Shaheen Sehbai's Defamation Double-Standard

Jul 6th, 2010 | By | Category: Jang, The News
MNA Azeem Daultana quotes Shaheen Sehbai's own words - is this defamation?

MNA Azeem Daultana quotes Shaheen Sehbai's own words - is this defamation?

One would think that after a 42-year career in the field of journalism, Shaheen Sehbai would have grown a slightly thicker skin. Instead, it appears that he’s grown quite a bit of cheek! Apparently the Group Editor of The News had his feeling hurt by an article penned by MNA Azeem Daultana and has responded with a Rs 100 Millions defamation notice. Reading The News report about the defamation notice, one wonders if Shaheen Sehbai is asking to be treated with a different standard than he himself observes.

Shaheen Sehbai’s complaint, filed against two province-based newspapers, claims that,

On May 30, 2010, the Editor-in-Chief of The News International received for publication from the Principal Information Officer of the Press Information Department an article entitled ‘Differentiating between journalism and ‘churnalism’: a case study of Shaheen Sehbai’s (‘Defamatory Article’ authored by Azeem Daultana, PPP Parliamentary Secretary for Information).

Besides making several aspersions on the professional integrity, credentials, character and intentions of Shaheen Sehbai, the article specifically stated that Mr Sehbai ‘sought an ambassadorial position from Asif Ali Zardari and the PPP government and when Mr Zardari and the government denied him the coveted position and office of profit, he embarked upon a revenge mission against Mr Zardari.’

The PPP MNA was given an opportunity by Mr Sehbai to retract his baseless allegations through an e-mail dated June 12, 2010, within one week and tender an apology for the defamatory accusations. Instead of withdrawing the defamatory accusations and tendering an apology, the article by Mr Daultana was given wider dissemination and was published in two province-based newspapers, besides some suspicious blogs.

This defamation claim is particularly curious because the complainant, Shaheen Sehbai, is notorious himself for writing “baseless allegations” and “defamatory accusations”.

Just in the past few months Shaheen Sehbai has written numerous columns that include charges and allegations that he even admits have no factual support.

On 28 June, Shaheen Sehbai wrote:

The latest in the Zardari camp is to attack the judges, on the one hand, threatening to withdraw their Executive order and throw them on the street by Rehman Malik’s executive power, while on the other to secretly encourage General Musharraf to seriously come back and put together the remnants of the PML-Q under his wings and then cooperate with the PPP against Raiwind.

Where is Shaheen Sehbai’s evidence for such a claim? Or is this merely “baseless allegation” and “defamatory accusation” as well?

On 10 May Shaheen Sehbai wrote:

Brimming with self-delusional overconfidence, President Zardari and his closest minions are also quietly planning a similar offensive against the Establishment, which includes both the Pakistan Army and the country’s bureaucracy.

Against the GHQ, the presidency has plans to restructure the top hierarchy of the services chiefs and reports have been deliberately leaked from the top that the heads of the army, navy and the air force may be brought under a Chief of Defence Staff or CODS.

Of course this never happened. Isn’t this also “baseless allegation” and “defamatory accusation” as well?

On 23 April, Shaheen Sehbai wrote:

Inside the prison, the first objective for an influential, moneyed person is to develop a network of loyalists who can bypass the jail procedures, the manual, deceive the jailors, provide facilities to make life easy, bribe or negotiate with captors and judges and find conduits to communicate with the outside world. This is what Zardari did in his years of jail. He developed the hard core of his cronies – a jail doctor, a hospital owner, a business caretaker, a protocol provider, a media handler, a few political artists, a number of mafia-type jobbers, some trouble shooters, a couple of well-dressed attack dogs and a bunch of gun-wielders who he calls as his loyal security guards.

Where is Shaheen Sehbai’s evidence for such a claim? Or is this merely “baseless allegation” and “defamatory accusation” as well?

