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Pak media group to probe scribe's links with Taliban

May 20, 2010 11:34 IST

Pakistan's Jang media group has formed a committee to ascertain whether well-known TV anchor Hamid Mir actually spoke to a Taliban operative about former Inter-Services Intelligence officer Khalid Khwaja who was eventually killed by militants.

Mir has been at the centre of a controversy after several websites uploaded a 13-minute conversation he purportedly had with a Taliban operative.

In the tape, Mir and the militant discuss the activities of Khwaja, who was recently abducted and killed by the Asian Tigers, a group of Punjabi Taliban.

The Jang media group said in a statement published on Thursday in its The News daily that it had set up a committee to get detailed information on the issue.

"For credible investigation, the committee has called upon professional journalist organisations to come forward to uncover the truth," the statement said.

Members of the committee have held talks with Mir, who "disowned the voice (said to be his) and termed the audiotape fabricated," the statement added.

Mir said he would cooperate in the investigation so that the truth is unearthed. He claimed that some people wanted to ostracise him from the profession and they were defaming him as part of a conspiracy.

However, several TV news channels quoted sources as saying that three intelligence agencies had confirmed the authenticity of the recording after a detailed investigation.

The sources said the intelligence agencies, including the ISI, had submitted a report on the matter to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

"The conversation between Hamid Mir and the Taliban militant is original and has been proved by the audiotape," the TV channels quoted the report as saying.

Senator Faisal Raza Abidi of the ruling Pakistan People's Party confirmed that the government had verified the authenticity of the voices on the tape through intelligence agencies.

He said the recording "proved Hamid Mir's links with the Taliban."

The Daily Times newspaper, which first reported about the tape, has said that information passed on by Mir to the Taliban could have led to the execution of former ISI official Khalid Khwaja.

Khwaja's son Osama Khalid has said that he will take legal action and register an FIR against Mir for "playing an instigative role in his father's murder."

Talking to BBC Urdu, Khalid said the unidentified Taliban operative in the recording was Usman Punjabi who used the alias of Muhammad Omar while talking to journalists.

Khalid rejected Mir's claims that the recording was doctored, saying the tape was original and he would prove it in court.

He demanded a judicial inquiry into the matter and asked journalists to kick 'black sheep' out of the profession.   

Meanwhile, Daily Times editor Rashed Rahman said legal action must be initiated against Mir after the ISI and government confirmed the authenticity of the taped conversation.

"The Daily Times initiated self-accountability in the media by publishing a transcript of the taped conversation between Mir and an unidentified Taliban militant," he said, adding that several people had contacted his media group with evidence against Mir.

Rezaul H Laskar In Islamabad
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