this is bbc news. we will have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour as news newsday continues straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. in pakistan, journalists who ask awkward questions of people in power need to watch their backs. in the last year, there have been a string of attacks on reporters. the perpetrators remain unknown and unpunished. the government insists pakistan is a bastion of media freedom. well, my guest is hamid mir, a high profile columnist and tv presenter, survivor of several
past assassination attempts, currently facing accusations of sedition. is the pakistani state out to silence independent journalists? hamid mir, in islamabad, welcome to hardtalk. thank you, stephen sackur, for inviting me on your show. well, it's a pleasure to have you on this show. clearly, you can talk to me in london from pakistan, but it seems you cannot speak to your own tv audience inside your own country.
your show is currently banned, and indeed, your newspaper column seems to have been suspended too. why is that? yes, i am banned on my tv channel and i cannot write my regular column in my newspaper. this is not the first time. when pervez musharraf was in power, he also banned me on tv. but you see, he was a military dictator. he only banned me on tv. he never banned me on newspaper. now mr imran khan is the prime minister of pakistan, and unfortunately, i am not only on tv, but i am also banned to write a column in my newspaper. so it is democracy in pakistan, but there is no democracy. there is constitution of... ..in pakistan, but there is no constitution. and i am a living example of censorship in pakistan.
now, it seems your suspension came about after you delivered a fiery speech at the end of may to the national press club. when you talked about the forces that were targeting journalists in pakistan, you spoke out after one particularjournalistjust a few days before had been attacked in his own home in islamabad. you suggested that these forces, if they continued, would face retaliation from journalists. what did you mean by "these forces" and what kind of retaliation were you talking about? stephen sackur, you see, i survived many assassination attempts in pakistan, and i never gotjustice. i was involved in many fake cases and the pakistani courts, they cleared me and i was involved in fake cases again and again. i was threatened again and again. but you see, when our information minister fawad chaudhry spoke
to you in your show, the same day, on may 28th, when the day i delivered a speech, he said that "there are some journalists "in pakistan, who stage dramas just to get asylum "outside pakistan. " and i was standing with my journalist colleague who was attacked inside his home, and he's a young journalist and i was expressing my solidarity with him. so i said that whenever a journalist is attacked in pakistan, there is no justice and the police and the law enforcement agencies, they always fail to identify the culprits. so, if you will not provide us justice, then we will be forced to mention the names of the people who we think are responsible. and... let me stop you. let me stop you there, hamid mir, because this is very important stuff. and many people inside pakistan will now be wondering,
what do you mean you're going to name names? how could you possibly know who attacked mr toor, the young journalist you're talking about? and indeed, frankly, how do you know who attacked you in the past? because nobody was ever brought to justice. yeah, but that is the reason, that in my case, when i survived an assassination attempt in karachi — i got six bullets, two bullets are still inside my body. and i named the person, the head of an intelligence agency, then the government headed by mr nawaz sharif. they established a three—member inquiry commission, which was composed of three seniorjudges of the supreme court, including the then chiefjustice of the supreme court of pakistan. and i made my, my statement in front of that high powered commission, not once, but twice. i was injured, but i appeared in front of the commission.
i made my statement. and when the commission called the person who, in my view, was responsible for attacking me or hatching conspiracy against me, he refused to appear in front of the commission. he never appeared in front of the commission and no report came out. so that is the same... same was the case with mr asad toor. he complained, he made up a complaint to the police and the police issued an fir. and the name of an intelligence agency was mentioned in that fir. and we were demanding that our colleague asad toor should be given, should be givenjustice. but unfortunately... again, let me, let me stop you and just try to keep this as simple as possible. is it your contention, then, that the pakistani intelligence services were responsible for that attack on mr toor,
which he has described? and is it your contention that the pakistani state is behind the rise in attacks on journalists we've seen over the last year and more? you see, these things are documented again and again by international media organisations, by the pakistani media organis. .. ..organisations, by the human rights commission of pakistan. we have different reports. these are the documented facts and the, the state agencies, the intelligence agencies blame again and again, for organising attacks, for kidnapping journalists. mr chaudhry, the, the information minister whom, as you said, was on hardtalk recently. he said, look, please do not jump to conclusions. the case of mr toor is complex. it will be investigated properly and we will seek justice.
