Shaheen Sehbai's Fools Gold

Nov 4th, 2010 | By | Category: Uncategorized

Shaheen Sehbai's Fools GoldShaheen Sehbai appears to be challenging for ‘Best Drama Screenplay’ with his column for The News, “$260 billion gold mines going for a song, behind closed doors“. Sehabi’s front page article is filled with back-stabbing, conspiracies, and corporate intrigue. Unfortunately, it is lacking in any real investigative reporting.

From the beginning, Shaheen Sehbai takes such a sensational tone that he threatens to discredit any legitimate argument about oversight of discussions on the mine. For example, he writes:

Before these highly enticing visits of the mining tycoons to clinch the deals, which followed intense behind-the-scene negotiations and bargaining through middle men, some highly bizarre developments have been taking place, leaving experts and the rest of the mining world stunned, amazed and confused.

These companies want that the mining licences should be issued by Pakistan immediately after their exploration licences expire soon. But there are legal hitches and pressure is now being put through the backdoor to get the target.

In recent years, so many games have been played to keep Pakistan’s share in the enormous treasure to a bare minimum, thanks to some greedy politicians and bureaucrats who sold their country’s natural wealth.

This sounds like the plot of some film, not a piece of serious investigative journalism. Why not simply provide the evidence without all the spices also?

Actually, this may be the problem – all spices and no meats. Sehbai claims to have conducted a “deep study” of documents and interviews to back his claim, but he can name none of these documents.

Reading the piles of documents, statements, interviews and legal papers available with The News, the picture that emerges is one of a grand deception, loot and plunder that never happened before on such a scale and the facts, untruths, half-truths, attempts to sabotage, frauds and backdoor bribes, are all documented.

Considering Shaheen Sehbai’s own record of “untruths, half-truths, attempts to sabotage and frauds”, perhaps he will not be so offended if readers would like a little bit more explanation of these documents. In fact, if he is correct and he has evidence of “a grand deception”, why not publish this evidence like the New York Times published The Pentagon Papers? Or, if Mr Sehbai is concerned about his confidentiality, he could send them to the Wikileaks website.

Instead, he chooses to shroud his claims in a mystery. Only he can see the evidence, and we are expected to trust him.

But there is other evidence that counters Sehbai’s claims. Only last week, APP reported that the PM was holding public talks with a delegation from Chile – public and open talks – during which time he stated that Pakistan is conducting talks to ensure the best deal is reached for the Pakistanti people.

The Prime Minister said that Pakistan really wants foreign investment and intends to encourage the best firms and companies which can give the best results. It is with the same intention that the government has prepared investor friendly policies and opened up various sectors for the interested investors, he added.

The Prime Minister said that it was an encouraging sign that the foreign companies wanted to avail the investment opportunities in the mineral sector in Pakistan for their mutual advantage.

Pakistan has a vibrant private sector best suited for public-private partnership for the good of the people of both countries, he added.

The Prime Minister assured full support and fair deal in handling the Reko-Diq project and would provide all possible cooperation for early launching of this mega project.

Shaheen Sehbai also tries to claim that there is some trick being played by the mining company named ‘Tethyan’.

An Australian mineral exploration firm originally started the exploration and invested some $30 million but in 2006 sold the company to a Canadian and Chilean joint venture for $230 million. The old company was an Australian public company Tethyan Copper Prosperity Limited and the new company was named Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) of Pakistan. A trick game is being played in these cosmetic changes. The Canadians and Chileans, according to publicly declared information to their shareholders and regulators, took 37.5 per cent share each, while Pakistan only had the remaining 25 per cent.

But this is no trick. Actually, it is public knowledge that has been reported in the press.

Tethyan Copper – jointly owned by Canada’s Barrick and Chile’s Antofagasta – holds 75% of the project and the Balochistan provincial government owns the remaining 25%.

Sehabi next tries another sleight of hand trick by quoting stories about an Afghani mining corruption which has nothing to do with the Reko Diq mine.

According to a Washington Post report on Nov 18, 2009: “The Afghan minister of mines accepted a roughly $30 million bribe to award the country’s largest development project to a Chinese mining firm.”

Quoting a US official, the Washington Post said: “The alleged payment to Mohammad Ibrahim Adel was made in Dubai within a month of December 2007, when a big Chinese metallurgical group received the contract for a $2.9 billion project to extract copper from the Aynak deposit in Logar province. Aynak is considered one of the largest unexploited copper deposits in the world.”

What does this have to do with the story of Reko Diq? Nothing. Sehbai seems only concerned with making readers angry about mining and corruption so that they will assume that any Reko Diq agreement is also tainted with corruption, even if there is no evidence of such.

Sehbai pulls another sleight of hand later by saying that a company that owns some shares of Tethyan is “being accused on the web of some strange activities”.

The Canadian company, Barrick Gold, with 29 mines all over the world, is already being accused on the web of some strange activities. These include spills of cyanide, mercury and other heavy metals, police and legalistic repression of critics, threats to water resources on four continents and even food poisoning, as well as rape.

