Two recent developments across the two ends of my world–the US and Pakistan–are wrapped in a web of spies & lies and I can only hope the truth will eventually creep out of Pakistan’s shadow.
First, inside Pakistan, a recently released audio recording depicts one of Pakistani’s most popular news presenters, Geo TV’s Hamid Mir, not only as a Taliban sympathizer but also as an accomplice to the recent murder of a Pakistani spy.
Second, outside Pakistan, fresh fodder for Blackwater conspirators, the New York Times reveals that despite concerns about the legality of the operation, almost everyday privately contracted spies operating inside Pakistan submit detailed reports to top military commanders in the US on subjects “like the workings of the Taliban leadership in Pakistan.”
Pentagon's Michael Furlong, who set up the spy contractor network, is now under investigation
The purported Mir audio recording (which I recommend you listen to, is also available on youtube courtesy of the Rectfied Guy Productions and via mediafire) unveils a conversation between a man that sounds just like Hamid Mir and a man (X) believed to be linked to the Pakistani Taliban. The conversation starts:
Guy who sounds like Mir: There are lots of bombings going on
X: Right. There will be more. People are standing in line. So what do they say, are they going to stop the operation in Orakzai?
Guy who sounds like Mir: No they say they will expand the operation to North Waziristan, and the first unit of the army will head there in a day or two.
X: Right. To North Waziristan?
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes.
X: So do you have any reports on Khalid Khwaja?
Guy who sounds like Mir: ahaan
X: So are there any reports on Khalid Khwaja?
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes, they say Khalid Khwaja is ..uumm… with some Azim Afridi from Dara
X: Ohhh. Tariq Afridi?
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes, Tariq Afridi he has him.
X: But isn’t he a government person or an ISI agent?
Guy who sounds like Mir: Who?
X: Khalid Khwaja
Guy who sounds like Mir: Khalid Khwaja, according to me isn’t ISI’s man. He’s CIA’s man. And its shocking that he managed to get so close to Taliban leadership.
X: Yes, when he came here last, he met lots of people, Hakimullah and a bunch of people.
Guy who sounds like Mir: This I know personally that Khalid Khwaja is not only associated with the CIA but also with a bigwig from this global network of Qaddiyanis named Mansur Ejaz…who is
X: yes, hes American
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes, so he is his front man.
Here’s a full transcript I worked on. I also found this version on Cafe Piyala, sourced to ISI’s facebook fanpage.
From the recording, it seems clear that the conversation took place when Khwaja was alive and in captivity, with a militant outfit from Dara Adam Khel (according to Mir.) Towards the end of the conversation X tells the purported Mir that there is a lot of pressure to release Khalid Khwaja. The following conversation follows:
Guy who sounds like Mir: They can let him go. That is their prerogative. But send these three questions to them: Ask him what is your relationship with Mansur Ejaz–his father stole Pakistan’s nuclear secrets and ran away. His father was a nuclear scientist.
X: Yes. He was.
Guy who sounds like Mir: He ran away with the secrets to America. And once he suggested a proposal to Benazir Bhutto, when she was Prime Minister, that if you recognize Israel, all of your debts will be forgiven. That means he also has links to Israel.
Mir’s journalism has always had a murky past. Many question whether he actually interviewed Osama bin Laden after 9/11..
And his late night Capital Talk–one of the most popular talk show’s in Pakistan–is nothing more than a contained political Jerry Springer– high drama with politicians at each others throats.
From the 13 minute audio recording, it is clear that the the man who sounds like Mir, is out to get Khalid Khwaja. Having worked at Geo’s Islamabad Bureau while Mir was Bureau Chief, I saw a different side to him that most people wouldn’t associate with the TV presenter.
Besides yelling at the office tea boys, he was as hands off as a Bureau chief could be. He rarely came into work in a good mood, and was known to scream at anyone who happened to come in his way before he slammed the door to his glass office, which he barely ever stepped out of. He didn’t pay much attention to the assignment desk, reporters or news coming out of Islamabad. His main concern was Capital Talk which he hosted twice a week back then.