you, he would say, are simply jumping to conclusions. so he made that statement two months ago in your show. now, two months have been passed and there is no arrest. there is no conclusion. so mr chaudhry made a statement in your show and he said, "please don't jump to conclusions." so, two months have been passed, where is thejustice? that is the, that is the issue. that is the question, where is the justice? and then he said that journalists stage drama in pakistan for getting asylum outside pakistan. you see, asad toor or myself, we never tried to get asylum outside pakistan. we are not interested in getting immigration outside pakistan, so where is the justice? that is the problem. why the state of pakistan is failing to provide us justice. that is the problem! right.
if we're going to talkjustice, there are different ways of looking at the question ofjustice. you now face accusations of sedition for what you said in that speech in late may. you, i think, face at least six different accusations of sedition. petitions have been filed to see you brought to court, face charges. and if those charges end in conviction, you could face life in prison. yes, and i am ready to face life imprisonment because i think that if they will be able to convict me, at least the whole world will come to know that what's going on in pakistan. the world is already aware that what's going on in pakistan, because i am a living example of censorship in pakistan. everybody knows what happened
to hamid mir, why he's bad, and everybody knows the name of the people, which i have not mentioned. —— why he is banned. everybody knows that, who is responsible for imposing a ban on me? the common pakistanis are very wise. they are very clever. they know each and everything that what's going on. but you see, there is no rule of law in pakistan. and we only wantjustice. we want that rule of law should be established in pakistan. and if a journalist is asking a question, don't try to silence his voice. but mrmir... mr mir, you on the one hand, you, you sound absolutely sure that you know who. and it's obvious you mean who inside the pakistani security agencies and the pakistani state is responsible for these attacks on journalists. on the one hand, you say that, but then you seem to back off, because in the washington post recently, you clarified, "i never named anybody in any
security agency or the army. "i cannot remain silent on attacks against journalists. "but excuse my harsh tone, if it caused inconvenience "to anyone," it sounds as though you've been perhaps pressured and you're now backing off some of your more fiery statements. no, i'm not backing off. you see, there is, there was a legal problem because in one of the petitions against me, which was filed in gujranwala, the petitioner who is a lawyer, he claimed in his petition that hamid mir tried to malign these senior generals of pakistan army, including the army chief, general qamarjaved bajwa. he mentioned the name of the army chief. but in my speech, i never mentioned his name. that was the first thing. so i clarified that i never mentioned any name. and the second thing was that maybe i thought that my tone
was very harsh and maybe some people were trying to give an impression that i was blaming the whole institution. so i clarified my position that i'm not blaming the whole institution. i'm only talking about some individuals who are trying to silence the voice of the media. let me ask you this — are you disappointed that your employers, at geo tv and the jang newspaper group have not stood by you? you're now suspended. you've lost your voice. you've lost your platform as a journalist. how disappointed are you by that? you see, i will not make a wrong statement. yes, certainly i'm disappointed, but i can understand the circumstances because the editor in chief of my media group, mir shakil—ur—rahman... ..he was arrested last year and he remained in the detention of the national accountability
bureau for more than seven months for three—decades—old case, which is not a very big case. and i think that he was arrested. he was detained just because of the freedom he was trying to get us. so, then he got a bail from the supreme court of pakistan, but his name was placed on the exit control list. he cannot leave pakistan. so he is already under gunpoint. so my employers, they are already... the gun is placed on their head. so when they were asked to ban hamid mir, they banned me. so i can understand their problem. is there a climate of fear now in pakistan when it comes to journalists and journalism ? yes, definitely, there is a climate of fear in pakistan. a lot of young journalists, they are very disappointed and look at the state of media freedom in pakistan. when mr imran khan became
prime minister in 2013, pakistan was ranked at 139 on world press freedom index. today, in 2021, when i am talking to you, pakistan is ranked at 145. so pakistan lost six points in the last three years. according to international federation ofjournalists, pakistan is one of the five most dangerous countries for the journalist in the whole world. so you see, this is not good for pakistan, for pakistan's reputation, for pakistan's credibility in the international community. and yes, there is a climate of fear in pakistan because the pakistani journalists think that journalism is becoming very, very difficult in this country and this government of imran khan, now they are planning to come up with some more anti—media laws, which is not acceptable to us.