It seems that Shaheen Sehbai has a very long history of writing defamatory accusations about President Zardari. So why is he shocked when someone writes of him,

The extent of the writer’s venomous hatred for the President of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, is well known to the readers of this newspaper. It can be judged by a recent piece written by Sehbai titled “Why is the President scared of political actors” published in The News of April 23, 2010, in which he sadly used words like “fiendish” and phrases like “attack dogs” to describe the person and the official staff who – whether we like it or not — represent the office of the President of Pakistan.

Shaheen Sehbai may not like what Azeem Daultana has to say, but at least he has provided some evidence in the form of Sehbai’s own words. That is more courtesy that Shaheen Sehbai ever extended to the president, is it not?

In fact, Azeem Daultana’s supposedly “defamatory” article is filled with quotes from Shaheen Sehbai’s own articles followed by corrections. Does Shaheen Sehbai allege that he has defamed himself?

Sadly, Shaheen Sehbai cannot even help but to make some defamatory statements in his own complaint about defamation. For example, why does he write, “…the article by Mr Daultana was given wider dissemination and was published in two province-based newspapers, besides some suspicious blogs.”

Mr Daultana’s article appears to have been published on the popular blogs Pak Tea House, which is editied by Raza Rumi, a regular columnist for The News, as well as Let Us Build Pakistan, which is edited by a group of Co-editors, all of whom are publicly listed on the website. So why these blogs are called “suspicious”? Is this not yet another example of merely “baseless allegation” and “defamatory accusation” as well?

Shaheen Sehabi has been writing column after column of rumour and innuendo against President Zardari and others. His allegations are regularly made without any evidence, and his predictions have repeatedly failed to come true. He hides behind the cloak of ‘professional journalist’ and uses this title as a talisman to ward off any criticism. Even though Shaheen Sehbai has no problem criticising others, when someone dares to criticise him, he makes a defamation claim. Does Shaheen Sehbai believe he should be held to a different standard than his own?

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  1. It is very unfortunate that lawyers and few journalists have been behaving like sole custodian of law, morality and democracy after events following the dismissal of Chief Justice of Supreme Court Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary on March 9, 2007. Anchor persons such as Kamran Khan, Shahid Masood, Javed Chaudhary, writers like Shaheen Sehbai, Ansar Abbasi and lawyers leader like Qazi Anwar, Ikram sheikh who appear on different TV Channels these days are being presented as super icons and custodian of Pakistan. These elements are in constant tussle to harm Media view on terrorism and democracy. These are the people who support right-wing and are the most constipated armchair jihadi warriors who keep attacking the democratically elected people and never refrain from personal attacks.

  2. Allegations and character assassinations is unfair and against the principle of ethical journalism. However, this does not mean that healthy criticism should not be welcomed. Democracy demands the people to know the truth and arrive at their own decisions. Increasingly, we find that the media, especially the electronic media that enjoys the power of grabbing attention instantaneously and widely due to its reach and availability, is being misused by vested interests to engineer society. No country is an exception to this evil phenomenon. In the info-centric age of today, news and analysis are so intertwined that it is becoming difficult to remove the chaff from the grain. Added to the already brimming cup of woes of the followers of the media is the scourge of ‘paid news’ about which a lively discussion is going on in my country, without any tangible action to curb it. In countries where conspiracy theories are common and believed in blindly, this irresponsible behaviour of the media wreaks havoc. This, therefore, means that nobody should take such news items seriously.

  3. Who is who.
    This can be decided by this news item that who is fighting for whom.
    Rauf Clasra’s statement that he and his other colleagues were allotted plots on the order of the high court is totally wrong.The court did not listen their plea and turned down the petition with remarks”the matter should be settled in the concerned department. Rauf Clasra did a game there.The evidence is present on the net that How Sher Afzal wrote a letter to the secretary/PIO and got an NOC and then plot of worth of millions.
    Look, this is all game of vultures in the name of media.
    Similarly,Ansar Abbasi is not so sofi as he poses.He is the same same in the blame game.

