Wishful Journalism (part 1): The End of the Zardari Government

Mar 9th, 2010 | By | Category: Uncategorized

This is the first post in a series on ‘Wishful Journalism’ – an unfortunate practice that seems to be taking place more than actual reporting in some parts of the media.

There is a difference between wishing for something and reporting something. Unfortunately, this is too often lost on our journalists who prefer to actual reporting to only say something that they wish would come true even if it is not based in any facts. This is not journalism. It is only wishing.

From the day of his election as President, Shaheen Sehbai has been predicting the failure of President Zardari. A few months later, Sehbai continued his wishful thinking:

My considered opinion is that the present Zardari-led set-up will not last long as it has been structured on a wrong and distorted political premise as result of which the key players who have emerged as main power wielders were never in the picture, neither of Benazir Bhutto’s PPP, which actually got the votes and won the seats in the February 18 elections, nor anyone else. And these new players have failed to establish their political legitimacy and moral authority through their actions after coming to power.

Seven months later, Zardari was still in office. It seems the key players had more political legitimacy than perhaps Mr. Sehbai had hoped. Rather than admit his mistake, however, Mr. Sehbai simply wished harder.

The PPP and its Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani have now started talking in exceptionally confident and aggressive terms, the latest statement made to Geo TV’s Hamid Mir stating categorically that he was ready to create history – which in other words suggests that he was about to stage a political and moral coup against his own party co-chairperson, Mr Zardari, because his government had turned into a joke and Mr Zardari, exercising all the powers, had failed to come up with any successful initiative or policy.

Again, several months pass and, despite all of Mr. Sehbai’s wishes, Zardari remained in office. Again, rather than admit his mistake, Mr. Sehbai published more Wishful Journalism.

The State Department, specifically Hillary Clinton, has almost categorically declared that they are no longer interested in saving President Asif Ali Zardari if he falls in his current battle for survival, waging in the superior courts of Pakistan. But the message Pakistanis have been sent is to get over with the in-house turmoil and transition as quickly as possible to stabilise the democratic system and focus on the war on terror.

Once again, Mr. Sehbai’s wishes were denied.

Of course, Shaheen Sehbai is obviously not the only Wishful Journalist who has written about Zardari’s imminent removal as President. Dr. Shahid Masood wrote his wishes last October, saying that the Americans were going to remove Zardari from power.

After meeting top political and defence decision-makers here in the US capital, where I was invited by the National Defence University (NDU) for a two-day seminar on the anniversary of 9/11, I was told in unambiguous terms that a change in Pakistan was inevitable for US policy interests, although Washington does not intend to disrupt the system.

Several important Pakistani political players have also been conveyed the same message by the US political and defence establishment, including the MQM and recently the ANP, whose chief is travelling with President Asif Zardari in New York.

The Americans were only a new twist on an old wish, though. Several months before, it was the “minus one formula” that was secretly worked out between the Chief of Army Staff, PM Gilani, and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif that was going to remove Zardari from power. Then there was the mid-term elections that were going to take place and re-shuffle the entire government. Or was it the NRO verdict that was going to remove Zardari from power?

Can you see the pattern?

‘Wishful Journalism’ is practiced by writing something that you wish is true. When it turns out not to be true, you do not admit your mistake and offer a correction. Rather, you wait a few months and then say your wish again. Maybe this time with a new twist. Instead of Army overthrowing Zardari, it is the Americans! Or the judiciary! Either way, it is still a wish based on no supporting facts. It is still not actual reporting, and not real analysis.

Making wishes is not the same as proper journalism. It is fine for me to wish to be rich and good looking, but no matter how many times I write an article saying I am rich and good looking, it does not make it come true. Actually, it is just a waste of everyone’s time.

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  1. It is an excellent article. We will cross post it on LUBP shortly. Thanks for exposing the two key leaders of yellow journalism in Pakistan.

  2. Excellent. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

  3. This article is in response to Mr Shaheen Sehbai’s Who will bell the bad, fat cats?. [Shaheen Sehbai January 5, 2000 The author would like to clarify that it is not a personal attack, but an attempt to question the ideas and personal allegations expressed in the above article. In the words of the author, What proof did Mr Sehbai offer that the 12 people mentioned in the article had become millionaire(s) overnight and that the wealth they allegedly earned was unlawful? “Who will bell the bad, fat cats?”

