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Mariane Pearl

March 18, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: Mariane Pearl, widow of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and then murdered by terrorists in Pakistan. She’s now in the United States on her way to Paris for the birth of her first child, a son, in May. Mariane Pearl is a 34-year-old freelance journalist. She and Daniel Pearl were married in 1999. They had been living in Bombay, India, where he was the Journal’s South Asia bureau chief at the time they went to Karachi, Pakistan, to cover aspects of the war on terrorism. I spoke with Mariane Pearl this morning at her Washington hotel.

JIM LEHRER: Mariane Pearl Welcome.

MARIANE PEARL: Thank you

JIM LEHRER: As you know there was another act of terrorism in Pakistan involving some Americans — somebody threw a grenade in a church — two Americans, three others killed, forty more wounded – should this just be seen as another episode in the war on terrorism?

MARIANE PEARL: Most likely. I don’t have the details as to what happened – but apparently it was an act committed against foreigners. It’s happened right in an area of Islamabad that is called, is known as Islamabad diplomatic enclave – a well-protected area where all the embassies are, so I don’t have the details of the investigation but -yes.

JIM LEHRER: This is part of – this is what it was going to be for a while – do you agree with that – in other words, the death of your husband, the kidnapping and death of your husband, the episode yesterday, this is something we’re just going to have to get used to?

MARIANE PEARL: My feeling is, yes. I think – my feeling is that the killing of Danny was not an isolated act but part of a longer process with, you know – different acts of terrorism, which goal is to paralyze us, to prevent any kind of collaboration between Pakistan and maybe other countries we don’t know and the West basically. So I don’t know if getting used to it is the right, the proper word, but we’re going to have to stand up against it.

JIM LEHRER: Have you come to understand why your husband was singled out for kidnapping and killing?

MARIANE PEARL: Understand. Well, as I said, you know, a lot of people, usually when you kidnap someone, you try to exchange him for somebody else or you try to get a ransom. My feeling is that the killing of Danny was more of a declaration of war basically. If you see the e-mails that have been sent to us are very murky – they’re not asking something specific to release Danny but saying this is a warning, this is the beginning of a war against the West. America they call it – so it is not – it’s not a killing that makes any sense.

JIM LEHRER: You think he was chosen just because he was an American, an American journalist?

MARIANE PEARL: I think so. It’s difficult to say right now because he is an American journalist but also a person writing about those issues, terrorism, like most journalists were doing at the time. It was a big story. So it’s not clear. I don’t know yet whether it was because of the story he was writing because one of the stories he wrote just before getting kidnapped was about how the crackdown on terrorists was maybe not as completed as the government was saying it was. So that might have angered people. I do believe that he was chosen as a symbol of journalists getting into the country and reporting, American, and just the West, you know.

JIM LEHRER: Are you satisfied with the progress that’s being made by the Pakistani government in finding who’s responsible and punishing them?

MARIANE PEARL: I’ll be satisfied when they have everybody arrested and punished and justice is done only. The Pakistani police I have to say have been amazing. They’re very resourceful in terms of, policing the investigation, they’re very, very good policemen, but they have very little resources. And the truth of the matter is that when they started trying to find Danny, the first day of his kidnapping, the next day of his kidnapping, we had to provide them with a printer to – you know – scan the photos of Danny and provide them with flashlights, and there was only one car. You had to push you know for the car to start – it had one light – you know. It was just amazing.

So the lack of resources was something scary – very scary especially when you have to face tech savvy people who have means and technology. They were terrorists that are educated and know how to handle technology. The police in front of them and I think that’s the case probably also in this church bombing and anything else is going to happen is, you know, a handful of very courageous, very capable policemen but had nothing in terms of tools.

JIM LEHRER: What can the United States do to help them? What more can be done?

MARIANE PEARL: A lot.

