In Haqqani vs. Noorani, the loser is Jang Group

May 14th, 2012 | By | Category: Jang, The News

The News (Jang Group)Continuing its trend of publishing opinion pieces in place of news reports, The News on Monday took up almost the entire page 5 of the National News section with various opinion pieces. Ali Moeen Nawazish wrote his opinion about the importance of respecting mothers, and ‘Our Correspondent’ wrote that PPP has been outsmarted by PML-N on the issue of Seraiki province, terming PPP resolution as “political gimmicks”. Most of the page, though, was dominated by two opinion pieces by Husain Haqqani and Ahmad Noorani.

The piece by Husain Haqqani was actually the reproduction of an op-ed that was published in The New York Times last week. Ahmad Noorani, whose title at Jang Group is ‘Investigative Journalist’ has a response published next to the reproduction of Haqqani’s op-ed.

We do not intend to either defend or reject Husain Haqqani’s or Ahmad Noorani’s personal opinions as each is entitled to his own personal opinions. But we do believe it is important to note a few things about this ‘Haqqani vs. Noorani’ episode as it points to several important problems related to journalistic practices.

First is the simple fact that The News continues to blur the line between journalism and opinion making. If Jang Group values the opinions of Ahmad Noorani, they should move him from the Investigative Reporting department to the Editorial department. Publishing Mr Noorani’s personal opinions in place of factual news reports undermines the credibility of Jang Group‘s reporting as a whole as it suggests that the Editors do not know the difference between facts and opinions. Similarly, if The News wanted to republish Haqqani’s op-ed from The New York Times, they should have done so on the Opinion page, not the National News page. If they wanted to publish a response, that too should have appeared on the Opinion page by a qualified columnist or a member of the Editorial staff. Publishing these pieces in the National News section deprives readers of actual news reporting, displacing facts with opinions.

Then there are the serious factual problems with Mr Noorani’s column.

Ahmad NooraniAccording Noorani’s piece, Husain Haqqani “accused the entire Pakistani nation as the only Muslim society, which supports terrorists”. This sounds terrible. And it would be if Haqqani had actually written such a thing. Here’s what Haqqani actually wrote: “Pakistan was the only Muslim country in which hundreds of demonstrators gathered to show solidarity with the dead terrorist figurehead”.

Haqqani wrote “hundreds of demonstrators” and Ahmad Noorani claimed that he accused “the entire Pakistani nation”. Haqqani wrote that some demonstrators “show solidarity with the dead terrorist” and Ahmad Noorani claimed that he said we all “support terrorists”. Ahmad Noorani then goes on to say that Haqqani “claimed the whole Pakistani nation was supporting Osama on his death anniversary”. Again, this would be a serious charge if it were true. But again, Haqqani’s op-ed contains no such claim. The fact that Haqqani’s op-ed was re-published next to Ahmad Noorani’s response makes this impossible to deny.

Did Noorani not actually read Haqqani’s piece before he wrote his response? Or is he simply lying about what Haqqani said in an attempt to vilify him? Either way, the next obvious question is how the Editors at The News could allow such a potentially libelous mistake to be published in their newspaper? Did they not read both Haqqani’s op-ed and Noorani’s response to fact-check before publishing them?

These factual errors occur early in Noorani’s piece, and set the stage for some bizarre acts to follow. For example, shifting from Haqqani’s op-ed to the question of allegations against President Zardari, Noorani writes;

…none else than the US Senate itself had investigated this money laundering case and had held Haqqani’s boss in Islamabad guilty of money laundering.

This raises two important questions. First, how can Ahmad Noorani be trusted to provide accurate reports on court cases, which he often reports about, if he has already convicted certain parties in his own head? Is he a journalist or a wanna-be prosecutor? Second, if Ahmad Noorani accepts the findings of US Senators on the issue of money laundering in Pakistan, does he also accept the findings of US Senators on the issue of Taliban ‘safe havens’ in Pakistan? We would kindly request that Mr Noorani be careful how he selectively quotes foreign politicians against Pakistanis because his actions might result in grave consequences that he did not consider.

