The Attack on Hamid Mir and Need for Proper Civilian Oversight

hamid mirA few weeks ago, the prominent journalist Raza Rumi was attacked. Now another prominent journalist and one of the most famous anchorpersons, Hamid Mir too has had a close encounter with death. As these sentences are being written, Mr. Mir still remains in critical state.

PTH strongly condemns this cowardly attack. Journalists are the intellectual torchbearers of the society and therefore such attacks on them are highly unfortunate. Such attacks impede independence of the media preventing it from effectively acting as the conscience of the society.

There is a difference between the ideological orientations of the two journalists. Raza Rumi is a liberal and anti-mainstream whereas Hamid Mir has been known to be more “traditional” kind of journalist as well as anchorperson.

However, lately Hamid Mir too had started to raise dissenting opinion on several controversial issues such as Baluchistan, civil military relationship, TTP and of course the role of powerful agencies such as Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Immediately after the attack, Hamid Mir’s employer, Geo has started to point its finger towards a possible role of the powerful ISI.

Since the adequate facts are not known as yet, we would like to refrain from finger pointing here. Moreover, ISI is not a bogeyman who can be blamed for each and everything under the sun. However, we would like to echo what has often been said in many progressive circles: ISI needs to be brought under proper civilian oversight.

Unfortunately, this demand has often been ridiculed and in fact even equated with antinationalism. But the biggest irony is that in the past any efforts to bring ISI and host of other agencies under civilian control were mocked and actively resisted by GEO/Jang group itself.

In 2008, the then civilian government of PPP tried to bring ISI under the ambit of civilian oversight. This effort was completely sabotaged by the opposition, establishment and majority of our right wing media.

Back then GEO/Jang group portrayed it as a deep conspiracy to politicize ISI for gaining political advantage over the opposition. Moreover, it was also interpreted as a threat to national security as it was being done (allegedly) for appeasing the Americans.

Now, it is ironical that after six years, the same channel finds itself on the other side of the divide accusing the same ISI and demanding that it should be held accountable.

What our media needs to learn is that you can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. You have to choose sides and in this case press for proper civilian oversight of all such clandestine agencies.

It is high time that this demand enters into our discourse and media houses/channels has to get united irrespective of their differences.

As we have already said that we will refrain from blaming ISI for the attack on Hamid Mir as we do not know the full facts. However, we would like to point out that if ISI was under proper civilian oversight, no one would have accused it for this attack and would have blamed non state actors. In other words proper civilian oversight is essential for ISI’s ( and other such agencies) own good repute also.

The fear that a civilian government will use such agencies for gaining political advantage is largely exaggerated as civilian oversight would also direct media spotlight on both the government and the agencies making any such usage  difficult if not impossible.

It is time to get united and press for civilian oversight.