Pearl was probing spy agencies' role
|By Abdullah Iqbal
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While U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl had in general told people, who came into
contact with him in the days prior to his abduction and murder, that he was
completing a story on shoe-bomb terrorist Richard Reid, there is now increased
evidence that he was also looking at far more sensitive matters.
Some of those who had spoken to Pearl during his stay in Karachi believe that
his main interest was in looking into the links between certain agencies in
Pakistan with religious militancy. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the
most powerful agency in the country, had also received Pearl's attention during
In fact, at least one journalist who met Pearl in Islamabad had advised him
to be "very careful" while pursuing his particular line of inquiry. Two other
journalists, approached to act as local resource persons for Pearl, had apparently
turned down the offer because "what Pearl wanted to get at was difficult to
obtain and touched in several very sensitive areas."
There are also sources who insist that General Pervez Musharraf was also aware,
though it is not certain at which stage, of the line of inquiry being followed
While some sources say Musharraf knew of this only after the abduction, others
say "intelligence reports" about the kind of questions Pearl was asking had
reached him before the sudden disappearance of the newsman.
It is also rumoured that Pearl was in fact especially interested in any role
played by the U.S. in training the ISI or backing it in any way, especially
during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
"Details of any U.S.-ISI cooperation would of course not be appreciated even
in Washington, especially regarding U.S. cooperation in promoting any kind of
Islamic militancy," stated a source close to the Pakistan foreign office.
It may be noted that Pearl was known in New York, where the newspaper he worked
for, The Wall Street Journal‚ is based, as a reporter willing to expose U.S.
involvement in matters of some embarrassment for the government in Washington.
One of his last major stories for instance had focussed on the fact that some
of the atrocities allegedly committed in Kosovo may have been "fabricated" with
Western forces aware of this, even as the international media was informed about
the war crimes carried out.
Other stories had also been in many cases equally radical. "Pearl was clearly
a determined kind of guy. He had some very interesting facts in his knowledge,
possibly provided by Indian intelligence and he was not willing to take hints‚
suggesting that he proceed with caution," said one officer who works with a
premier intelligence agency.
It is now believed that such hints had been delivered to Pearl through local
journalists, who are usually well-aware of the need to steer clear of dangerous
territory. Indeed, it is also thought that Pearl rented a house in Karachi rather
than putting up at a hotel, because he wanted "complete privacy" while meeting
The question of precisely what story Pearl was looking into have drawn more
attention after the events that followed.
It is also rumoured that Pearl's wife provided some details to the U.S. Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI), but was not aware of the whole picture. Whether
this entire picture will ever emerge is a question that remains open, with the
investigation into Pearl's death having apparently reached what seems like a
near total dead-end‚ and work on the matter "slowing down" according to police
officials involved in the case.