And this should tell the reader everything he needs to know about Shaheen Sehbai’s journalistic ethics. How can someone who claims to be a professional journalist write such slander? Surely Sehbai is aware that any living person can write anything on the web with no oversight and virtually no consequences. That he would include such as his evidence shows that he is willing to stoop to any lows to write a sensational tabloid article, not serious investigative news.

Sehbai even says that CM Balochistan was asked if he is being pressurized by Zardari, only to have the CM reply that the answer is no! Why does Sehbai report the CM’s reply “as an after thought”? Is it because he is trying to influence readers not to believe the CM’s own word?

Shaheen Sehbai may not believe the word of the CM Balochistan, but he is certainly willing to believe the word of his fellow “reporter” of The News, Ahmad Noorani even though this very site has proven before that Mr Noorani includes incorrect statements in his articles.

The Reko Diq mine is a project worth billions in investment for Pakistan. Certainly such an important venture must be taken with public discussion and transparent process so that we can be sure that Pakistan gets the best possible result and the most benefit for the people of this country. But public discussion and transparent process does not include sensationalism and fictions. The people deserve the facts, not Shaheen Sehbai’s drama screenplays.

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  1. I totally agree with your view point. Giving false news only deprive us of progress and development. What Pakistan should ensure is that we get the rewards as per international norms from this project, and that investment is not unecessarily challenged and consequently, projects delayed. See what has happened to LNG project. If it would come in time, we could have saved a lot on using LNG instead of expensive furnace oil in our power plants. Sooner the better. And as a result, the higher cost of electricity that we will have to bear in near future could have been avoided. Such a pity.

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  3. Yes, ground realities are totally different and article of Mr. Sehbai is appread to be based on assumptions. This type of assumptions will damage country’s image inetrnationaly. we are beggers as we have no objection on getting heaps of loans from IMF, World Bank and so called friends of Pakistan. But we dont want to have direct foreign investment in the country. This will be the first world class mining project in pakistan and it will pave the way for more foreign investment and will develop local skilled force and expertiese, which can be utilised for such future projects.
    the money recived from foreign financial institution is being spent on our leaders lavish livings and for their personal entertainment. Our Political leadership is playing games just for their persoanl games.
    please, be patient and let the people of balochistan get better life, education and health facilities. Govt just wants to use this projects like PIA, Railway and steel mill.

  4. I will say we as a nation are really are unfortunate that people who are having nationaly of other country such as Shaheen Sehbai who try to create panic in our country by creating stories. Like soon after publishing the story in news paper, our nation suddently woke up few journalists organized discussions in their channels and one Advocate filed a case without knowing the facts and figures.
    Being local of District Chagai I know very well Reko Diq Project and all other projects in Chagai or in Balochistan. Country is in a situation where investors are not ready to come. today if we compare countries such Chilie we will come to know she is the largest Cpper producer coutry of the world. If we investigate will come to know the reason of their success they invited copper companies from outside their countries who invested and explored copper where the Governemnt made a law if any company invest, explores copepr he has right to mine, investor came and successfully explored and mined. now a days there are several companies of Chilie who are not only doing mining buisiness in their own country but they are successfully doing minining in rest of world as well.

    Now let me share Saindak project expeirence Pakistan Government strated investment from 70s at Saindak project the construction of the project by Chinese Company completed in 1992 and total investmen was of Pakistan. Chinese run test phase then the project was handed w=over to Paksitan and Pakistani team started to operat the mine, you can check the record and histry only for 45 days project remained operational by Pakistani team and then closed and the Governemtn of that time (Nawas Shareef 1993) and expert suggested this project is a failure and project was cloesed permanently emplyees were paid salaries for 6 to 7 years without any profit getting from the project. then during 2000 chinese came back and still they are operating that same failed project and getting profit. believe me same campany working at Sindat (MCC) as taken a project at Afghanistan as well and they are financing on that project from profit they earned from Saindak but unfornately we could not operate that.

    I want to suggest the leadership let work Tethyan Copper Company which is a joint venture of two Giants Barrick Gold Canada and Antafagasta of Chilie both biggest companies of Gold and Copper respectively. make sure Pakistanis are being trainined properly and then start exploring from Reko Diq to Tibbet becauce all this pak afghan border belt is rich of copper and gold because it lying on Tethyan Belt and that day will not be far to become world leading copper producer.

    let me share some thing about TCC I think it is the best company taking care of CSR (Community Social Responsibility) investing on human development for local people and training people for appointing them in the project.

  5. I think 6 billion dollar investment can improve foreign invest ratio, while other invester specially of Copper Gold will start thinking to invest in Pakistan, because a long area of Tethyan belt falls in Pakistan where rich copper and gold reserves are available.

  6. I was watching a discussing on TV where a caller Dr. Abdul Rehman said fix a waching plant and get copper, I was shocked to hear that out Pakistani educated people are so much illererate that they dont know in which form copper is present under ground.