    This is a model piece of journalism i.e. it “reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant and hurried composition…as distinguished from scholarly writing.”(Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language).

    We all live in the proverbial glass house. Of course, anyone may decide if and when to cast the first stone. You have recklessly exercised that option.

    It is one thing to “measure” someone by a “yardstick”. However, it is downright cruel to flog people publicly with what you may misguidedly characterize as a “yardstick”.

    You refer to Minhaj Barna as “the once-revered…who led the trade union movement of journalists… (but) accepted so petty, temporary and at times demeaning jobs that the entire profession could only hang its head in shame….”

    Barna Saheb is still revered!

    What is a “petty” and “demeaning” job? Did he put an honest day’s work in whatever job he held? Was he qualified for the job, no matter how petty and demeaning?

    It is better to do a demeaning job than to demean the job one does.

    The “entire profession” of journalism ought to have hung its head in shame not because Barna Saheb allegedly sought and accepted “demeaning jobs” but because he had to do so. He did so much for this “entire profession” and yet none of its self- proclaimed vigilantes came to his rescue in his old age and in his time of need.

    What do you want? Journalists of “integrity” should murder their families and then commitsuicide in their twilight years simply to please hypocrites among their ranks?

    Without responsibilities, we are all capable of being very bold. It is the welfare of those whom welove that makes us stoop–sometime to our own disliking.

    There is no such thing as objective and/or independent journalism.

    Let me give you an insight into the proper use of analogies because an analogy contains the genetic map, so to speak, showing you exactly the nature of the beast.

    Media is called a watchdog, correct?

    The analogy of a watchdog tells us that it is definitely “owned” to protect certain specific interests. A watchdog is always on a leash. The owners must ensure that the dog doesn’t relieve itself on the property of others just because it perceives itself as an “independent dog”!

    The watchdog is supposed to bark only at strangers and outsiders. If it barks at the owners or at fellow dogs, it becomes an irritation–not to be tolerated indefinitely. The day it bites or attempts to bite, it is put to sleep. For the time being, I am leaving your subtleties alone. But tell me, since when has someone trying “to please a lady…in Washington” has required observers to send a reference to the Journalistic Accountability Bureau (JAB)?

    You are from Peshawar. Be understanding of the fundamental human right that “Har Bandey Nu’n Dil Peshauri Karan Da Hukk Hai” (Sorry folks, this cannot be translated).

    As for taking photographs at a farewell dinner or at the airport, let me say that “parting is such sweet sorrow” that I don’t blame anyone for preserving it on the film for pure academic pleasure later on. You accuse “stalwarts of the profession” of “waiting outside the offices of petty bureaucrats” to “get an extension of their foreign assignment”.

    Every journalist is not fortunate enough to have an unabashed practitioner of nepotism as an uncle at a major newspaper. Please understand that God Almighty did not allow us to choose our parents. The same goes about uncles! So, don’t rub it in! The Pakistani “journalists” living or stationed here (in the West)have no right to judge their distant peers who live and practice journalism in a totally different environment. The only exception would be those who come out in public moaning and groaning about being victimized.

    We do not need an Altaf Hussain of journalism in United States!

    If you wish to hold peers accountable, a proper way is to evaluate their work and products. This can be done by taking specific stories and columns and measuring them with the “yardstick”of journalistic and linguistic principles. This may be done in a “media watch” type of column.

    Using your own approach, of suspecting the motives (the hidden agendas), please consider this (and correct me, if I am wrong): The DAWN-USA.com is a business for profit web-site owned by you and/or your immediate family. You have advertisers who sponsor on the basis of “traffic” to the web-site. Your advertising rate also depends on the number of people who visit. Please answer these questions, if you have any respect whatsoever for your own “credibility”, if any, and “integrity”, if any:

    1) Are you losing your main source of income (DAWN Correspondent) in near future and, therefore, need to boost your income from other sources (like your web-site business)?

    2) Have your web-site revenues fallen to a point where advertisers may withdraw unless you boost the traffic?

