Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and you're listening to The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH in Boston. Criticizing the military isn't done lightly here in the US. But when warranted, American journalists can and do take aim at the Pentagon, exposing mistakes or misdeeds. The Defense Department can hit back with lawsuits if it feels the criticism is unjustified. Now keep all of that in mind with this next story out of Pakistan. Hamid Mir is an executive editor with Pakistan's Geo-TV. A couple of months ago, gunmen tried to kill him. He survived and he blames elements of the military's intelligence branch, ISI, for the shooting. I spoke with Hamid Mir earlier today.
You're still recovering, I understand Mr. Mir. In fact, you had surgery yesterday. How are you doing?
Hamid Mir: Yes, I suffered 6 bullet wounds and I've gone through many surgeries. Slowly and surely, I am recovering.
Werman: What proof do you have that the ISI was behind this?
Mir: It is circumstantial. Certainly I don't have the concrete evidence, but they were putting pressure on me. It was not only ISI but some serving army officers. They were directly putting pressure on me, that I should not highlight human rights violations. That was the reason that I informed the management of the Geo-TV not once but many times in writing that if anything happens to me, the ISI and their allies in the extremist groups would be responsible. That's why I think that some people in ISI were responsible for the attack on me.
Werman: Your channel, Geo-TV, and its owners, the Jang Corporation, have apologized for extensively reporting your allegations. The army vehemently denies involvement in your getting shot, but you still stand by your assertions?
Mir: Yes, I told my management in writing that when I came to know that they are under pressure to apologize, the army authorities, I told them that I am a victim. I got 6 bullet wounds. I cannot walk. There are 2 bone injuries in both of my legs. I need justice. I'm not part of any apology.
Werman: Pro-army media in Pakistan call you a traitor. What do you have to say to that?
Mir: I can only laugh. The pro-establishment, pro-army media is accusing me over the last several years of being a traitor. But even then, my talk show was the number one most popular talk show in Pakistan until April 19th, the evening I was shot in Karachi. So if I was a traitor, then why was my talk show the most popular talk show in the Pakistani media?
Werman: There have been so many disturbing reports and allegations about the ISI, the Pakistani Intelligence Services, over the years - what are they doing wrong, do you think?
Mir: I have nothing personal against anyone. I am not against ISI as an institution. But when they cross the limits, when they violate the constitution of Pakistan, when they violate the local law, when they interfere in politics, when they try to bribe politicians and journalists, when they pick up some political workers and they assassinate them - then journalists like me have this responsibility to raise questions. So I raised these kinds of questions - why is ISI interfering in politics? Why are they providing secrets for extremist groups who are involved in terrorist activities inside and outside of Pakistan? As a journalist, this is my duty. I raise these kinds of questions and I will do it in the future.
Werman: Mr. Mir, you still speak your mind, apparently. Do you still fear for your life?
Mir: Yes, I am still receiving a lot of threats. I still fear for my life. I am receiving threats through different journalist colleagues. I am receiving SMS messages. I am receiving threatening letters in my mail. They want me to leave Pakistan. But if they think that I will run away from Pakistan, I will stand by with my journalist colleagues in Pakistan. I will continue to speak the truth. I will stay here. I will not leave Pakistan.
Werman: Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir. Thank you very much for speaking with me and stay safe.
Mir: Thank you very much.