JIM LEHRER: A lot

MARIANE PEARL: A lot. But I’ve met with President Bush here in Washington and I’ve met with Ms. Rice, Condoleezza Rice, and with Colin Powell and we’ve talked about that. Because the first thing that I really wanted to do after, not even leaving Pakistan because I also met with President Musharraf, is tell the world you know these people, these handful of people I was telling you about is fighting the war on behalf of all of us, because this is, you know, I think an international war – international network of terrorists – with nothing. So I did that.

JIM LEHRER: When you left Pakistan, did you have the feeling that it was still that way? I mean, they had, as you say, they couldn’t find your husband after he was kidnapped, still haven’t found his body, and they apparently haven’t even found enough evidence to even hold up a conviction of some kind. Is that not changed?

MARIANE PEARL: It’s changed a little, but it’s a complicated setting. First of all, because of Pakistan, itself. Karachi is a very huge city of 14 million people, it’s a poor city of 12 million people. It’s very easy to hide in Karachi. So it’s also the nature of the country and its politics complicated, I think. President Musharraf has made me a promise and I hold him to his promise to find the real people and not to be -

JIM LEHRER: He said that to you directly?

MARIANE PEARL: He said that to me directly and he wrote me a letter that I keep very preciously with and very strong commitment to find the people. But to answer your question, there’s also a big obstacle that he faces inside his own country. The setting in Pakistan of justice and law enforcement is more complicated that you would find in the United States. In terms of different agencies and Pakistani intelligence – I’m not clear the role they played in the kidnapping of Danny. You were mentioning the main suspect. This main suspect stayed for one week with the Pakistani intelligence right in the middle of the investigation – I don’t know exactly why. So I raised those questions with President Musharraf.

JIM LEHRER: What did he tell you?

MARIANE PEARL: He acknowledged them. He was very sincere in committing to find Danny, but he also acknowledged that his own political surrounding is complicated.

JIM LEHRER: As you know, the United States has indicted this man, make sure I have his name right here -Ahmed Omar Said Sheikh – the leading suspect. Is that a good idea, for the United States to indict him in criminal court as they have done?

MARIANE PEARL: Indicting him, you mean, like extradite?

JIM LEHRER: Yes. Just to charge him first, make an official charge against him.

MARIANE PEARL: Oh, yeah, that was crucial. That was very, very crucial. The United States has been great, you know, and has reacted very fast. It’s very important that they actually indict him because it allows, you know justice to proceed. Also, the main question is that maybe should he be transferred to the United States, and I’ve raised this question also with President Bush, and there are two aspects to it. You know, one, I think, you know, it’s important psychologically for Pakistan to do its own justice. And it’s going to be, it’s going to lead to trouble. We’ve talked about the church. Probably everything is related – you know, and it’s going to take a lot of courage for them to actually bring this man to justice, but it’s important, because then it’s not the United States leading everything and being you know le gendarme du monde, like the cop of the world, as we say in French, you know.

JIM LEHRER: The cop of the world.

MARIANE PEARL: But helping other people bring their own justice; that’s what we really need. The other thing is I think Mr. Omar Sheikh knows a lot about all these networks of terrorists, and he would be a valuable witness also.

JIM LEHRER: Attorney General Ashcroft, have you talked to him?

MARIANE PEARL: Yes, I’ve talked to him.

JIM LEHRER: Well he said, one of the reasons the United States brought charges against this man was that in case down the line he was free that the United States would have the power to arrest him and bring him to justice. Do you agree with that as a strategy for doing this?

MARIANE PEARL: Yes, absolutely. That’s the best thing we could do. You know, I think it’s really great because they give the chance to Pakistan to implement justice, you know, and then it becomes a strong country in that sense right, but if these obstacles, you know, inner obstacles inside the country would lead, and we don’t know what’s going to happen, you know, we don’t know what kind of resistance Omar Sheikh and his people – will – you know – we don’t know – terrorist acts that will happen as a result of his indictment – we don’t know.