    3) Or, you already have or plan to ask the advertisers to increase their rates because of the purported or anticipated increased traffic to your web site (as a result of this reckless attack on the professional integrity of your peers and others)?

    It is this last possibility that disturbed me enough to oppose your approach. You may continue this disconcerting approach simply to maintain traffic to your web-site. By wilfully using a “popular slant” (see para three) you may be trying to increase your income at the expense of other peoples’ reputations. This sort of attack is not protected by First Amendment, to the best of my belief.

    Please consult your lawyers (if it is Maggio & Kattar, please show it to them for your own sake, please). I give unsolicited advice only when I believe that irreparable harm could be caused to someone, if I (temporarily or forever) held both my peace and piece! The added controversy that may follow my response, may help you in the short-run, increasing “traffic” to your web-site. Perhaps, you used the term yardstick only as a figure of speech. It is one nasty instrument in real life. It is 36 inches long, it is very stiff and, if applied ruthlessly, it causes unbearable pain. This is why the prudent amongst us do not ask for it!

    Nayyar Zaidi is a Washington-based writer and commentator on South Asian and Islamic affairs. He has been a subject matter expert for CNN since 1986 and has also appeared on major networks like CBS, ABC, PBS. Nayyar Zaidi (Jang Group) VS Shaheen Sehbai (Jang Group)
    http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2009/11/nayyar-zaidi-jang-group-vs-shaheen.html

    In countries where the levers of power are in the hands of a state bureaucracy, the monopolistic control over the media, often supplemented by official censorship, makes it clear that the media serve the ends of a dominant elite. It is much more difficult to see a propaganda system at work where the media are private and formal censorship is absent. This is especially true where the media actively compete, periodically attack and expose corporate and governmental malfeasance, and aggressively portray themselves as spokesmen for free speech and the general community interest. What is not evident (and remains undiscussed in the media) is the limited nature of such critiques, as well as the huge inequality in command of resources, and its effect both on access to a private media system and on its behavior and performance. Excerpts from Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky

    Jang Group particularly Mr Mahmood Sham (Group Editor Daily Jang), Mr Shaheen Sehbai (Group Editor The News International), Mr Kamran Khan (Senior Correspondent Jang/The News and GEO TV) and Mr Rauf Klasra (Senior Correspondent Jang/The News International) played a very dirty role after the murder of US Journlaist Daniel Pearl in Karachi in 2002. This very same Jang Group/GEO TV is now lecturing Pakistan Army, Judiciary on how to run Pakistan [read how to sack PPP Government] and itself launched a Vilification Campaign againt PPP and raised doubts on the Patiroitsm and Loyalty of PPP and President Asif Ali Zardari when they tried to formulate a policy on ISI, Kerry Lugar Bill, No First Strike, and Dialogues wih India.

    Mr Shaheen Sehbai, Ansar Abbasi, Rauf Klasra have forgotten while being Sanctimonious that what they all used to contribute for SOUTH ASIA TRIBUNE. Mr Shaheen Sehbai (former correspondent of Daily Dawn; former editor of The News; ex Director News of ARY ONE TV Channel; former director of GEO News Network; and presently Group Editor the News), escaped from Pakistan to save himself from the so-called wrath of the establishment headed by General Musharraf, after the controversy surrounding his story about the murder of Daniel Pearl. It was apparently simply to obtain the Green Card for himself, and his family in the United States. Mr Sehbai then started to run a web based news service, i.e., South Asia Tribune, funded through dubious sources, but he suddenly reappeared and closed his website. During his self-imposed exile in the USA, he used to raise hue and cry against the military establishment that he and his family members’ life was in danger, but the so-called danger suddenly vanished after the whole family getting the Green Cards. He then returned to Pakistan and that too under the same Musharraf regime, and joined ARY TV channel, then GEO, and then the News, where he is presently working.

