Renowned Capital Talk anchorman Hamid Mir is being rightly or wrongly accused of link to Khalid Khawaja’s murder at the hands of those who wanted the ex-ISI operative dead. The “Asian Tigers” claimed his murder. Critics say the new militant outfit are the Punjabi Taliban – a derivative of the Pakistani Taliban who in turn draw inspiration from the Afghan Taliban.

The leaked audio tape on Hamid Mir purportedly reveals phone conversation between the popular anchorman of Geo TV and a Taliban spokesman about Khalid Khawaja who was taken hostage in March.

Last month Khawaja’s bullet-pocked body was found on a roadside in Waziristan with a warning note to other “American spies”.

Hamid Mir has issued a strenuous denial saying the tape had been fabricated by his enemies in government to destroy his reputation and silence him.

“I never said these things to these people. This is a concocted tape,” he told British newspaper the Guardian. “They took my voice, sampled it and manufactured this conspiracy against me.”



But several senior journalists told Guardian the tape sounded authentic and one called on the government to investigate further. “There are serious allegations to be answered,” said Rashed Rahman, editor of the English-language Daily Times newspaper. “If this tape turns out to be genuine, it suggests a journalist instigated the murder of a kidnapee. A line must be drawn somewhere.”

The Taliban added to the controversy by issuing a statement that denied the tape was real but, confusingly, threatened the state telephone company for having taped the conversation.

Khawaja, a retired squadron leader with the Pakistan Air Force, and chief co-ordinator of a human rights group demanding recovery of all missing Pakistanis, travelled to the tribal belt in March with Sultan Amir Tarar aka Col Imam, another former ISI agent, and Asad Qureshi, a documentary filmmaker. Khawaja had promised the journalist an interview with Hakimullah Mehsud, the Taliban leader who was almost killed in a CIA drone strike in northwestern Pakistan in January, the Guardian reported.

However, the three men were kidnapped, and the Taliban demanded money and prisoners in return for their freedom.

On 24 April the Taliban issued a video showing a strained-looking Khawaja admitting to having worked for the CIA and betrayed the Red Mosque clerics.

A week later, after his execution, Hamid Mir wrote a detailed account of Khawaja’s life. He recycled the allegations against the former ISI agent, attributing them to militant sources, the article said. Hamid Mir has vowed to take his critics to court, saying the recording had been doctored by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), a security agency that has been frequently attacked by the Taliban.

But he said the slurs had been politically orchestrated by the Punjab governor, Salman Taseer, and Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, who, he said, had released the tape on a blog.

“This blog has a personal grudge against me and it is being operated from Washington by our ambassador, Husain Haqqani,” he said.

Haqqani said: “We do not dignify conspiracy theories with comment.” He denied any role in the tape recording.

“For too long we have protected our own,” said Rahman, Editor of the Daily Times. “Now we have to speak out.”

Hamid Mir has said he is instituting legal proceedings against the Daily Times.