    Plot in G-14 Islamabad
    The execrable practice of using plot allotments to journalists is a tried and tested method of buying loyalties and hiring those willing to prostitute themselves for their words. The story of Muhammad Malick is a case in point. It goes without saying that in a misruled country with a long history of abuse of power, such practices should cease immediately. Now having said that, even this ethical minefield of a system has a few rules and regulations that purport to uphold a quota-system to ensure transparency and equality. It must take a man completely bereft of decency and a sense of fair play to try to game this system which is unjust and unfair to begin with.
    The G-14 plots drama has many other wily and unsavory characters (who are going to be exposed at PKPolitics when their turn comes). The sheer complexity of the drama requires that the background and rules and regulations for allotments be explained thoroughly:
    1- The present PPP government has made eight (8) plot allotments to journalists recently. These were all illegal and were made secretly unlike in the past when the process was more transparent. The rules of procedure, followed in the past, call for advertisements, allotments to be made under a devised policy and the final list being posted on the website of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. All of these standard procedures were not followed in the 8 cases recently. It is important to point out that these 8 illegal plot allotments to journalists were made in the last ONE year alone. Last allotment was made to Zardari’s close friend Sohaib Bhutta. Zardari’s Lahori friend Nazir Naji was also given a plot in the same way.
    2- Allotments were made to federal government employees and journalists in 2004-05 in Phase-IV of Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) in sector G-14. According to the brochure of this scheme [Download Brochure PDF 3.8MB] 3 % quota was fixed for the journalists. Applications were invited from the Islamabad/Rawalpindi based journalists through an advertisement followed by another advertisement for some changes in criteria etc. [Download Advertisements PDF 4.9MB]. A total 168 journalists were allotted plots in five different categories as defined in the advertisement of Feb 2nd and Feb 21st 2004 [Download Allotments List PDF 0.1MB] and this list is also available on the link of official website of ministry of information and broadcasting. After allotment to these 168 journalists, some journalists who had also applied, failed to get a plot because the 3% quota fixed for journalists in sector G-14 had been filled. As a result, according to devised policy (Devised Policy- Which was completely and clearly announced and given in the advertisement published in national newspapers on Feb 2nd and Feb 21st 2004 – copies already attached) a waiting list was issued with category-I as NIL, according to seniority based on the date of birth from all the five categories [Download Waiting List PDF 2.7MB]. It is also important to mention here that, even at that time, three or four journalists managed to get a plot allotted despite that the fact that they were in the Waiting List until even 2005.
    3- Five journalists who were in the waiting list are:
    1- Rauf Klasra, Cat-II, Seniority Number-29
    2- Amir Mateen, Cat-II, Seniority Number-14
    3- Kiani Khaleeq Ahmad Khan, Cat-II, Seniority Number-25
    4- Javed Chaudhry, Cat-II, Seniority Number-20
    5- Shaukat Mehmood Paracha, Cat-III, Seniority No-18 (Mr. Paracha clarified that he did not avail this offer of Plot).
    These journalists jointly filed a petition with the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bench and challenged the process of allotment on purely technical grounds [Download Petition 0.4MB] . The petition was disposed off in March 2006 with no order [Download Court Decision PDF 6.2MB] and the court directed the Housing Foundation to dispose of grievances within fifteen days of their being raised. In fact, court never authorized any public institution to allot plots to these or any other journalists as a result of the rejected petition.
