Shaheen Sehbai's Defamation Double-Standard

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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