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Missing Reporter Daniel Pearl

Two regional experts discuss the apparent kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

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  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Last Wednesday in Karachi, an American journalist was headed for this restaurant when he disappeared. Daniel Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia Bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was scheduled to meet a local source for an article on Richard Reid, the alleged "shoe bomber."

    Then, over the weekend, these photos of Pearl were released to news organizations by a previously unknown group called the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. The group charged that Pearl was a CIA Agent. The message complained about the American government's treatment of Pakistanis captured in the Afghan war, and now held in Cuba.

    The group said in its e-mail it was holding Pearl "in very inhumane circumstances. "If the Americans keep our countrymen in better conditions, we will better the conditions of Mr. Pearl and all the other Americans that we capture."

    Yesterday, in an unusual step, the CIA publicly denied that Pearl ever worked there. Dow Jones, the Journal's parent company, and the State Department have issued similar denials.

  • RICHARD BOUCHER, State Department Spokesman:

    We want to reiterate our view that he should be released immediately and unconditionally. He is a respected journalist, and he has no connection with the United States government.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    The Pearl case has been raised at the highest levels. On Monday, Secretary of State Colin Powell urged Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to do everything possible to win the reporter's release. Investigators in Karachi suspect Pearl was kidnapped by the militant group Harakat ul-Mujahedeen. It has kidnapped foreigners in the past, and is linked to the al-Qaida network.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    For more on the kidnapping, we go to Nafisa Hoodbhoy, who from 1984 to 2000 was a reporter for Pakistan's leading newspaper, Dawn, based in Karachi. She is an informal consultant to the Committee to Protect Journalists. And to Mansoor Ijaz, an investment banker and frequent op-ed columnist for international publications. His parents emigrated to the United States in 1960 from Pakistan shortly before he was born.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Welcome to you both. Mansoor Ijaz, you've been in touch, I understand, with Daniel Pearl, and even provided him with some contacts for sources among militant Islamic groups in Pakistan. Tell us about that.

  • MANSOOR IJAZ, Investment Banker:

    Shortly after the tragic events of September 11, Mr. Pearl called me from Bombay and said he had been made aware that I had some contacts with some of the either former associates of Osama bin Laden or some of the more radical Islamic groups in Pakistan, which I did from other things that I had done in that region. And he wanted to know whether or not I would be willing to introduce him to them.

    And I spent about an hour with him in that first telephone call essentially trying to understand what story he wanted to pursue to make sure I wasn't unnecessarily putting him in harm's way, because these are not people who understand mistakes very well. And I was absolutely convinced of his integrity, his honesty, his approach, and I made those contacts available to him.

    And one of those contacts was the one who sent me an e-mail message last Friday morning, very early in the morning, essentially saying that Daniel was missing for the last 48 hours, was I aware of it, and what needed to be done. And that's when I started to proceed to get involved in this process.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    And from these contacts that you had with him, did you have any sense of where he was going when he disappeared?

  • MANSOOR IJAZ:

    Well, I certainly can't say I've been in touch with him since the beginning of the year. I think the last conversation we had was just before Christmas, in which he was essentially iterating his story and he was definitely on to some very important and very sensitive items in that part of world. It's a very complex set of problems that he was trying to unravel and untangle. But I thought he was doing a pretty good job of it, and encouraged him while I got the chance.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    And he was trying to portray the groups and what they are up to and who they are, and their relationship, we understand, with Richard Reid.

  • MANSOOR IJAZ:

    Yes, I think in this particular case he essentially came to a point where he was trying to understand where Richard Reid had gotten his basis in Islamic radicalism. And that brought him into contact with people, one of whom was a man by the name of Sheik Mubarak ali Gilani, who we have been watching here in the United States for a number of years. He started a mosque in Brooklyn back in 1986, and this man is known to be one of the most viral radical Islamists anywhere in the world. And apparently, Richard Reid was one of his disciples, and I think that's the cornerstone that Daniel was working on when he went into this thing. And I think he may have uncovered the tip of an iceberg that may yet have many deep ramifications.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Nafisa Hoodbhoy, tell us a little about Karachi for an environment for journalists to work in. I gather you have been a target yourself?