    4- After the present government took charge in Feb 2008, it was well-known in Islamabad that Rauf Klasra is a close friend of PM Gilani. Both of them not only come from the same area but have been close friends even before Gilani became Prime Minister. Rauf Klasra has even alluded to the fact in some of his columns for the Daily Jang. Credible sources claim that Klasra had raised the issue of his not getting a plot allotted in 2005 with the Prime Minister who had promised to look into allotting Klasra the plot. Things moved quickly, however, after Imran Gardezi, the present Press Secretary to the PM took the charge of his office in December 2008. Suddenly, the Housing Ministry was asked to allot a plot to Rauf Klasra immediately. The ministry directed the Director General of FGEHF, the notorious Sher Afzal to accommodate Klasra. Sher Afzal wrote in response to the Housing Ministry that a recommendation from the Ministry of Information is mandatory for allotment to journalists [Download FGEHF Letter PDF 0.4MB]. Rauf Klasra was apprised of the new situation. The DG-FGEHF, Sher Afzal, received the recommendation letter from the Ministry of Information within two days [Download Information Ministry Letter PDF 0.2MB]. The recommendation letter asked the FGEHF to allot Rauf Klasra a category-I plot, which was allotted to him subsequently in sector G-14.
    5- After the category-I plot allotment to Rauf Klasra, the other original petitioner journalists like Kiani Khaleeq found out that the allotment had been carried out by mentioning the LHC petition (dismissed in March 2006), they approached Secretary Information Ashfaq Gondal and DG-FGEHF Sher Afzal seeking a review of their own cases.
    The four remaining petitioner journalists then plotted with the disgraced DG-FGEHF, Sher Afzal, who happens to be close friends to some of these journalists. They decided that instead of seeking the Ministry of Information’s recommendation directly, DG-FGEHF, Sher Afzal would write to the Minstry of Information on their behalf and demand recommendation letters for the remaining four petitioner journalists. This letter by Sher Afzal was illegal to begin with as the DG-FGEHF does not have such powers and functions in his job description. In any case, the Information Ministry sent the recommendation letters to FGEHF in blatant violation of its own waiting list and the defined category. According to the previously devised policy, the category was to be assigned as it existed on the day of applying. This policy was obviously violated.
    Today, Rauf Klasra and the other journalists (Amir Mateen, Khaleeq Kiyani, Shaukat Mehmood Paracha and Javed Chaudhry) claim that they were alloted plots as the result of a judgment by Lahore High Cour’s Rawalpindi bench. This judgment was delivered in March 2006 while the plots were allotted in 2009. Klasra’s case was not a matter of devised policy and there was no scheme or program under which plots could be given to other journalists.
    The actual situation is that only Rauf Klasra was allotted plots in compliance with Prime Minister’s orders by Sher Afzal, DG FGEHF, on January22, 2009. On February 6th 2009, a story with the title ‘Judges get plots of their choice’ was published in daily The News and daily Jang by Ansar Abbasi, in which an illegal allotment of plot to a journalist was mentioned. This story is available on in the link ‘Back Issues’ in the date February 6th 2009. At this point of time, Rauf in his attempt to cover up his illegal allotment, in connivance with Sher Afzal conspired to have plots allotted to his co-petitioners i.e. Amir Mateen, Khaleeq Kiyani, Shaukat Paracha and Javed Chaudhry. So, on February 14, Sher Afzal wrote a letter to information ministry recommending allotment to rest of the petitioners in the same petition on the basis of which Rauf was recommended for a plot.Rauf Klasra in his column published in Daily Jang Islamabad Edition May 28th 2009 [Download Column PDF 1.4MB] wrote that it was Sher Afzal’s interpretation that he and his co-petitioners could be given plots.
    This could mean only two things: either Rauf Klasra and Sher Afzal were being economical with the truth (lying through their teeth) or were exceedingly naïve (and bhola). The reality is, there were a total of 6 petitions who were taken care of through the same order. A petition No 2149 filed by seven journalists were decided before Rauf’s petition with the same order. It is mentioned in the court orders of Rauf’s petition that his petition is being disposed off on the grounds as were given in the decision of petition No 2149.
    This is indeed a great mystery. We suspect Mr. Klasra will soon come up with a ‘filmi’ column, beginning with some anecdote, a chance meeting with some politician, whose integrity stands naked and exposed after Mr. Rauf Klasra, the murderously honest journalist, dissects the said politician’s life with his mighty pen.