  7. Mr Shaheen Sehbai is no doubt is great conjurer in the hollow portal of journalism. The murky business of spreading false rumors is very much passion of this devil. Since democracy restored in the country, he is constantly trying to rail road it. He is only a heap of dirt who even does not feel shame to invite military to intervene in the democratic set up. Even his own past is not so transparent, I could even remember he escaped from Pakistan to save his skin 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. This only man is shamelessly playing with the national interests. He is a traitor, who must be dealt with iron hands.

  8. Shaheen Sehbai in his recent report tries to claim that there is some trick being played by the mining company named ‘Tethyan’. “An Australian mineral exploration firm originally started the exploration and invested some $30 million but in 2006 sold the company to a Canadian and Chilean joint venture for $230 million. The old company was an Australian public company Tethyan Copper Prosperity Limited and the new company was named Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) of Pakistan. A trick game is being played in these cosmetic changes. The Canadians and Chileans, according to publicly declared information to their shareholders and regulators, took 37.5 per cent share each, while Pakistan only had the remaining 25 per cent.” But this is no trick. Actually, it is public knowledge that has been reported in the press. ) “Tethyan Copper – jointly owned by Canada’s Barrick and Chile’s
    Antofagasta – holds 75% of the project and the Balochistan provincial government owns the remaining 25%.” Sehabi next tries another sleight of hand trick by quoting stories about an Afghani mining corruption which has nothing to do with the
    Reko Diq mine. “According to a Washington Post report on Nov 18, 2009: “The Afghan
    minister of mines accepted a roughly $30 million bribe to award the country’s largest development project to a Chinese mining firm.” “Quoting a US official, the Washington Post said: “The alleged payment to Mohammad Ibrahim Adel was made in Dubai within a month of December 2007, when a big Chinese metallurgical group received the contract for a $2.9 billion project to extract copper from the Aynak deposit in Logar province. Aynak is considered one of the largest unexploited copper deposits in the world.” What does this have to do with the story of Reko Diq? Nothing!!!

  9. Money Talks TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2010
    http://cafepyala.blogspot.com/2010/11/money-talks.html

    Mir Ibrahim Rehman (c) at his master’s convocation earlier this year
    Guess who was spotted on November 9 in Washington D.C. at a reception for American and Pakistani media personnel thrown by US AfPak ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s media assistant Ashley Bommer? Mir Ibrahim Rehman, scion of the house of Jang and CEO of the Geo TV Network. He walked in with The Friday Times editor and Dunya TV’s Najam Sethi but stayed long after Sethi left the party.

    Mir Ibrahim (MIR) apparently jetted in for a mysterious three-day visit to the US, during which, our sources say, the main objective was to convince the US administration that Geo was neither anti-US nor anti-democracy, the line being peddled by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government. MIR also wished to gather official American support for the Jang Groupagainst the PPP boycott of the group as an instance of an assault on freedom of the media.

    Our sources claim that MIR did not find too much traction among US officials against the idea of a media boycott, perhaps because the Obama administration itself has a similar boycott against Fox News (albeit without the shoe-throwing rent-a-demos and vile grafitti scrawlsagainst Fox News owners). However, what is particularly interesting about the Jang Group’s attempts to woo the American establishment is the fact that there has been apparently a lot of discussion within the US government about whether it should support and even subsidize a media group that has no qualms about running shrill propaganda against the US, and sometimes even promoting a pro-Taliban line. In particular, Hamid Mir’s contribution to whipping up Blackwater hysteria in Pakistan, Ansar Abbasi’s rants about Western puppets, and the space given to nutjobs such as Zaid Hamid (Aag TV) and Ahmad Quraishi (Aag TV and The News) have apparently raised quite a few eyebrows in the US administration.

    The Americans have reason to be upset with the Jang Group, and MIR has reasons to find their upset unsettling. The running of the banal American propaganda Voice of America (VoA) programme Khabron Se Aagay[Beyond the Headlines] as an ‘advertorial’ on Geo since 2005 has netted the Jang Group and its owners, by some accounts, millions of US taxpayer dollars. Although the exact ‘compensation package’ doled out to Geo by the US government is still secret, it should be noted that the deal between Geo and VoA was mediated during the Bush-Musharraf era by the then Information Secretary Anwar Mahmood and advertising whiz-kid Asif Salahuddin, the latter of whom is reputed not to touch ’small’ deals. Apparently, part of MIR’s discussions with the US administration included those on the future of the Geo-VoA deal.

    Incidentally, while Najam Sethi was ostensibly in the US for medical check-ups and may have been present at the Bommer reception only coincidentally, as we have reported in the past, he too has been trying to persuade American-backed NGOs to fund a new ‘liberal’ channel to be headed by him.

    Coming back to MIR, it seems that more than American upset, a potential threat of withdrawal of lucrative financial support may be the trigger for a panic at the Jang Group. As they say, bullshit may walk but it’s money that talks. I have a strong feeling that you may well see the (media) house line shifting very soon. If you suddenly begin to miss the casual anti-US vitriol in the group’s publications and on Geo, you’ll know why.

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