  • NAFISA HOODBHOY, Pakistani Journalist:

    Well, Karachi has been really a very dangerous place for journalists, and kidnappings for ransom were quite common in the 80s and the 90s; they came to an end when the army stepped in in 1992. So it is rather remarkable that this sort of environment should exist today when there is a military government in power.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Is there anything that you've read that leads you, about this kidnapping, that you draw any conclusions from, anything about who might have done it or what the circumstances might be?

  • NAFISA HOODBHOY:

    I suspect it would be the Islamic militant groups. You know, a number of groups have been wiped out by the U.S. bombing in Afghanistan, and many of these groups have taken shelter inside Pakistan. I suspect that Daniel was probably looked at as a westerner. They say he was a CIA agent, and so really these militants are getting back at the U.S. for what the U.S. has done in Afghanistan.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Mansoor Ijaz, do you have any sense of this group that has claimed responsibility? Do you know of it? Do you know anything about them?

  • MANSOOR IJAZ:

    Yes, Harakat ul-Mujahedeen is first of all the name, technical name, though the group that claimed responsibility is sort of irrelevant. These guys spin new names almost every day. But the Harakat ul-Mujahedeen group is essentially a Kashmiri militant organization, a more viral strain. It has been Arabized by al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden's training and fighters.

    These are very, very dangerous people. They will not hesitate for a moment to kidnap people or even kill them if they thought they could get something out of it. The key thing we have to keep in mind is that Daniel didn't just represent a reporter who may have uncovered the tip of the iceberg, as they put it. He was also the symbol of American power, because he worked for one of the most important and well-respected journalistic organizations anywhere in the world.

    And the second thing that we have to keep in mind, is that this all happened in terms of timing just in advance of President Pervez Musharraf's visit to the United States. And if this thing rages on for the next two weeks, it all of a sudden takes the entire spotlight away from the real work that needs to be done during the working visit coming up.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Nafisa Hoodbhoy, the demands made by the kidnappers are interesting. They specify they wanted the release of some 177 Pakistanis detained in the United States, the repatriation of the Pakistanis at Guantanamo Bay, and also the delivery of F-16s promised to Pakistan a decade ago, an issue that was supposedly resolved legally by the Clinton administration. What do those demands tell you about the kidnappers?

  • NAFISA HOODBHOY:

    Well, it seems that these kidnappers are trying to represent themselves as nationalist groups. They call themselves the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. This is a group no one has really heard about.

    I suspect that it's just a term that they have taken on, that these are really Islamic fundamentalist groups who have a different agenda.

    And I suspect that the demand for the release of the Pakistanis who were rounded up, that is very different from the demand for those who have been held in Guantanamo Bay, because the latter were, of course, confirmed terrorists. And the former, who had been rounded up in New York, et cetera, are really economic refugees. They are people who came to the U.S. to earn a living. So it's kind of ridiculous to lump the two together.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Mansoor Ijaz, I wonder what you think those terms and the fact that at least to this hour, there has been no demand for ransom money or anything of the kind.

  • MANSOOR IJAZ:

    And there won't be. Ms. Hoodbhoy is right about one thing: These are essentially nationalist people trying to portray themselves as the ultimate defenders of Pakistan's faith. Let's not forget that one of the motivations of this entire kidnapping episode has been to try and embarrass the government, and this is exactly what is in al-Qaida's interest, for Osama bin Laden to be thought of as being on Pakistani soil for something to happen that would embarrass the relationship between the United States and Pakistan.

    These are all objectives of whatever is left of the al-Qaida network over there. And more importantly, if the tip of the iceberg is the one that I've been working on the last five or six months myself, we may in fact be on the verge of uncovering the sleeper cells here in the United States, because the organization that Shaik Mubarak — who Mr. Pearl was trying to interview — Shaik Mubarak was the leader of an organization here that African-Americans went to Pakistan. They trained there militarily. They got their religious indoctrination there and then they came back.

    In fact, people don't know this, but Sheik Mubarak is married. He has four wives, and two of them are African-Americans. So I think we have to keep very clearly in mind that Mr. Pearl not only represented American power because of The Wall Street Journal, but he also may have uncovered something that may be much, much more important for us to pay attention to.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Perhaps that will come clear in the coming days. Thank you both for helping us tonight.

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