    Perhaps Mr. Klasra, instead of writing one of his Lollywood columns, should answer honestly to straight questions like this: Why was Rauf Klasra, the extremely honest journalist, the only one to be rewarded? Other journalists who had moved the original petition before Klasra, and had gotten the same judgment as Klasra, were not allotted the plots. Why was Sher Afzal’s “interpretation” only applicable to Klasra, the viciously and brutally honest journalist, and not to other petitioner journalists?
    The point to be noticed here is that according to legal experts, even if LHC would have given its judgment in favor of petitioner journalists (which it did not), the following would have been necessary:
    a. They could be given plots only when some new sector of FGEHF opened and in accordance with the policy and quota as would be defined for the new sector. In case of sector G-14, 3 % quota was fixed for journalists. According to reports three new sectors would soon be opened by CDA and FGEHF.
    b. In this case plots were created in G-14 by elimination of green belts and children’s parks. Now according to legal experts, even if these plots were created, the FGEHF and Information Ministry were supposed to properly announce it and allot plots in accordance with the seniority-based waiting list. According to the waiting list, Rauf Klasra, falling in category-II had a seniority number of 29, Amir Mateen, in category-II was on seniority number 14, Khaleeq Kiyani, in category-II was on seniority number 25, Shaukat Mehmood Paracha in category-III was on seniority number 18, and Javed Chaudhry in category-II was on seniority number 18. So, even if allotments had to be made, they should have been made according to the seniority numbers. But the way it actually happened, Rauf Klasra and others usurped the rights of senior journalists who, according to the seniority list, had a better claim.
    c. The technical grounds on which these journalists challenged the court judgment was that the original 3% plot allotment had unfairly favored print media journalists from government corporations (PTV, APP), and these five journalists, being primarily in the print-media, had been discriminated against. The court, however, DISMISSED this petition. It never directed the FGEHF to allot plots to these journalists, and that too by violating the seniority list.
    Flats and Houses in Islamabad
    1- Rauf Klasra’s wife Shahwar Faryal, now APS to Chairman Senate (BPS-17) had been allotted Quarter No. 10-C, Block-72, Gulshan-e-Jinnah, F-5/1 some eight years back when she was a contract employee in some other government organization [Download Allotment Letter PDF 0.5MB]. Since the current government took office, she has been allotted a G-Type house, which is meant only for grade-19 government employees, in sector G-6/3 (House-103-G, F-6/3) in violation of all rules and regulations [Download Rules PDF 0.7MB]. The allotment was in blatant violation of rules and complete breach of ethics because according to the rules, the category could be skipped by only one step and even that only in cases of severe need and unavailability.
    2- Later on, this G-Type house was allotted to some other officer and Klasra’s wife was instead allotted House # 6, Street # 9, F-6/3. This was an I-Type government house and was in use of Dr. Zawar Zaidi, who was chairman Pakistan Papers. I-Type houses are only for federal secretaries and additional secretaries level officers in either grade-21 or 22. The house was forcibly vacated from Dr. Zaidi and subsequently, the 81 year old Dr Zaidi, who had to leave for Lahore in shock and disbelief, died after three months. This house was allotted to Klasra’s wife, Shahwar Faryal, but was vacated when the issue of illegal and non-entitled allotment was taken up by the media and comprehensively discussed in famous AAJ TV program Bolta Pakistan by Mushtaq Minhas and Nusrat Javed of 15th December 2008. After Aaj TV highlighted this scam, within one night the house was allotted to the wife of another influential journalist Saleh Zafir of Jang Group (by coincidence ???) and Shahwar Faryal was allotted yet another government house. For all these allotments, the Prime Minister Secretariat wrote three different letters letters to the housing ministry, two of them bearing signatures of Nargis Sethi, present acting principal secretary to the Prime Minister.
    Daily Times Monitor
    Wednesday, April 01, 2009
    LAHORE: Quaid-e-Azam Papers Project Chief Dr Zawar Hussain Zaidi passed away in Lahore of a cardiac arrest on Tuesday, a private TV channel reported.
