the taliban have seized three more provincial capitals in afghanistan in the course of a day. in kunduz, afghan government forces appear to hold only their own base and the airport. the taliban have dismissed international calls for a ceasefire, and warned the us against any further intervention. wildfires are continuing to burn on the greek island of evia. dozens of villages have been evacuated and ferries are on standby to take more people to safety. in some areas, thick orange smoke and ash have obscured the sun. the argentine football star, lionel messi, has given an emotional farewell press conference, following confirmation that he will be leaving barcelona after twenty—one years at the club. fc barcelona is facing serious financial problems, and says it has to comply with the spanish league's rules on spending.
now on bbc news 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 independentjournalism?
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 banned, and everybody knows the name of the people, which i have not mentioned. 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 am 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 a 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 say 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 interview 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 in pakistan, 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 will 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. some of you have been able to stay dry, some of you have had a month's worth of rainfall. some good news ahead, fewer showers around, it should turn warmer, temperatures close to where they should be. to get there we need to get rid of this area of low pressure that has been with us for days. still with us today, we have outbreaks of rain, some thunderstorms around from that, warm weather system in the southeast with the heaviest of the rain. some clear skies, temperatures dropping back
into single figures, most with temperatures around the low teens to start the day. showers on monday morning across parts of southern scotland and northern ireland, brightening through the day, heaviest of the showers across the northern half of scotland, some of those torrential especially towards the east. that could cause flash flooding. brightest of the weather in northern england, north midlands, north wales, staying dry through the day, further south after a wet start, sunshine and blustery showers through the day and temperatures more widely into the low 20s. showers continuing into the evening across scotland, for many they will fade over night and the sign of something improving, area of low pressure toward scandinavia, becoming less of a feature, high pressure pushing in, stopping some of those showers. still some on tuesday in the northern half of scotla nd. south of that, isolated showers, more of you staying dry with longer spells of sunshine, temperatures climbing a little bit day by day. for the middle part of the week
this broad area of low pressure towards the west will bring welcome rain in this weather front towards the highlands and islands, much—needed rain but it's approaching and we start to drag in southerly winds which tap in warmer air across the near continent pushing temperatures back to where they should be for the time of year, sunny spells, the best in the morning across central and eastern areas, hazy sunshine, clouding over in the west, outbreaks of rain in northern ireland, the heaviest and most persistent across western scotland. for more, temperatures above 20 degrees, where we should be for the time of year, one or two spots getting 25 or higher. staying warm in the south and east into the weekend, further rain at times in western scotland. see you soon.
this is bbc news — i'm sally bundock. our top stories: fire and smoke force holidaymakers and residents to flee greek islands as forests burn out of control. described as a massive wake—up call, the un report reveals how human activity is accelerating climate change. three more afghan cities fall to the taliban, as they dismiss international calls for a ceasefire. farewell to one of the most challenging summer olympics of them all, as tokyo closes the games.