    On the same National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agecny and Ehtisab Bureau [Senator Saifur Rehman 1997 – 1999], Mr Shaheen Sehbai [present Group Editor, The News International] web based magazine South Asia Tribune [Shaheen Sehbai Founded this magazine after he escaped from Pakistan in 2002 to seek political asylum in USA] used to defend the same “Corrupt Zardari”. Shaheen Sehbai, Hillary Clinton & Asif Ali Zardari. http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2009/12/shaheen-sehbai-hillary-clinton-asif-ali.html

    While going through the story below please keep one thing in mind that Mr. Wajid Shamsul Hassan [Pakistan High Commission in UK, he had been one of the most Senior Correspondent for Jang Group of Newspapers] was a regular contributor for Mr Shaheen Sehbai’s web based magazine South Asia Tribune [Shaheen Sehbai Founded this magazine after he escaped from Pakistan in 2002 to seek political asylum in USA]. Swiss Case: Wajid-Shaheen-Jang Group Axis
    http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2009/12/swiss-case-wajid-shaheen-jang-group.html

  4. Mr. Shaheen Sehbai, Group Editor, The News International – Jang Group of Newspapers is very fond of quoting Foreign Press particularly when Foreign Press [Pro Zionist] is negative on President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari and PPP. Shaheen Sehbai while quoting The New York Times: “The problems in Afghanistan have only been compounded by the fragility of Mr. Obama’s partner in Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari, who is so weak that his government seems near collapse.” The Washington Post in a report by two correspondents said: “Zardari’s political weakness is an additional hazard for a new bilateral relationship…The administration expects Zardari’s position to continue to weaken, leaving him as a largely ceremonial president even if he manages to survive in office.” REFERENCE: Obama administration fears Zardari collapse WASHINGTON (Shaheen Sehbai)Updated at: 1525 PST, Monday, November 30, 2009 Obama administration fears Zardari collapse Updated at: 1525 PST, Monday,November 30, 2009

    Should we believe Mr Shaheen Sehbai or his Editor in Chief Mir Shakil ur Rahman’s Letter Addressed to Mr Shaheen Sehbai asking for his resign on filing Concocted Stories in The News International

    “QUOTE”

    SHAHEEN SEHBAI RESIGNS AS EDITOR OF `THE NEWS`

    Date: Fri, 01 Mar 2002 07:42:48 -0500

    Dear Colleagues and Friends:

    It is with great sorrow that I have to convey this bad news to you all today. I have resigned today as the Editor.

    I am enclosing enclosing the correspondence with MSR which is self explanatory. I wish to thank you all for all the cooperation and respect that you extended to me during these 14 months as Editor. I will be available to each one of you as a friend at all times. Wishing you the best of luck and a great future. Shaheen Sehbai

    Pl read on:

    Memorandum

    To: Mir Shakil ur Rehman, Editor-in-Chief, The News
    From: Shaheen Sehbai, Editor, The News
    Date: March 1, 2002
    Subject: Reply to Memo dated Feb 28, 2002

    With reference to your Memo dated Feb 28, I have been accused of policy violations starting from March 2001 until the publication on Feb 17 this year of the Kamran Khan story on Daniel Pearl case. I can obviously understand that these so-called �policy violations?are nothing but an excuse to comply with the Government demand to sack me, and three other senior journalists, as you told me in our meeting in your office on Feb 22. I feel sorry that you have to make such excuses. You could have given one hint that you wanted me to go and I would have quit immediately.

    I understand that you, as owner of the Jang Group of Newspapers have been so intensely pressurized in the last about two weeks that you are no longer ready, or able, to withstand it. All government advertising of the Group has been unjustifiably suspended by the Government starting Monday, February 18, 2002, following the investigative story done in The News by our reporter, Kamran Khan. This story, as it appears now, was just an excuse to twist the neck of the Group because the same story appeared simultaneously in the Washington Post and the International Herald Tribune and not one point contained in it was denied or clarified by the Government. Instead they tightened the screw on the Jang Group, as it appeared to be the most vulnerable and within their reach. This has a very obvious, and sinister message, for the free Press in Pakistan: Get in line, or be ready for the stick.?I feel sorry that you have decided to get in line, but I cannot be a party to this decision.

