The South Asia Channel

Slander

In late August, a couple of weeks after a U.S. drone strike incinerated Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, the country’s most popular televised chat show, “Capital Talk,” hosted a panel to discuss national security. Among the guests was a squat, middle-aged woman with short black hair, streaked with silver dye, named Shireen Mazari. ...

FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images
FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images

In late August, a couple of weeks after a U.S. drone strike incinerated Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, the country’s most popular televised chat show, “Capital Talk,” hosted a panel to discuss national security. Among the guests was a squat, middle-aged woman with short black hair, streaked with silver dye, named Shireen Mazari. A defense analyst and public intellectual, Mazari is known for her hawkish nationalism–and deep suspicions of India and the United States. Her presence in the studio suggested that, despite the enormous threat her country faced from homegrown terrorists, the conversation that night wouldn’t center around Mehsud or the Pakistani Taliban.

Instead, over the course of the next half hour, the panel discussed reports that Blackwater, the North Carolina–based defense contractor that recently changed its name to Xe Services, was operating in Pakistan. Hamid Mir, the host of “Capital Talk,” showed video footage of Islamabad’s most expensive neighborhoods, featuring multi-story villas with high walls and satellite dishes. The homes looked like any other on the street. But red arrows, superimposed on the screen, pointed to allegedly incriminating electrical generators and surveillance cameras perched atop the walls. “American undercover people are coming,” Mazari said. “They are renting homes, and Blackwater is providing security, running death squads and assassination squads … It is an occupation, by default.”

Mazari’s hunt for American spies and undercover defense contractors was only getting started.

To read the rest, visit The New Republic, where this was originally published.

Nicholas Schmidle, a fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author of To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan.

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