Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir was hit by six bullets in April and, more recently, a new round of threats. (AP/Anjum Naveed)
Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir after being attacked by unknown assailants. (AP/Anjum Naveed)

More threats against Pakistan’s Hamid Mir

The well-known and controversial Pakistani television talk show host Hamid Mir survived a murder attempt on April 19, even though he was hit with six bullets–two of which are still in his body. “I can move, I can walk and I can talk, but I am still undergoing physiotherapy and taking medication,” he emailed to a small group of associates, including CPJ, over the weekend.

But he was messaging for another reason. He says he is concerned because he received a new round of threats and denunciations related to his plans to attend an upcoming conference in Bangladesh of journalists, hosted by the Bangladeshi newspaper Prothom Alo. Under discussion will be the incidents of 1971, when Bangladesh began its break away from Pakistan, leading to a vicious and bloody secessionist war.

Mir angered his own government when, on November 5 in the Urdu-language Daily Jang newspaper he encouraged Pakistan to issue an official apology to Bangladesh over atrocities of 1971. That re-opened a wound from last year when, while in Bangladesh, he identified the “main culprits,” as he put it, of the bloodbath as a group of Pakistani army officers. “I never spoke against the Pakistan Army, I only mentioned the names of some books written by Pakistan Army officers who confessed atrocities,” Mir said in this weekend’s email message.

“A few hours after my visit to the Bangladesh High Commission some mysterious people dropped CDs containing hate material against me in offices of different newspapers. Many people started tweeting against me and saying ‘Hamid Mir is enemy of Pakistan and agent of Bangladesh,'” he wrote. The CDs contained archival footage of past programs in which he was critical of the government and the military’s policies in Bangladesh.

His concerns for his safety are not overwrought. Remember, this is a man who was targeted for death eight months ago because of his outspoken views. While Mir was still hospitalized, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif established a three-member judicial commission which was supposed to release its report on the murder attempt within three weeks. Six months have passed since that deadline, and there is no report.

The motive for the April shooting remains unclear, but it seems likely to have been linked to Mir’s criticism of Pakistani policy in Baluchistan province, the region bordering Iran and Afghanistan in the west. At the time, he had been critical of the disappearances of Baloch political activists, hitting the issue frequently on his TV programs. A battle between insurgents and counter-insurgents has been waging in Baluchistan for years, and it is playing out in ugly incidents perpetrated by many sides to the conflict.

The result of the April murder attempt: The very outspoken Mir admits to dialing back his on-air rhetorical tone: “I am very careful these days in TV shows, but even then I am getting threatening messages and facing another hate campaign.” For Mir, and his associates, there seems little recourse but to publicize this recent round of accusations in the hope that the publicity will head off another serious attack.