    You had informed me officially at a meeting in your office on Feb 22, 2002, at 10.15 p.m. that you have been given names of four journalists of The News? myself, Kamran Khan, Amir Mateen and a staffer in our Islamabad Bureau (probably Rauf Klasra as you did not name the 4th person), to be immediately sacked before the government advertisements could be restored. You also informed me that officials of the Information Ministry wanted me to improve my PR with them as they had been complaining that I was not available to them, which is basically not true. You told me to directly contact these officials and talk to them about restoring the advertisements of the Group. Mr Mahmud Sham, who later joined our meeting, had informed us that the Secretary Information had clearly stated that matters were beyond his capacity to resolve and that we have now to meet the ISI high ups.

    As a matter of principle I refused to call, or meet, any of these government officials in a situation when the entire Group was being held hostage with a gun pointed at its head. I, however, conveyed to the Government, through Mr Sham, all the evidence that the policy of The News?was very balanced, in fact tilted, in favour of General Pervez Musharraf’s government, not under any government pressure, but because some of the things he was doing were right and The News never hesitated to support any right step taken by the Government. At least 50 editorials and over 100 Op-Ed articles published in about 6 weeks were cited to show that The News had no bias against the government. Proof was also provided of how �The News? at times, went out of its way to accommodate government requests.

    Apparently these argument have not satisfied the government and the pressure is continuing on you, as your Memo indicates. Whatever other issues you have raised are childish and frivolous and I would not waste my time discussing them. But one message that emerges is very clear — I ran the newspaper as a very independent Editor, according to whatever I thought was objective, true and professionally sound journalism. I made the best use of the latest available computer technology to create a working environment in which the entire editorial staff was integrated in such a network that almost everyone was available to each other at all times. I interacted with all my staff on a personal, round the clock basis, no matter where I was located or traveling, even outside Pakistan. So the charge that I was not available to my staff is laughable as it shows how far removed you are from the ground situation.

    Your complaint of lack of general improvement in The News?is also obviously an excuse to build some case against me under Government pressure. You never once complained of that before. In fact the ground reality is just the opposite. I successfully built a great team of reporters, editors and writers during the 14 months I have been the Editor. We achieved a lot in breaking major stories, including assumption of the office of the President by General Musharraf and corruption in various government departments including Social Action Programme (SAP) and Employees Old-age Benefit Institution (EOBI). The overwhelming impression that any newspaper of the Jang Group could not publish anything against its advertisers and commercial sponsors was removed by the investigative stories we did on PIA and other corporate organizations. The News became the most quoted newspaper abroad, not only for its stories but its editorial comments and opinions. The latest such quote was in the prestigious New York Times just three days ago. The Washington Post interviewed me last week as Editor of The News.

    The real reasons for failure to bring about a real visible change in Karachi are known to you. For over a year now you have been sitting on all the plans, proposals and schemes, including a Vision Document prepared after months of hard work. The scheme to revamp all the magazines has been lying on your table for months. The designs and site plans to renovate the entire newspaper office on 4th and 5th floors has been gaining dust for months and the staff is forced to work with hundreds of cockroaches creeping on papers, computers, inside telephone sets and faxmachines. In fact I have been bogged down in these totally useless exercises for most of my time, hoping that you would find time and money to start implementing any of these detailed proposals for change and improvement. You have always been promising to launch these scheme within weeks, but that time never came. I am appalled at your audacity to accuse me of being responsible for not bringing any change while the fact is that you have always been complaining of the financial crunch?in the newspaper. You have stopped increments of all the staff and played legal jugglery with all the contract employees by refusing to renew their contracts or giving them salary increases.

    Even despite that I continued to work 20 hours a day to improve the editorial content of the newspaper which has been appreciated and recognized by every one, including your senior Directors and Editors of sister publications in letters written to me. The readers, however, are the best judge.

    Why you never raised any objection before, and why you are doing it now, is obvious — the Government pressure is unbearable. This is not a happy omen.

    Therefore, I have to convey this sad message to you, though I feel very content and satisfied that I have taken the right decision on the basis of principles. I have decided to resign from the Editorship of The News with immediate effect, rather than to submit to Government pressure and change the policy of the newspaper. Under my editorship, I will not allow the newspaper to become the voice of any government for monetary considerations. I had given my name, credibility and reputation to The News?and I prefer to protect these precious assets, rather than my job. But I will earnestly request you not to take any action against the other colleagues you have been asked to sack, as the ultimate responsibility of whatever appeared in the newspaper was mine, as Editor, and not theirs. They should be allowed to continue with their jobs. I wish, you, the newspaper and all of my colleagues a great future.

