The Taliban Just Tried to Assassinate Me
There’s a certain amount of irony when you’re accused of being pro-Taliban, only to find half a kilo of explosives under your car, which have been put there by the Taliban. But that situation is something that Hamid Mir, Pakistan’s most well-known TV presenter, has had to deal with recently.
Not only is the 46-year-old a national media celebrity, he’s also an expert in terrorism—a combination of interests that is pretty volatile in a country like Pakistan. He was the last journalist to interview Osama bin Laden before the al-Qaeda leader went underground in 2001. Two years ago, an audio tape purporting to contain aphone conversation between the journalist and a Taliban spokesman was leaked. The discussion about a former intelligence agent who was taken hostage and eventually executed sent shockwaves through the Pakistani media, but Mir strongly denies that the voice on the tape is his, claiming a set up.
Last month, he openly condemned the Taliban on Twitter for shooting the schoolgirl Malala Yousefzai in the head, and received a string of death threats in return—a silencing tactic becoming all-too familiar in Pakistan, where a recent report by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PFF) found that 35 journalists have been murdered for their work in the past ten years and countless others have been attacked, tortured, and kidnapped.
Last week, Mir found a remote-controlled bomb containing a battery, a detonator, and ball bearings strapped to the bottom of his car. It failed to detonate. The Taliban (Tehrik-i-Taleban Pakistan) promptly said they did it because Mir was targeting them with a “secular agenda”—and anyone “targeting the Taliban would be targeted with explosives.”
I spoke to him about why he’s not going anywhere any time soon.
VICE: Hey Hamid, why was there half a kilo of explosives under your car?
Hamid Mir: After the attack on Malala Yousafzai, I did some talkshows and wrote some columns about the people who attacked her. It was the Taliban that accepted the responsibility. They wrote a very long email to me, saying I am the enemy of Islam because I am supporting Malala.
That’s a big accusation. How did you react to that?
I responded back. I said, “I am not the enemy of Islam: You are not Muslims.”
And then what?
I’m writing a book, so I went to a photocopy shop in a market close to my home because I needed some photocopies of my columns published in the last five years. I spent some time in the shop and I asked my driver to come along with me to pick up some books in which my old columns were placed. He left the car unattended for about 15 minutes. That was the time it took for someone to put the bomb under my car.
They planted a bomb in my car, in the heart of Rana Market, Islamabad—the capital—in a very secure area. A lot of diplomats and foreigners shop in that market because security agencies have cleared it for them. It’s also a residential area where diplomats live. That’s the reason I went to that market, because I thought it was safe. But even there, they planted a bomb, so what can I do now?
What’s the book about?
It’s about the problems faced by the media in Pakistan, especially the targeted killing of some of my colleagues in the last four or five years. The title is not ready yet. We have lost more than 90 journalists in the past ten years. Some of them, at least four or five of them, were very close friends of mine.
How do you know the Taliban were behind this latest attack?
The Home Department in Pakistan informed me that the Taliban decided to attack me. Then my colleagues spoke directly to the Taliban spokesperson, Ensuallah Ehsan, and he told them, “We will try again. This time he is scared, but we will try again.”