LHC Assassination Conspiracy Theory Threatens Jang Group's Believability

Sep 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Conspiracy Theories, Jang, The News

The News (Jang Group)The News (Jang) finds itself in a rather embarrassing situation today as the Supreme Court has issued a public statement that an article in Sunday’s newspaper is misleading and requested Jang to publish a correction “prominently, preferably at the same spot on the front pages of the two newspapers in order to set the record straight.”

“It is clarified that the above-mentioned caption is misleading in so far as it gives the impression that the judges of the Superior Courts have direct clear threats from administrative officials, which is not the true reflection of the issue discussed in the above mentioned meeting nor the press release issued in this regard refers to any such threats. In fact, the meeting discussed the security related situation in view of the purported information ‘emanating from administrative authorities’ in relation to the alleged plot to target the Hon’ble Chief Justice of Lahore High Court as mentioned in the report of the Special Branch of the Government of Punjab.

“Unfortunately, your above-mentioned captions portray the totally different message as if the Hon’ble judges of Superior Courts are being threatened by the administrative officials, which is not the case. It is expected that an appropriate clarification may please be published prominently, preferably at the same spot on the front pages of the two newspapers in order to set the record straight.”

The Supreme Court should be commended for pointing out the misleading nature of this headline, possibly chosen for its sensationalism.

It should also be noted that the truth of the underlying story – that there is a plot to assassinate the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court – is questionable in its own right.

Ansar AbbasiThe article which originated this claim, “Plot to kill Justice Sharif unearthed,” was written by Jang reporter Ansar Abbasi on 11 September and contains several items which call into question the claim’s legitimacy.

First, according to Abbasi,

The report titled “PLAN TO ELIMINATE A VALUE TARGET” was recently submitted to the Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif as “Most Immediate” and “For the CM’s eyes only”.

If a high-level intelligence report labeled as “For the CM’s eyes only” has fallen into the hands of Mr Ansar Abbasi, a skeptical reader must ask himself what the purpose of this leak could possibly be. Sending a “Most Immediate” and top secret intelligence report to a newspaper reporter would be a serious breach of security.

Furthermore, though Mr Abbasi claims that

The report also contains the names of the hired assassins but this information is being withheld by The News on the request of the source, who insisted that the disclosure of their names would make it hard for the provincial government to get hold of them.

This claim is difficult to believe. After all, regardless of whether or not the names of the individuals are reported, surely the alleged assassins know who they are and, seeing that their plan was published in the newspaper, would immediately destroy all evidence and probably flee the country.

Of course, this basic common sense did not stand in the way of a good story for Ansar Abbasi especially as it of course concludes by accusing an unnamed federal minister of participation in the plot as a means to advance PPP power.

But even this claim undermines this conspiracy theory. If Ansar Abbasi or anyone else has evidence that a federal minister is plotting the assassination of the LHC Chief Justice, should not that evidence be made public immediately so that the individual can be removed from position of power?

Of course this has not happened, rather Ansar Abbasi and his fellow “reporters” at Jang continue to concoct the most outrageous tales with none of the characters – either good or bad – named. It is simply rumour and innuendo hiding behind the crass exploitation of journalistic privilege.

Ansar Abbasi and Jang Group were handed a ‘black eye’ over the week end when it was reported that Special Branch has denied the legitimacy of the report completely.

Former chief of the Special Branch of Punjab Police, Col (retd) Ehsanul Haq, finally broke his silence on Friday and said that neither he nor his subordinates had authored a report about a plot to assassinate Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khwaja Mohammad Sharif.

“I have nothing to do with this report. The report that appeared in a local newspaper is not that of the special branch. My department did not issue any such report,” Col Ehsan said while talking to Dawn.

This did not stop Jang from continuing to peddle the conspiracy theory, however. Instead, they changed the byline from Ansar Abbasi to Sohail Khan and published the article titled, “CJs express concern over judges security; threats from administration

Finally, even the Supreme Court has seen that Jang Group has gone too far by making patently false accusations and requested them to immediately and prominently admit their fault.

Despite Ansar Abbasi’s insistence that he received the report from a reliable (anonymous) source, why did he not verify the authenticity of the report with the Special Branch before he wrote his article? Why did he not consider the very common sense questions that are mentioned above and call into question the validity of the report? Was it because the story fit a particular political agenda that he, or his employers at Jang Group are trying to promote?

If Col Ehsan from Special Branch is correct in his claims that he is being pressured by political operatives in Punjab to produce a report that accuses PPP officials, is this not the actual news story?

[Col Ehsan], however, appeared to be under immense pressure because sources say that the Punjab government wants him to give a statement of its liking.

The “so-called” special branch report which does not even have the signature of any official or seal claims that three PPP personalities – a federal minister, a federal government’s nominee in Punjab and a PPP Punjab office-bearer – has planned to assassinate Justice Khwaja Sharif.

Why has this angle been ignored by Jang reporters? As in the past, we are forced to ask whether Jang has stopped being a legitimate news source, choosing instead to work in political propaganda.

This story is more important than simply one misleading headline. It raises serious questions about the believability of all news items reported by Jang Group’s media companies, particularly by reporters such as Ansar Abbasi who have a long history of reporting questionable material with a specific political bias. The proper response for Jang Group is not to simply issue a headline clarification and continue to operate in the same manner.

Jang should immediately begin a public, internal investigation into this case to determine if its star reporter Ansar Abbasi took proper journalistic steps to verify the authenticity of his story, or whether he has acted outside his role as a journalist and begun performing the work of political propaganda. Until answers are provided for why this continues to be a problem at Jang, the validity of Jang’s reporting must be viewed with extreme skepticism.

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