    I hereby, resign from the editorship. Please accept my resignation today and remove my name from the print line of the newspaper as of tomorrow, Saturday, March 2, 2002. I would not be responsible for the contents of the newspaper as of tomorrow.

    Best Regards

    Shaheen Sehbai

    Memorandum

    To: Shaheen Sehbai, Editor, The News
    From: MSR, Editor-in-Chief
    Date: 2/28/02
    Re: Violation of policy

    I am constrained to bring to your notice several, and repeated, violation of editorial policies clearly understood between us. Infact, these policies have also been agreed in writing. On 26th March, 2001, you had published a one sided, incorrect and libelous article against Mr. Aittiazaz Bob Din, a well known businessman residing in the United States. Although Mr. Bob Din had cited person differences between the two of you, dating back to your stay in the United States, as the motive behind the unfounded allegations against him, I had disregarded this suggestion at that time and had judged the matter purely on merit. As you will recall, you were unable to substantiate the serious charges you had leveled against him. It was only through my personal apologies and the intervention of mutual acquaintances that we were able to dissuade Mr. Din from suing the News for defamation and libel.

    On two different occasions, you published unfavourable articles about PIA, which were of uncertain veracity and did not contain their point of view, as a result of which they denounced these articles in a press conference, threatened to take legal action, suspended our advertisements and also stopped putting our papers on PIA flights. Needless to say, these measures hurt us financially, damaged our reputation and took a great deal of pacification to undo.

    I would also refer to the written terms of our agreement at the time of your appointment under which you are required to discuss the top stories of the day and other important editorial matters with me and seek the Editor-in-chiefs point of view and verdict on contentious issues? To my recollection, you have never deemed it fit to consult me on any matter. In this connection, I would further like to refer to our meeting on the eve of Eid in which group Editor Daily Jang was also present and we discussed the fallout of the story printed a few days earlier in the News ( again without consulting me, I might add ) which was perceived to be damaging to our national interest and elicited severe reaction by the Government. It had been agreed that we would contact relevant Government functionaries and arrange to meet with them to discuss the issue and also convey our point of view. Regrettably, you chose not to go to Islamabad and attend the meeting even though this had been clearly agreed. You even rebuffed senior Government officials who contacted you on the phone by hanging up on them. Sham Sahib and I left several messages with your assistant but again, you chose not to take or return our calls.

    I would also like to take this opportunity to point out again, that it is a frequent complaint that you do not interact with people. Not only have senior Government officials protested that you are inaccessible to them, but even your own staff complains that you are hardly available for meetings, guidance and discussions.

    I must convey my disappointment to you at all these issues, as I must convey my disappointment with the lack of general progress in the improvement of the News. The number of mistakes and blunders being committed, failure to follow agreed journalistic ethics – as pointed out to you from time to time by EMD have all resulted in financial set backs as well as loss of credibility for the News. I have only recounted some of the problems besetting the Jang group. It is quite evident that matters are not proceeding as we had agreed. However, before I make up my mind, I would like to hear your point of view.

    I look forward to hearing from you about the serious issues that I have raised above and any solutions that you may propose.

    Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman

    “UNQUOTE”

    REFERENCE: Why Are We Killing Ourselves? Anas Malik March 2, 2002 http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2009/11/credibility-of-shaheen-sehbai-mir.html

