Documentary on Pearl’s murder released
By Khalid Hasan, October 8, 2006


WASHINGTON: ‘The Journalist and the Jihahdi’, a powerful documentary film on the murder of Daniel Pearl and the role played in it by Omar Sheikh, a Briton of Pakistani extraction, was screened here to an invited audience at the French embassy on Thursday.


Omar Sheikh has been in a Pakistani jail awaiting the outcome of his appeal against his death sentence for murdering the American journalist.


The 90-minute film, shot in Pakistan and elsewhere, has been jointly directed and produced by Ahmed A Jamal from Pakistan and Ramesh Sharma from India, both of whom live in England. Jamal has received numerous awards for his films, including ‘Who Will Throw the First Stone’, ‘The Beach Boys of Sri Lanka’ and ‘The Dancing Girls of Lahore and Iran — the Other Story’.


Sharma has also won several awards and his work includes documentaries such as ‘Afghanistan — the Taliban Years and Beyond’ and ‘A Faith in Exile — Afghanistan’.


The Journalist and the Jihadi will be screened on the US TV channel HBO next week. It is narrated by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.


Sharma said, “The story of Daniel Pearl and Omar Sheikh is as much the story of our times as it is the story for all times. It is as much about a clash of two ideologies as it is about two passionate individuals with disparate views of the world.” The documentary explores forces that led to the tragedy through words of Pearl’s family, friends and colleagues, as well as FBI agents and State Department employees involved in negotiations for Pearl’s release, plus those who knew Sheikh well, including former schoolmates.


Those interviewed include French maverick writer and “philosopher” Bernard-Henri Levy, Pakistani police official Khalid Khawaja, a shadowy figure with links to radical organizations, the late Maulana Shamsi of the Binori Mosque in Karachi, Daniel Pearl’s father Judea Pearl, his mother, his wife Marianne, his Wall Street Journal colleague and friend Asra Nomani and several others.


Pearl, who was appointed the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia correspondent, moved to Karachi a day after 9/11 to focus on Al Qaeda, and the financing and organization of the terror network. Director Jamal, asked about his motivation for making the film, said, “Personally, I was attracted to the story way back when Omar Sheikh was picked up in India. He was not an illiterate jihadi whose mind had been captured by the Mullahs. He was a very bright, Oxford-material boy, overturning the notion that education is the solution to problems of terrorism. In his case, he was a formidable terrorist precisely because he was so well-educated.”


According to the moviemakers, the lives of Pearl and Sheikh converged in Pakistan in late 2001 and early 2002. Pearl was on the trail of Islamic “spiritual” leader Sheikh Gillani, who he believed was involved in the financing al of Al Qaeda. Pearl was introduced to Omar Sheikh, who promised to get him the interview with Gillani, but that was a trap. Pearl went to a Karachi tea place to meet his contact, from where he was kidnapped. His wife Marianne was pregnant at the time and gave birth to a son several months after her husband’s murder. Although Omar Sheikh has been convicted of Pearl’s murder, it is now believed that it was Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Al Qaeda’s No 3, who murdered Pearl. The American journalist, who was a Jew and was proud of it, was beheaded and his body was cut into 10 pieces and buried at the place where he was murdered in a Karachi suburb.


Omar Sheikh’s trial, along with that of three accomplices, began in June 2002. The hearing of his appeal against his hanging has been postponed as many as 33 times. Some believe that this has been done because it is feared that he might reveal information implicating a certain Pakistani agency.