother, Amir Mir is pointing a finger at Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency and its leader, Zaheerul Islam. The agency has denied any involvement in the murder attempt and called it a “highly regrettable and misleading” allegation. In the same statement, they condemned the attack and extended good wishes to Mir for a speedy recovery.
Along with the ISI, the Taliban has also issued a denial of involvement. A spokesperson for the outlawed Pakistan arm of the Taliban said that even though the group had many differences with Mir, they had no hand in the shooting. The investigation into the attack is ongoing.
As shock and outrage spread through the country, statements of condemnation poured in. The Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack on Mir and called it a an act of cowardice. Pervaiz Rashid, the information and broadcasting minister released a statement criticizing the attack and renewed the government’s commitment towards proving security to journalists in Pakistan. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party said that the shooting of Mir, a prominent journalist, was an assault on the freedom of the Pakistani press.
The US government also strongly condemned the attack on the television personality. Calling it one in a series of attacks against journalists in Pakistan, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “Attacks like these should be a wake-up call to all who value democracy.”
Pakistan has seen a string of attacks against journalists over the years. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) states that 54 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1992. This list includes American and Israeli journalist Daniel Pearl. The CPJ’s 2014 Global Impunity Index placed Pakistan in the ninth position on a list of countries, where an attack on a journalist could go unpunished. There are 22 cases of attacks on journalists pending in Pakistani courts at this time.
Besides the attack on Mir, there have been other much-publicized attacks on journalists. In January, three employees of a media group were gunned down in their satellite van outside the Board of Secondary Education in Karachi. On March 29, Raza Rumi, an editor of a weekly newspaper was shot at in Lahore. While he escaped, his driver was killed.
According to Mazhar Abbas, general secretary of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Pakistan is experiencing conflict in the form of terrorism and sectarianism, which puts reporting journalists in danger of being assaulted and killed. He contends that in the face of such attacks, media houses should come together to fight for freedom of expression.
As Pakistani journalists struggle with the violent attack against one of their own prominent members, they have come together to condemn the shooting of Mir. The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Newspaper Editors (CPNE) and other journalistic organizations have released a strong message that denounces the attack on Mir.
By Monalisa Gangopadhyay