  5. Mr. Shaheen Sehbai, Group Editor, The News International – Jang Group of Newspapers is very fond of quoting Foreign Press particularly when Foreign Press [Pro Zionist] is negative on President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari and PPP. Shaheen Sehbai while quoting The New York Times: “The problems in Afghanistan have only been compounded by the fragility of Mr. Obama’s partner in Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari, who is so weak that his government seems near collapse.” The Washington Post in a report by two correspondents said: “Zardari’s political weakness is an additional hazard for a new bilateral relationship…The administration expects Zardari’s position to continue to weaken, leaving him as a largely ceremonial president even if he manages to survive in office.” The report in The New York Times was filed by journalists Peter Baker, Eric Schmitt, David E Sanger, Elisabeth Bumiller and Sabrina Tavernise from Islamabad, Washington and New York while in the Washington Post Karen DeYoung from Washington and Pamela Constable from Islamabad contributed to its report. Both newspapers referred to President Zardari’s increasing weakness in the context of the new Afghan policy being prepared by President Obama, which will be announced on Dec 1. REFERENCE: Obama administration fears Zardari collapse WASHINGTON (Shaheen Sehbai)Updated at: 1525 PST, Monday, November 30, 2009 Seven years ago Mr Shaheen Sehbai was also quoted in The New York Times as well his Editor in Chief i.e. Mir Shakil ur Rehman, and do note what Mir Shakil ur Rehman had to say about the Patriotism and Loyalty of Shaheen Sehbai with Pakistan.

    “QUOTE”

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 1 (Reuters) — The editor of a leading
    English-language daily said today that he had resigned, citing pressure from the government after the newspaper reported a link between the prime suspect in the killing of Daniel Pearl and an attack on India’s Parliament in December. India blamed Pakistan-based militant groups for the attack, but the Pakistani government denied any link. The editor who resigned, Shaheen Sehbai, said that after publication of the article in his paper, The News, the owner and editor in chief, Mir Shakeel ur-Rahman, was pressed by the government to dismiss him and three other journalists. ”I was told by my editor in chief that he had been asked to sack four journalists — myself, Kamran Khan, Amir Mateen and Rauf Klasra,” Mr. Sehabai said in an online interview. ”He did not name who had said that, but he told me to go and see the I.S.I.,” Pakistan’s intelligence service. REFERENCES: A NATION CHALLENGED: SUSPECTS; Kidnapping Suspect Bears Sign of Militancy Elsewhere By DOUGLAS JEHL Published: Saturday, March 2, 2002 Editor Forced to Resign

    The article, Mr. Rahman wrote in the letter dismissing Mr. Sehbai, ”was perceived to be damaging to our national interest and elicited severe reaction of the government.” He also accused Mr. Sehbai of violating standard procedures. Mr. Rahman and government officials were not immediately available for comment. Mr. Sehbai and one of the reporters, Mr. Klasra, have recently complained of harassment by intelligence agencies, a colleague said. While Pakistan’s news media enjoy relative freedom, some newspapers have been forced to remove staff members after complaints from the government or intelligence agencies. REFERENCES: A NATION CHALLENGED: SUSPECTS; Kidnapping Suspect Bears Sign of Militancy Elsewhere By DOUGLAS JEHL Published: Saturday, March 2, 2002 Editor Forced to Resign

    “UNQUOTE”

    SHAHEEN SEHBAI’S DOUBTFUL LOYALTY WITH PAKISTAN AND READ WHAT HE HAD SAID TO “The Times of India” ABOUT PAKISTAN ARMY AND ISI.

    “QUOTE”

    Exposing the Pakistani establishment’s links with terrorists can be a hazardous job. It cost Daniel Pearl his life, and Shaheen Sehbai, former editor of ‘The News’, a widely-read English daily in Pakistan his job. Fearing for his life, Sehbai is now in the US He speaks to Shobha John about the pressure on journalists from the powers-that-be in Pakistan:

    Q. Is it true you had to quit because a news report angered the government?

    A. On February 16, our Karachi reporter, Kamran Khan, filed a story quoting Omar Sheikh as saying that he was behind the attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, the Kashmir assembly attack and other terrorist acts in India. Shortly after I am, I got a call on my cellphone from Ashfaq Gondal, the principal information officer of the government, telling me that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had intercepted the story and I should stop its publication. I told him I was not prepared to do so. He then called my newspaper group owner/editor-in-chief, Mir Shakil ur Rehman in London and asked him to stop the story. Rehman stopped it in the Jang, the sister newspaper in Urdu but could not do so in The News as I was unavailable. The next day, all editions of The News carried the story. It was also carried by The Washington Post and The International Herald Tribune the same day, as Kamran also reports for The Post. On February 18, all government advertising for the entire group was stopped. On February 22, Rehman rushed to Karachi and called a meeting at 10 p m. He told me the government was very angry at the story. He said he had been told to sack four journalists, including myself, if the ads were to be restored. He asked me to proceed to Islamabad to pacify the officials. Sham informed us that he had contacted the officials and was told by Anwar Mahmood, the information secretary that the matter was now beyond his capacity and we will have to see the ISI high-ups to resolve it. I was told to go and see the ISI chief in Islamabad and also to call Anwar Mahmood on Eid and improve my ‘public relations’ with him.