you seem to be laying the blame directly at imran khan's door. i'm mindful that in years past, you've been quite close to imran khan. he defended you and worked with you in years, gone by. you praised him in years gone by. do you think he personally wants to see you taken off air, maybe even brought before a court, convicted and imprisoned? is that what he wants? this is a very tricky question and it's a very difficult question for me to respond, but i will try to respond very honestly. imran khan stood by me in 2007 when i was banned by general pervez musharraf. and, yes, at that time, he was the biggest supporter of media freedom in pakistan. yes, i provided him a lot of space in my tv show because he was the opposition. so you can see that i was friendly with him when he was in opposition.
but when he became prime minister of pakistan and i started raising questions, and... even i met him personally and i asked him that your government should provide more space to media because you, you are the biggest beneficiary of the media freedom in pakistan. so he said yes. but unfortunately, in 2019, one of my interviews with the former president, asif ali zardari, that was banned on my show, on my tv channel and then some other opposition leaders, they were also banned on different tv channels. so we started criticising imran khan. and i think that he was not happy with my criticism. now, the second part of your question is very important. i think that imran khan is not directly responsible for imposing a ban on me.
and i don't think that he wants me to be off air. but, like the past prime ministers, he is not a very powerful prime minister. and i think he's helpless and he cannot help me. well, this gets to the root of pakistan's perennial question. who really is calling the shots? who really controls the country today? there are voices who say imran khan is essentially, bluntly, a puppet and that the real power in pakistan is being exercised by the security agencies. is that your view? pakistan is viewed as a security state, and if you go through the autobiography of imran khan, which i was reading last night, again. and imran khan gifted
me his autobiography with his autographs. so imran khan, himself, accepted about the role of military establishment, about the role of isi in his autobiography, in very clear words. and if you want, i can read some lines. but let me tell you that it is the imran khan, the current prime minister of pakistan, who has written in his autobiography that no politician in pakistan was able to defeat the military establishment. and he himself accused isi that when musharraf was, was in power. so isi tried to twist the arms of some of his colleagues and forced them to change their loyalties and joined the then kings party, pakistan muslim league 0. an irony of the situation today — pakistan muslim league 0 is the biggest ally of imran
khan. so i think... but you know many in pakistan will listen to you and say that you've just turned against imran and the pti party and that you're now making cheap partisan points. and when people such as yourself say that the censorship and the attacks on journalists are worse than they've ever been, people will say that cannot be true. not least your own experience tells us that's not true. you were kidnapped many, many years ago and interrogated by force. you were almost killed on two occasions — a car bomb, your body riddled with bullet, bullets. all of this happened long before imran khan came to power. and in fact, imran�*s government is trying to pass some legislation to offer better protection for journalists. so why are you exaggerating the impact of imran khan in this negative way? no, i am not exaggerating. i am not exaggerating. if you talk to the human rights
minister of imran khan, dr shireen mazari, she will tell you that i tried my level best to cooperate with her to formulate the draft of the journalist protection bill, which was presented recently in the parliament. and she accepted it many times publicly that hamid mir is the one who helped me a lot to make this draft. and all the other media bodies, we are also helping this government, led by imran khan, to make good legislation for the media freedom. but on the other side, the same government which you think is not responsible for imposing censorship on us, the same government is trying to make a new law with the name of pakistan media development authority law through which they want to establish
media tribunals and they want to convictjournalist who will raise harsh questions or we will criticise the government. they will make fines to them in the millions, they will send, send them to the prison for two years, three years, so... and on one side, yes, the government of imran khan is doing a good job by making a journalist protection bill. but on the other side, they are also trying to make pakistan media development authority bill, which is the total negation of the journalist protection bill. so there is, this this contradiction. so, he's doing a good work. if he is going to make the legislation over journalists�* protection, we are supporting him and we will support him. but if he will impose censorship on us through media development authority bill and concentrate all the powers in the information ministry and mr fawad chaudhry will be, will be the person who
