Remembering Daniel PearlEditorial Team
Somewhere in late January or early February, the world lost a brave soul, leaving behind not only a loving family including an expectant widow, but a vast community of journalists and media personnel who work across the globe. Newsmen and women are just trying to report news as they see it, or hear it. Without them, the world would not be able to read its newspapers, listen to radio news or watch tv evening news. It would be an empty world, a deprived world.
It is the combined mass of efforts of journalists, and their analyses that sift the truth from the many layers of untruths, that provide the world information that it can act upon. Unfortunately they have to cross many boundaries, both literally and figuratively, in this search for truth. And that is what puts them in danger. In todayís world, falling prey to religious terrorists seems to be the most common threat to the safety of journalists around the world. And nowhere in the world is this more apparent than in that unnamed center of the evil axis, Pakistan.
On February 8th, Ali Ahmed Rind of the LA Weekly, wrote about journalists that were threatened and forced to leave when they got too close to Pakistani doings in Afghanistan. According to him, "the message was clear to foreign journalists pouring into Pakistan Ö stay away from matters sensitive to Pakistan". There is indeed a mountain of skeletons in Pakistan, a mountain that had not been disturbed much until September 11, 2001. It was not particularly disturbed even after the December 13 attack on Indiaís Parliament. And much of that mountain remains unexplored today, March 1, 2002, weeks after Daniel Pearl passed away.
There were certainly a few skeletons that did come tumbling out in the last few months, prompted by September 11 and December 13, despite Pakistani efforts to cover them up. The world learnt that Pakistan had been the primary supporter of the Taliban, and had maintained close contacts with the Al Qaida. The world learnt that Pakistanís ISI had supported terrorists in Indiaís Jammu and Kashmir. Many skeletons, however, stayed in that mountainous closet. Daniel Pearl was looking into some of these skeletons, and uncovering part of the mountain. He went looking for Pakistani connections to shoe bomber Richard Reid, and found much more. He found Jaish-e-Mohammed offices functioning and their bank accounts active, despite Pakistani dictator Musharrafís much-vaunted January 12 speech. It is very likely he discovered the links between the ISI and the still-very-active jehadi groups in Pakistan. By meeting Sheikh Omar, he was getting real deep into that mountain. Sheikh Omar is Pakistanís ugly link to September 11. Omar is suspected of wiring funds to Mohammed Atta, leader of the WTC hijackers, at the behest of then ISI chief Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmed.
We donít know how far up the Pakistani military leadership ladder those links traveled. Pearl ignored the unwritten rule in Pakistan, as did a Pakistani journalist, Ghulam Hasnain, who had reported on how Dawood Ibrahim was living a life of luxury in Karachi, in December 2001. Ibrahim is a fugitive who has been hosted and supported by the ISI in carrying out terrorist acts in India. When India asked for Ibrahimís extradition, Musharraf, with his perpetually straight face, claimed that he had left Pakistan. The Pakistani journalist disappeared for a few days after his article was published. When he returned he was a changed man, and offered to retract his article. He had obviously spent quality time with the ISI. In May 1999, Eduard Babazade, a Russian journalist died mysteriously in Islamabad after interviewing an ISI agent with Bin Laden connections. Najam Sethi, editor of the Friday Times, was harassed and roughed up for reporting on Pakistanís Islamic extremist connections.
Pakistani prevarication over the investigation and search during the past few weeks is a sign of the abyss that country stands upon. Pakistan did not reveal that Sheikh Omar had been under arrest for a week. The announcement was only made on the eve of the Bush-Musharraf meeting on February 12th, in which Musharraf needed some positive news to back his demands for financial, military and political aid. Musharraf, again with a straight face, told the world that he was confident that Pearl was alive. He even tried to point the finger at everyone but the ISI.
Daniel Pearl had clearly gotten too deep into that mountain of ISI skeletons in his quest for the truth. The brave man did not stand a chance. And we all suffer the terrible pain his family and friends must feel after his untimely loss. May his soul rest in peace, and strength be with his family to make it through these sad times. And let us not withdraw from the quest for truth about that mountain of skeletons in Pakistanís closet. Thatís the least we can do to honor Daniel Pearl.