But this latest recording, if proved authentic, could finally put an end to his journalism career.
Mir wrote a piece for The News two days after Khalid’s bullet ridden body was found in Waziristan, entitled, “What was the last mission of Khalid Khwaja?.”
This badly written, lengthy and confusing piece mirrors a lot of the what the purported Mir is telling X about Khalid Khwaja in the audio recording. But the alarming part is Mir attributes this information in his The News article to militants and Taliban.
In particular, this excerpt from his article:
“The militants claimed that he arranged a meeting between US Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes and a religious cleric Javed Ibrahim Paracha in 2005 in Serena Hotel, Islamabad. They also produced some articles downloaded from the Internet and asked about his links with former CIA officials, James Woolsey and William Casey.”
sounds a lot like this excerpt from the audio conversation (09:50-10:50):
Guy who sounds like Mir: Javed Ibrahim Paracha has a very big madrassa there.
X: Yes indeed, he has a very large madrassa..
Guy who sounds like Mir: And he Javed Ibrahim Paracha, always helps people in the tribal areas, who work against America.
X: Yes. And he also gets them released.
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes, his services are in front of all of you.
Guy who sounds like Mir: So this guy (Khwaja) tricked Paracha into coming to Islamabad and told him I want to introduce you to someone very important. And then he took Paracha to Serena Hotel and introduced him to a visiting American government official. And said, this guy Paracha, can negotiate for you with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. But Paracha, who is an educated man, understood that he had been tricked and ran out of there and called me and said, you were right about Khwaja.
And this excerpt from the article,
“ While talking to this scribe on phone from North Waziristan, the spokesman reacted to the statement of Khalid Khwaja’s wife, who declared that her husband was a martyr because he was killed by some criminals. The spokesman for the Punjabi Taliban said that both Mr and Mrs Khalid Khwaja played an active role in Lal Masjid tragedy in July 2007. They forced late Abdul Rashid Ghazi not to surrender but disappeared when the operation started.”
which sounds a lot like this excerpt from the audio conversation (03:15-04:50):
Guy who sounds like Mir: Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi–May God bless him with a place in heaven–what he told me the last time we spoke was was that, uh, did you do know that he was not in total agreement with Maulana Abdul Aziz (his
Guy who sounds like Mir: He wanted to save the boys and girls inside. And for that purpose, he was being very flexible and was even willing to be arrested. His condition was that the people with him shouldn’t be arrested.
Guy who sounds like Mir: But Khalid Khwaja’s wife pressurized Umme Hasan (Abdul Aziz’s wife). And eventually with Khalid Khwaja’s involvement Aziz fled Lal Masjid in a burqa without informing his brother .
X: Sorry the line got disconnected
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes.
X: So what were you saying about his wife?
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes so I was telling you his wife put so much pressure. Ghazi used to say she said we are all going to fight and we are going to be martyred. And in the end, Khalid Khawaja managed to escape from the Lal Mosque and so did his wife–Khalid Khwaja’s!
What is clear from the contents of the recording, if proved authentic, is that Hamid Mir
1. knew about Khalid Khwaja’s kidnapping.
2. knows an associate of Hakimullah Mehsud (Head of Pakistan’s Taliban)
3. willingly gave the Taliban interrogation material about Khwaja–that he was a CIA agent. And should be questioned about his links to a Qadiyani American businessman who Mir said had Mossad links.
4. is a Lal Masjid sympathizer.
5. is a Qadayani-hater. In the recording, purported Mir says: To me Qadayanis are worse than Kaffirs.
I can believe that he is a Qadayani/Ahmadi hater. Working in Islamabad’s bureau I personally saw him give one of Geo’s most talented female journalists, who happens to be Ahmadi, a very hard-time, which eventually played a role in her decision to leave the organization. She currently hosts a very successful nightly news show on a rival news network.
I can also believe he is a Lal Masjid sympathizer, that was after all the Geo News editorial policy during the whole saga in 2007.
As the army prepared to make its way into the seized mosque, Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi pleaded his case live on Geo News via telephone. I was working with DawnNews at the time. We had just launched, and like all other networks we were trying to get Ghazi on air. Ghazi’s cell number and his brothers had gone dead a few days earlier.
