Interview: Hamid Mir, The Last Man To Interview Bin Laden
May 02, 2011
Hamid Mir is a Pakistani journalist who first achieved global fame for his multiple interviews with Osama bin Laden. In December 2001 he was the last journalist to speak with bin Laden before the Al-Qaeda leader disappeared underground.
Today, Mir works as a news anchor at the private Pakistani TV network GEO, where he hosts a popular political talk show named Capital Talk. He spoke with RFE/RL's Muhammad Tahir.
RFE/RL: What does the killing of Osama bin Laden mean for the war on terror ?
Hamid Mir: I think that this news about the killing of Osama bin Laden is the biggest story of the year 2011. It was a great surprise for most of the Pakistanis that Osama bin Laden, the world's most-wanted person, was hiding in a city which is just 60 kilometers away from the Pakistani city of Islamabad.
RFE/RL: So what does this mean for the future of Al-Qaeda? Who is the most likely candidate to replace bin Laden?
Mir: I think most of the people are of the view that Dr. Ayman al-Zawahri is the No. 2 in Al-Qaeda. I don't think so. Mr. al-Zawahri is no more No. 2 in Al-Qaeda. According to my information, operations of Al-Qaeda was taken over by Saif-ul-Adil and Abu Hafsa al- Mauritani. These are the two important people in Al-Qaeda after the assassination of Osama bin Laden.
And I think that Osama bin Laden is dead, but Al-Qaeda and its allies are still not dead. Immediately after few hours of the killing of Osama bin Laden there was a big bomb blast in the Pakistani city of Charsada, which is in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Many people were killed.
Now I think that Al-Qaeda and Taliban will try to take revenge [on] Pakistan because they believe that the Pakistani security forces provided some cooperation to the Americans.
RFE/RL: From the outside, though, it really does look as though the Pakistanis didn't have advance knowledge of the operation and don't seem to have been involved in it. And then there is the simple fact that bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan. How is this going to affect Pakistani-U.S. relations?
Mir: According to my information, the Pakistani intelligence [service] provided and shared information about the possible presence of Osama bin Laden in that area first of all in May 2010 and again they provided that information to the Americans in August 2010. And I think that on the basis of that information the Americans were able to track down the hideout of Osama bin laden.
Yes, they [the United States] never provided prior information about this particular operation. They never informed the Pakistani security forces about this operation which was conducted this morning. But I have very confirmed and credible information that the Pakistani agencies shared the information with the Americans about bin Laden in August 2010 and that information actually helped [the] Americans to further find out the hideout of bin Laden.
RFE/RL: How will his killing affect Taliban activities in the region, particularly in Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan?
Mir: Certainly this is a big blow to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban because Osama bin Laden was not very active in the last couple of years. But certainly he was a symbol of resistance against America. So his physical elimination is certainly a big setback.
Yes, bin Laden is dead, but Al-Qaeda and its allies are not dead, and their biggest strength is the hatred against America in many parts of the world, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Now is the time that the Americans should give some serious consideration that the physical elimination is OK. They have eliminated bin Laden physically but now they must try to eliminate his political philosophy through some political actions.
RFE/RL: How is this going to affect the image of Pakistan? Pakistan's leaders always denied any knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts -- yet now we discover that he was living in an area close to sensitive military installations deep inside the country. Won't this confirm many suspicions that the Pakistani government has been playing a double game?
Mir: I think that it was the Pakistani intelligence which actually provided information to the Americans and these types of things cannot be discussed in [the] media. When the U.S. media was saying that he is hiding in Pakistan and at that time [the] Pakistani side was saying that "OK, if you have information then provide that information to us and we will take action." But there was some misunderstanding.
But right from the arrest of Abu Zubaydah and the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and from the arrest of Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, and now the elimination of bin Laden -- every target was achieved by the active help of Pakistanis and now the Americans should not doubt about the intentions of their Pakistani counterparts. If they were to improve further relations between Pakistan and America, they have to trust each other.
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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