    According to the channel, 81-year-old Zawar was also the chairman of the Quaid-e-Azam Academy. He authored 20 books; 13 in English; six in Urdu; and one in Persian; on the Quaid’s sayings. The channel said his funeral would be held at 4pm today (Wednesday) in Model Town. He was an excellent teacher and research scholar. He also served as the History Department head in the FC College.
    President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif expressed their grief on his demise and termed it an irreparable loss for the country.
    3- The original home allotted to Shahwar Faryal (No. 10-C, Block-72, Gulshan-e-Jinnah, F-5/1) was not given to anyone else but was immediately and coincidentally allotted to “Khyzer Klasra”, younger brother of Rauf Klasra.
    It is important to mention here that these government flats at prime locations of Gulshan-e-Jinnah (next to Marriott Islamabad) have been given to journalists on throw-away prices (RS 4000 to RS 4500 per month) because of their influence and without any entitlement. The government needs to get these houses evacuated to allot them to deserving government employees due to a shortfall of residential facilities in the capital. As it is, the government has to pay large amounts as house rent from the public exchequer to thousands of government employees.
    If this wasn’t enough, some more lifafa journalists have managed to allot themselves these prime location houses in addition to the almost free-of-cost flats in their wives’ names. This subterfuge of using their wives’ names for cheap rental flats is employed to hide their identities as journalists after their activities have been probed and brought to light by the media. Recently, a Senate committee has also taken notice of these allotments to journalists and other influential people who are not entitled to such flats/houses. Names of these journalists will be revealed in coming stories on PKPolitics.
    4- Rauf Klasra has also got some rooms and family suite in his possession in the federal government lodges. One of the Federal Lodges family suites is “Family Suite # 17, Federal Lodges # 1”, and has been allotted in the name of Samia Naureen, who is a close relative of Rauf Klasra, however, the actual allottee didn’t live there and it is in use of Klasra and his guests according to the staff looking after these government residences.
    Interestingly, one of the senior government officers was allotted the same family suite in the Federal lodge, but to his shock, he was denied entry to the property by the staff and was told to talk to Rauf Klasra instead.
    Knowing Klasra’s reputation for blackmail and revenge, the officer silently backed off and asked the security staff never to mention his name to Klasra. This shows the troubling emergence of a small clique of journalists, acting as a feudal mafia, peddling influence and patronage through selling their ethics for land, flats and houses.
    Sources in the National Assembly (NA) secretariat also reveal that Rauf Klasra, the allotment Magarmach, has taken control of yet another lodge in the old assembly lodges and is not willing to vacate the premises despite repeated requests from the NA secretariat.
    “Opinions expressed in these comments are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect those of “pakistani scandals Information Center.

  4. I am surprised that Mr. Shaheen Sehbai issued a defamation notioce instead of publishing this very nicely argumented and duly referenced rejoinder by the Government. Where has freedom of expression rhetoric gone. Ironically the government is responding through reason and argument instead of filing defamation cases on these perfectly libelous articles of Sehbai while he himself is denying space to PPP’s rejoinder. He could have responded to these empirically proved allegations but perhaps he could not. He had no case. He was just posturing and inciting instability by underestimating the collective genius of the people of Pakistan. The Government is still there some two years after passing of deadlines of Shaheen Sehbai. He and his group continued giving deadlines and painting doomsday scenerio, the last one hardly past this evening. Why does Jang Group want to keep creating this impression every three months that the government is falling or the political dispensation being discontinued altogether when nothing of the sort is happening actually so far. What are they up to? What is the real purpose?

  5. CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry & Judiciary is silent on Raymond Davis (Aaj Ki Khaber 17 March 2011)

  6. this is a great article i am totally agree with you dear 🙂

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