I was in-charge of production and asked the assignments desk, most of which was from Geo, to find out what number Geo was calling Ghazi on. Eventually someone managed to get the number. And that is the number we at DawnNews also talked to Ghazi on, a day before he was killed. When I tried to save the number to my cell phone, I discovered I already had the number. It belonged to a Geo News reporter from Islamabad, who used to sit across from me when I worked there. When we called the number to talk to Ghazi, this same reporter, put him through. The operation was in full swing at this point. Burqa-clad Abdul Aziz made his exit soon. I still wonder how the Geo reporter–who I used to think of us a harmless mullah–managed to get out of there. (Harmless mullah, because he was always smiling and pleasant with me, but had a beard, always wore his shalwar high and had a prayer cap on his head.)
But then again there are so many things about Lal Masjid episode that just didn’t make sense.
As for Mir being capable of aiding and abetting to the murder of a Pakistani spy–that is for authorities to figure out.
It is still unclear who made or released the conversation. Hamid Mir has gone on the record and issued a strong denial saying the tape has been fabricated by his enemies in the government to destroy his reputation and silence him.
“I never said these things to these people. This is a concocted tape,” Mir told the Guardian, “They took my voice, sampled it and manufactured this conspiracy against me.”
As news of the audio recording went from blogs, to the airwaves and eventually the front page of this Sunday’s the Daily Times, Mir has just gotten more defensive. In a column entitled “Asteen Ka Saamp” (snake up a sleeve) in Jang’s Urdu daily, published on Monday, May 17th, Hamid Mir accuses Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer (also owner of the Daily Times) of being behind the campaign to blackmail him. The Daily Times responded to his column with an editorial.
Following the audio recording’s web trail, it seems to have first appeared on ISI’s Facebook fanpage.
And from the nature of the conversation it could have been recorded by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies or the Taliban. Or maybe it was released by the private spies working in Pakistan for the US military that the Times recently wrote about.
After all anything is possible in Pakistan.
Even though the American military is largely prohibited from operating inside Pakistan. And under Pentagon rules, the army is not allowed to hire contractors for spying, according to the Times, all of the above is happening.
The Times article entitled, ” U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts”, says
“Top military officials have continued to rely on a secret network of private spies who have produced hundreds of reports from deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to American officials and businessmen, despite concerns among some in the military about the legality of the operation.
Earlier this year, government officials admitted that the military had sent a group of former Central Intelligence Agency officers and retired Special Operations troops into the region to collect information — some of which was used to track and kill people suspected of being militants. Many portrayed it as a rogue operation that had been hastily shut down once an investigation began.”
The investigation began soon after Hillary Clinton’s three-day charm offensive to Pakistan in November 2009. Her trip was overshadowed by constant questions about private US security companies operating in Pakistan and who was carrying out drone strikes in Pakistan.
She avoided answering both questions during her visit, but apparently she wanted some answers from the Pentagon upon her return to the US.
According to the Times article,
“The private contractor network was born in part out of frustration with the C.I.A. and the military intelligence apparatus. There was a belief by some officers that the C.I.A. was too risk averse, too reliant on Pakistan’s spy service and seldom able to provide the military with timely information to protect American troops. In addition, the military has complained that it is not technically allowed to operate in Pakistan, whose government is willing to look the other way and allow C.I.A. spying but not the presence of foreign troops.”
So much like the drone strikes, the Pakistani government is willing to look the other way to CIA spying.
Sadly, that is exactly what former Foreign Secy, told me in an interview I conducted for the Disposable Ally back in the spring of 2009.
“You have CIA people crawling all over Pakistan. They have several offices in Islamabad. And they have networks all over Pakistan.” The Former Ambassador to the US went on to say, “Now what sovereign country would allow this kind of a thing?”
This clip didn’t make it into the series, but I’m posting part of the interview including what he had to say about the ISI here.”
If that is the reality of Pakistan, then the evidence pointing as Hamid Mir being a crazed Taliban supporter, doesn’t seem all that unbelievable.