JIM LEHRER: The fact that the U.S. crime that this man is charged with carries the death penalty, does that matter to you at all? If he were tried in the United States and if he were convicted, he could be sentenced to death, does that matter to you?

MARIANE PEARL: The fact that he dies?

JIM LEHRER: No. The fact that he could get the death penalty, maybe not in Pakistan, but he could if he were tried here, does that kind of thing matter to you at all?

MARIANE PEARL: I think in Pakistan also.

JIM LEHRER: In Pakistan -

MARIANE PEARL: I think in Pakistan also. The fact that he dies – I would certainly not cry over his death because I think this guy is a nuisance for humanity basically.

JIM LEHRER: I’m sorry a what.

MARIANE PEARL: Nuisance for humanity.

JIM LEHRER: Nuisance.

MARIANE PEARL: Now what I thought when I was in Pakistan like right after knowing about what happened to Danny, I thought like would I want to see them all dead – probably. I don’t know – but that would not be what I ultimately want. Ultimately, I think, because you know the first question you asked me was “do we have to get use to that” and I think you have to stand up against that. So what ultimately what would help me live through that ordeal, is if I see people standing up against terrorists means not being hijacked by fear, by, you know, being paralyzed by all they did and by actions, more than seeing a few corpses, because then there’s more.

JIM LEHRER: And that is basically your message to the American people who are upset about what happened on September 11, what happened to your husband, that’s the message, don’t give up?

MARIANE PEARL: Yes. You know, because the first thing I wanted to do was to speak to President Musharraf and I saw President Chirac in France, and President Bush and other people as I’ve mentioned before, because if we don’t win against terrorism, it’s a law enforcement problem and communication, dialogue need. It is a political question also, but ultimately I think it’s going to be, something new has to happen, like people have to stand up against, you know, those terrorists. Ultimately we are the victims. For the first time, look at this church, I mean the woman who died and the little girl – they targeted –

JIM LEHRER: The woman who worked in the U.S. embassy, in Islamabad, and her daughter who were sitting in a church.

MARIANE PEARL: Yes. Exactly. And they died – you know – so ordinary people, that’s who they’re targeting, so I think ultimately down the line though we cannot do the work of police and you know, of head of state. Ultimately we are the target, so we have to come up with a response. I think the American people have been really courageous and have been really helpful to me – they’re great people. In a way this has to make – strengthen our determination to fight. That’s not patriotism. It’s something beyond that I think you know it takes a lot of courage to be nonviolent you know or to seek dialogue instead of revenge, you know. I’m trying to come up with this courage myself. But not because I’m a saint or anything like that – it’s just because I would like ultimately to win against them – you know.

JIM LEHRER: And it can’t be done just with guns, you’re saying, it can’t be just a military? There’s more to it than that.

MARIANE PEARL: Because ultimately – what happens is violence brings more violence. And these people who have killed Danny you know they breed out of this violence – they use ignorance. How can you come up and kill an innocent man because he was an American and try – and that was the only explanation and that means in Pakistan it’s enough to say America is the enemy to justify killing an innocent person. That shows you the level of ignorance. People don’t know – don’t know what is an American. It’s so easy. We have to fight this ignorance.

JIM LEHRER: Your husband of course was a journalist and you’re a journalist. Were the two of you, did you ever think of journalism as being a dangerous profession, as a place where your life would be in jeopardy by just practicing it?

MARIANE PEARL: Yes. Yes, because we moved to Bombay. Bombay is not a dangerous place as such, but it’s a difficult place to live – so we made a choice. We made a choice. Danny and I had this strong bond because we were very serious about our journalism profession. We didn’t choose this profession as any other. We didn’t choose it for ego purposes but we chose it because we wanted to change the world. It seems like a big word; it is big words, you know, it is big words, but in our own way we took it very seriously, you know, we did – and Danny – everybody admires him as a journalist. He’s a very ethical person, and you know, when I say changing the world, we would put ourselves in uncomfortable positions and situations just because we wanted to see the truth, which was for Danny an ultimate value in itself, and when he did – when he went to see these guys – terrorists – we’ve met a lot of them before in Pakistan, and they just came simply at them – because we just have this thing what do you have to say and how do you justify your actions and who are you.