    I left the meeting with the firm resolve that I would neither call nor meet anyone, even at gunpoint. Sham, however, left for Islamabad to meet the officials. His meetings were unsuccessful. From my sources, I learned that the ISI and the government were not prepared to lift the ban unless I gave them specific assurances. If I refused, there may be trouble for me as the owner was already under pressure to fire me and the other three journalists. On February 27, I took a flight out of Karachi to New York. On February 28, I received a memo from my owner accusing me of policy violations. In reply, on March 1, I sent in my resignation.

    Q. Is the ISI still keeping a close watch on journalists after Daniel Pearl’s killing?

    A. The ISI has been a major player in domestic politics and continues to be so. That means it has to control the media and right now, it is actively involved in doing so. Pearl’s murder has given them more reasons to activate the national interest excuse.

    Q. Is there a sense of desperation within the Pakistan government that it should not be linked in any way to events in India?

    A. Yes. That’s why when our story quoted Omar Sheikh claiming such links, the government came down hard on us.

    Q. Has there been any pressure on the staff of ‘The News’ to ‘conform’?

    A. Yes. The News was under constant pressure to stop its aggressive reporting on the corruption of the present government. A few months back, Pakistan International Airlines stopped all ads to The News as we ran a couple of exposes. A major story on the government owned United Bank was blocked when we sought the official version. Intelligence agencies were deputed to tail our reporters in Islamabad.

    Q. This is not the first time you and your family have been under pressure, is it?

    A. I have been the target of physical attacks in the past too for stories against the government. The first was in August 1990 when I was arrested and detained for 36 hours and falsely charged for drinking, before a judge gave bail. The second time, in December 1991, three masked men broke into my house in Islamabad, ransacked it, pulled guns on my two sons, beat them up and told them, Tell your father to write against the government again and see what happens. In 1995, I was threatened once again and I had to take my entire family away. My newspaper then, Dawn, decided to post me to Washington as their correspondent. This time, I feared that I could be physically targeted again. So I decided to leave the country.

    Q. Is the present regime in Pakistan any different from earlier ones with regard to freedom of the press?

    A. It has tolerated some freedom under foreign pressure, but the situation is basically the same. Now Musharraf appears to be under pressure to manage the media more effectively in order to manage the October elections and get his supporters elected in the polls. He needs to legitimise his military rule through a political process, which essentially is being rigged from the beginning.

    Q. Is your case the first instance of a crackdown on the media by this government?

    A. This was the first case of a major financial squeeze on the country’s largest media group. It was followed by demands to sack me and other senior journalists and then to change the policy.

    Q. How independent will the forthcoming polls be now?

    A. They will be as independent as the recently-concluded local bodies polls in which candidates were named by the army and no one else was allowed to win. Candidates for state and national assemblies are now being pre-selected and influential politicians are being pressured, lured or coerced to join Musharrafs supporters.

    Q. What is the mood within the Pakistani media?

    A. The media is generally quiet and has fallen in line because Musharraf is getting strong support from the US and the West. But elements in the media are very resolute and they will fight back as soon as they see Musharraf losing his grip. The October polls will determine the role of the media as well because if Musharraf fails to ‘manage’ the elections, his control over the media will be finished.

    Q. What do you propose to do now?

    A. I will be writing out of Washington for some time and will return to Pakistan around the October polls. My days in Pakistan were very exciting as I maintained a completely independent editorial policy and pursued it to the last day. In the memos written by the owner, he repeatedly complains that I was not consulting him on policies. I had no need to, as he watches his own commercial interests. REFERENCE: The Daily Noose (Interview with Shaheen Sehbai) Publication: The Times of India Date: March 18, 2002 http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2009/11/shaheen-sehbai-vs-mir-shakil-ur-rehman.html

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