Will the real Hamid Mir please stand up?
The great thaw in Indo-Pakistan ties that some hoped for in New York is degenerating rapidly into a farce. When the new civilian administration came to power in Pakistan, it appeared eager to improve relations with India. Mian Nawaz Sharif said his agenda for peace with India in his previous tenure was derailed by Gen. Musharraf.
Then in August, five Indian soldiers were killed by Pakistani troops, who ventured across the LoC into J&K to carry out the attack. Mr. Sharif offered to meet Prime Minister Singh at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Initially cool to the offer given an increasing number of LoC violations, the PM eventually agreed to a meeting.
In his speech at the UNGA, Mr. Sharif said he hoped for a “new beginning” with India. He then ushered in this new beginning by raking up the Kashmir issue, warning that the “suffering of people cannot be brushed under the carpet, because of power politics.” With the atmosphere vitiated, Dr. Singh responded in his own speech by asserting that Jammu & Kashmir was an integral part of India and that “there can never, ever, be a compromise with the unity and territorial integrity of India.”
While Pakistan and India were busy reverting to predictable and boring positions in the Big Apple, drama was unfolding in Pakistan. Hamid Mir, journalist and CEO of Geo Television, appeared via phone on a Pakistani show called “Aapas ki Baat” to update viewers on his meeting with Nawaz Sharif this morning.
Mr. Mir put it across that Mr. Sharif was unhappy with the Indian PM’s speech and discussions about Pakistan with U.S. president Barack Obama. Nawaz Sharif, Mr. Mir said, told NDTV Group Editor Barkha Dutt that Dr. Singh was behaving not like a prime minister but like a “dehati aurat.” On Twitter today, Ms. Dutt refuted and provided context to Mr. Mir’s distorted version of events.
Mr. Mir hosts a show called “Aman ki Asha” on Geo TV, which aims to, among other things, improve relations between India and Pakistan. As a columnist in the Pakistani Urdu newspaper, Jang, Mr. Mir is far more open to towing the line of the Pakistani establishment on India, including issues pertaining to Kashmir and popular, but imagined conspiracy theories on India’s involvement in everything that happens in Pakistan.
Just this past week, Mr. Mir authored a piece in the Jang about claims and counterclaims between the UPA and Gen. VK Singh with regard to Pakistan. The column titled “Yeh koi nayi baat nahi” (This is nothing new) is replete with fantastic conspiracy theories that suggest Indian involvement in the 1996 bombing of Imran Khan’s Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital. Excerpts follow:
The prime minister (Benazir Bhutto) called for a meeting with the chief minister of Punjab and the IG and directed them to find those responsible for the Shaukat Khanum Hospital blast as quickly as possible. Within a few days, the police arrested a young man named Ishaq Mirasi from a village along the border. Ishaq Mirasi was also wanted in connection with the bombing of Lahore Airport’s old terminal.
The arrest notwithstanding, I was skeptical as to the connection between this poor villager and the Shaukat Khanum Hospital….I ended up conducting a detailed interview of Ishaq Mirasi in prison. Ishaq told me that he was involved in petty smuggling. On one such occasion while crossing the border into India, he was arrested by Indian army personnel.
An Indian army officer asked him whether he would prefer a long prison sentence in India or was instead willing to work (for the Indian army). When Ishaq chose the latter, he was given training in bomb making and sent back to Pakistan. After completing his mission, he would cross the border into India and provide Pakistani English-language newspapers covering the blasts as evidence to receive his payment…
…Interior Minister Nasirullah Babar told me India was trying to recruit the poor and unemployed in Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar and was financing sectarian organizations to promote discord between the Sunnis and Shias.[On Gen VK Singh’s comments]… This is nothing new. It is possible that the military intelligence unit targeting Pakistan has been disbanded But R&AW’s covert intelligence units continue their operations against Pakistan.
Instead of putting on an act of friendship, Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh (if they meet in New York) ought to discuss how India and Pakistan can put an end to conspiring against each other [روزنامہ جنگ]
Civilian leaders in Pakistan have met Dr. Singh in the past without there being extra-circular activities from the Pakistani military establishment. Former Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, whose Pakistan Peoples Party enjoyed anything but cordial relations with the army, met Dr. Singh in Sharm el-Sheikh and later on in Mohali during the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final.
But Mr. Sharif’s attempts at outreach seem to coincide with violations along the LoC, an attack this week on a police station and army camp in Jammu & Kashmir, and now apparently targeted information operations with a view to scuttle talks between Dr. Singh and Mr. Sharif in New York. The question that needs to be asked then is what was Mr. Sharif willing to offer or discuss with the Indian PM that has so ruffled the feathers of the Pakistani military-jihadi complex.
It would be sadly ironical for the host of a show called “Aman ki Asha” to be responsible for putting paid to Mr. Sharif’s attempts at improving ties with India. It behooves Mr. Mir to respond.