That’s all we did, so in that sense we knew. He was not a cowboy you know. Danny is not a cowboy or Rambo. We didn’t go with a Afghanistan, for instance, because I was pregnant. But at the same time I think we took it on us not to be – not to be swayed by the threat – we did not want to be afraid. We don’t want to be afraid I think. We were careful. We very careful but I was never afraid

JIM LEHRER: Do we journalists do a good job of explaining what our jobs are? In other words, your husband was clearly signaled out because he was an American and a symbol of America. Now most journalists would say, hey wait a minute, we just happen to be Americans, but we’re there to cover the news. Do we do that well, do we explain ourselves well?

MARIANE PEARL: I think there’s a lot of improvement, you know, I do. Journalists in my view are becoming such important people because who else is going to the field and explaining building those bridges between people? Not everybody can go to Pakistan and see it with their own eyes. So they’re going to rely on the press. So it’s a lot of power to be a journalist today, so a lot of power means a lot of responsibility, and I think journalists have to acknowledge that they have power and that they should be the representatives of the people and not of -

JIM LEHRER: Not of the government though?

MARIANE PEARL: Not of the government. Not of an idea. I mean, if they’re ideological, then they should say, I’m going to report that with my right wing views or left wing views or whatever but then they should stay because opinion is so important and everything they have in education mission. People are smart enough to recognize the truth but if you mislead with information because you’re in competition with somebody else or because you have an ego problem, or because this and that. Then, you know, it makes me sad because I think you know the consequences are bad are difficult.

JIM LEHRER: And the dangers involved are just part of the job, right?

MARIANE PEARL: Yeah. What can I say about that. You know, Danny was in a way – you know, he didn’t think people would harm a journalist and I didn’t think either. Because all we do is have the courage to go and try to reflect views, so I think – we’ve crossed , there’s an expression that there’s a step that has been crossed – like something that you didn’t think would happen, that they wouldn’t harm somebody which has come to them – but they did, so the safety issue, it’s a delicate one. I certainly don’t want anybody to get harmed again, but again that’s also what they want to scare us again so they we don’t go again.

JIM LEHRER: Do you plan to return to journalism yourself?

MARIANE PEARL: To Pakistan.

JIM LEHRER: Not to Pakistan.

MARIANE PEARL: Pakistan I will.

JIM LEHRER: You will go back to Pakistan?

MARIANE PEARL: Yes, of course, yes, I will.

JIM LEHRER: Why? Why would you go back?

MARIANE PEARL: I’d go back because the same way I didn’t leave right away Pakistan after I learned about Danny’s death. The same way I would not be afraid to return and Pakistan has invited me as a long friend of the country and has given me a long-term visa to go back because I’m not afraid. I mean, I would not say I would never go back to this country, it’s evil, would be exactly what these people want. And I won’t submit to that.

JIM LEHRER: The baby’s due in May.

MARIANE PEARL: Yes.

JIM LEHRER: Where’s the baby going to be born?

MARIANE PEARL: In Paris.

JIM LEHRER: In Paris.

MARIANE PEARL: Yes.

JIM LEHRER: And then you will eventually go from there back to Pakistan, you believe?

MARIANE PEARL: Well, it depends on the course of events.

JIM LEHRER: Sure. But you see yourself as a journalist, you are a journalist?

MARIANE PEARL: Yes.

JIM LEHRER: And you will always practice journalism?

MARIANE PEARL: Yes.

JIM LEHRER: And the death of your husband doesn’t change anything as far as that is concerned for you?

MARIANE PEARL: As far as that is concerned its going to give me more strength and determination to do my job.

JIM LEHRER: My condolences to you. Thank you very much and good luck to you.

MARIANE PEARL: Thanks a lot.