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Concern Grows as Pakistani Journalist Who Interviewed Bin Laden Linked to Taliban Kidnapping

Relatives and friends carry the coffin bearing a former Pakistani intelligence officer Khalid Khawaja, who was killed by unknown militants, during his funeral in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 2, 2010.

Pakistani police have reopened an investigation into the killing of a former spy whose widow has alleged that a popular news anchor was behind his abduction.

The news anchor, Hamid Mir , has denied the allegations, saying they are aimed at silencing him.

The reopening of the case was a result of a complaint filed by the widow of the slain former army intelligence officer Khalid Khawaja, who was reportedly killed by the Pakistani Taliban group in the North Waziristan tribal region.

Khawaja allegedly had a close association with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and also worked closely with the Afghan Taliban on behalf of the Pakistan army's intelligence agency, the ISI. Media reports connected him with the murder of American reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi in 2002.

Mir, who is currently associated with Pakistani Geo TV station and hosts a current affairs show called Capital Talk, has denied any role in Khawaja’s abduction and claimed that the charges were politically motivated.

“It's a seven years’ old case. I was cleared by courts in 2010. The same case surfaced again in 2017 to silence my voice but fake cases can’t silence me,” Mir tweeted.

Recording fabricated

It is not the first time that Mir has been accused of links to Khawaja’s abduction. A recording of a phone conversation between journalist Mir and a Taliban spokesperson about the fate of Khawaja surfaced in May 2010 in which he described Khawaja as a “CIA collaborator,” according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.

In the recording, he accused Khawaja of “playing a treacherous role in the 2007 Red Mosque siege” by the Pakistani army in which the Mosque’s chief cleric and more than 100 people were killed. He said the tape as fabricated.

Mir rose to prominence after he interviewed Osama bin Laden in November 2001. The interview was conducted in the Afghan capital Kabul, under intense U.S. bombing following the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Three interviews with bin Laden

The British newspaper, The Independent, has reported that Mir interviewed bin Laden on three separate occasions.

Despite the allegations against Mir and whether he has had a role in Khawaja’s abduction, social media users and journalists have had a mixed reaction to the allegations against him. While some charge that many Pakistani reporters are part of the worsening situation in the country, others say the case is an attempt by the military aimed at silencing free voices in the country.

“This case is very old and there must be some motives for it as it suddenly resurfaced after so many years,” Amin Yousef, former secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists told VOA. “What the motives are, we do not know … but they should be unveiled.”

Timing ‘controversial’

According to journalist Feda Hussain, Mir is a member of a group tasked to probe an attack on reporter Ahmad Noorani who was seriously injured on Oct. 27. Noorani is well known for his critical views of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies.

“The timing of the case is very controversial,” Hussain told VOA. “The case against Hamid Mir has resurfaced which has created many doubts. A reporter was attacked and Mir wanted to probe the attack.”

Pakistan is among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, according to a recent report by the France-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Pakistan ranked at 139 out of 180 countries.

At least 117 journalists have been killed in the past 15 years in Pakistan.

VOA's Urdu and Deewa services contributed to this report.