will decide the fate of a journalist, we will criticise him. we must end in a moment. i want to finish with a couple of personal questions. do you fear for your life today? i've referred to these two assassination attempts you've survived in the past. you talk about the toxic atmosphere today. do you fear for your own personal security and that of your family? yes, you see, i am very much concerned about my personal security since long, and... i asked my family to leave pakistan and my family left pakistan — my daughter, my, my wife — they already left pakistan. i was also approached by some people to... they suggested me to leave pakistan, but i decided that i would not leave pakistan. and you have been a journalist and reporter through military dictatorship, through states of emergency, through very,
very tough political times in pakistan. what do you believe to be happening in your country today? do you believe democracy is really in grave danger? when i was born in pakistan, a military general, ayub khan, was ruling pakistan. when i started my school education, a military general, general yahya khan, was ruling pakistan. when i went to college, a military general, zia—ul—haq, was ruling pakistan. when i started myjournalism, general zia—ul—haq was ruling pakistan. i was first banned by general pervez musharraf. so my life and myjournalism is very much affected by the military dictators in pakistan. and that's why you see, i think that the rule of law is the solution of all other problems. that's why we want a genuine democracy in pakistan, because the founder of pakistan, muhammad ali
jinnah, he was a democrat and i am his follower. and i think that all those people who are trying to snatch media freedom from us are enemies of pakistan, are enemies of muhammad ali jinnah. hamid mir, we must end there. but i thank you very much indeed forjoining me on hardtalk. thank you. hello. while some of you have been able to stay dry over the last couple for others dark
quads have brought a months worth of rainfall. if there has been with of view, there will been with of view, there will be few sharers around free and should be temperatures warmer, closer to the time of year. together need to get rid of this low pressure which is been with us for days and still with us today. we have outbreaks of rain and thunderstorms run from that, one with the system towards the south—east corner with the heaviest rain, clear skies run first thing and where you do you will see temperatures dropped to single figures but we will have temperatures around the low teens to start the day. showers across southern scotland and ireland, heaviest showers across the northern half of scotland, some becoming torrential, particularly towards the east which could cause flash flooding. brightest weather in northern england, north midlands and north wales which was a drive through the but for the south after that what started in the south—east, sunshine and blustery sharers to see you through the day, temperatures into the low 20s.
sours into the evening and no... this is the sign of something improving as far as weather is concerned. as the low consorts scandinavia, a little ridge of high pressure puts in, it puts a cap in the atmosphere stopping the showers from brewing, still someone to say, the northern half of scotland like a decedent, sun in places but south of that isolated showers but more will spend the day drive with longer spots of sunshine and temperatures climbing a little bit day by day. then we go to the middle part of the week this broad area of low pressure to the west of us will bring welcome rain and this with the front towards the highlands and channel islands, much needed rain to commit but it is approaching and we will drag in southerly winds which would drag warm air into the near constant pushing temperatures back to where they should be with sunny spells the best of which in the morning across central and eastern areas and some sunshine turning hazy squatting over to the west in northern ireland in the morning and cherry conditions into the area, apart...
welcome to newsday, reporting live from singapore, i'm karishma vaswani. the headlines. three afghan cities fall to the taliban in just one day — including strategically important kunduz. farewell to one of the most controversial summer olympics ever — as tokyo hands over to the next host city — paris. holiday—makers and residents flee as wildfires on a greek island burn out of control. just a few miles from here, there are bright blue skies but here, the air is full of smoke and ash. and it's making it harderfor people to and ash. and it's making it harder for people to breathe.