Hamid I could tell me about the bullets that riddled his stomach or about the treason proceedings that were brought against him. But Hamid Mir prefers to lean back, pull up the corners of his mouth under his dark mustache and smile: “I’m sitting here in the National Press Club, and the people are happy to see me.” Hamid Mir doesn’t need more to know that he is doing the right thing.
It is one of the last warm autumn evenings in Islamabad, and the press club could be a symbol of the state of Pakistan. No fancy glass building with a representative entrance and pretty furniture, but a couple of aging barracks in an open space in the center of the capital, set up like a wagon castle around the unadorned inner courtyard. Inside a couple of musty meeting rooms, outside a few stained seats in the pale light of a spotlight.
Hamid Mir is a journalistic legend in Pakistan. At a young age he reported from various crisis areas, he met Al-Qaeda boss Osama Bin Laden three times, more often than any other reporter. Tony Blair, Nelson Mandela and Hillary Clinton were also interviewed by him. His show “Capital Talk” ran several times a week at prime time. Everything that had rank and name came to Hamid Mir. But now he is no longer allowed to appear on television. His broadcaster Geo News fired him and took his show away from him, and he’s not even allowed to write for Pakistani newspapers.
The reason is as simple as it is disproportionate: In May, Mir stood by the side of a colleague, the journalist Asad Ali Toor, at a protest in the press club. A few days earlier, Toor’s apartment was attacked and beaten by strangers in the middle of Islamabad. Above all, Mir had openly stated in front of the assembled crowd who he believed was behind the series of attacks against journalists and activists: the Pakistani army with its notorious military intelligence service “Inter Service Intelligence” (ISI).
The nuclear power Pakistan steers through troubled waters. In the east, the old conflict with the archenemy India is smoldering and can escalate at any time. In the west, Afghanistan is on the verge of collapse after the Taliban came to power. Any instability in neighboring countries quickly affects Pakistan. Due to the Corona crisis, the already ailing economy has even bigger problems, and inflation continues to accelerate. Most recently, the Islamist TLP mob roamed the streets of the big cities, demanding the release of their leader and several imprisoned members. Prime Minister Imran Khan is unable to stabilize the situation – and is seen by many in the country only as a puppet of the military behind him.
History of instability
Of course, it is not that Pakistan has ever been a haven of stability. In the first years after the founding of the state in 1947 and the associated secession from India, one government replaced the other – either the prime ministers died or they fell victim to palace intrigues. The military repeatedly staged coups and seized power, most recently in the person of General Pervez Musharraf, who ruled from 1999 to 2008. But so far, the democratic forces have repeatedly managed to oust the army from power.
#Afghanistan #Pakistan #stranglehold #military