Things take a turn for the truly bizarre, though, when Noorani returns to the topic of Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan and Haqqani’s asking “why Pakistanis are debating the secret US raid in Abbottabad and not asking who was responsible for his presence in that city”. In his response, Noorani asks the following question:

Has Mr Haqqani not been briefed about the Pakistani position on this issue and is he not supposed to discuss that as a representative of the Islamabad government in US media?

This is truly bizarre. Is Mr Noorani not aware that Haqqani resigned his position several months ago and holds no official position, therefore is neither party to briefings nor a representative of the govenrment? Noorani’s analysis also raises the question: what is this briefing about the Pakistan position on this issue – something that has not been publicly reported. If Mr Noorani is aware of briefings on an official position with regards to Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, perhaps he should report them to the public. Or, if they are state secrets that he has been made privy to – officially or unofficially – perhaps he should not expose them in order to ‘get’ someone.

These are but a few of the factual errors and professional problems with Ahmad Noorani’s response to Husain Haqqani’s op-ed. Many more exist. Such can be expected given that Ahmad Noorani is not a professional analyst, but they are deeply troubling as he is supposedly an ‘Investigative Journalist’. How many of Ahmad Noorani’s supposedly investigative pieces are filled with factual mistakes and uninformed speculation? Ahmad Noorani is entitled to his own opinions, but he is not entitled to misrepresent his subjects and invent ‘facts’ from thin air.

Then there is the issue of editorial oversight, which appears to be completely missing in this case. Several of Ahmad Noorani’s factual errors are easily detected simply by reading the very first sentences of Husain Haqqani’s op-ed. If Ahmad Noorani did not read them, shouldn’t his editors have? This would have saved The News the embarrassment of publishing an opinion piece riddled with so many factual mistakes.

Finally, there is the issue of journalistic credibility. If The News publishes ‘Investigative Journalists’ who have already formed opinions about their subjects, how can readers know that what they are getting is objective research and not reports twisted by Confirmation Bias?

We take no position on the opinions contained in either piece. Haqqani’s op-ed was certainly worthy of a responding editorial, though why The News gave this assignment to Ahmad Noorani and not the Editorial staff leaves us scratching our heads. Certainly Ahmad Noorani is entitled to his opinion, but our concern is that his response contains so many glaring factual and ethical errors as to threaten the credibility of one of Pakistan’s largest newspapers by publishing it as it was filed.

Noorani’s piece may be a hit within certain quarters, but people who expect a newspaper to value facts – even those with no fondness for Husain Haqqani or the PPP – are certain to see Noorani’s column as a serious lapse in professional judgment. It will be interesting to see how the leadership of Jang Group will address this embarrassment.

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  1. What can one expect from a man whose mentor is reportedly one Ansar Abbasi?

  2. Ahmed Noorani is a shagird of Ansar Abbasi, rather a gang member!

  3. Like Noorani, Kamran Khan is also slippery:) Kamran Khan wanted Drone Attacks in 2008 🙂

    US told not to back terrorism against Pakistan by Kamran Khan Tuesday, August 05, 2008

    http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=16421&Cat=13&dt=8/5/2008

    KARACHI: Pakistan has complained to the United States military leadership and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that Washington’s policy towards terrorism in Pakistan was inconsistent with America’s declared commitment to the war against terror.

    Impeccable official sources have said that strong evidence and circumstantial evidence of American acquiescence to terrorism inside Pakistan was outlined by President Pervez Musharraf, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and Director General Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj in their separate meetings with US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen and CIA Deputy Director Stephen R Kappes on July 12 in Rawalpindi.

    The visit by the senior US military official along with the CIA deputy director — carrying what were seen as India-influenced intelligence inputs — hardened the resolve of Pakistanís security establishment to keep supreme Pakistan’s national security interest even if it meant straining ties with the US and Nato.

    A senior official with direct knowledge of these meetings said that Pakistan’s military leadership and the president asked the American visitors “not to distinguish between a terrorist for the United States and Afghanistan and a terrorist for Pakistan”.

    For reasons best known to Langley, the CIA headquarters, as well as the Pentagon, Pakistani officials say the Americans were not interested in disrupting the Kabul-based fountainhead of terrorism in Balochistan nor do they want to allocate the marvellous predator resource to neutralise the kingpin of suicide bombings against the Pakistani military establishment now hiding near the Pak-Afghan border.

    In the strongest evidence-based confrontation with the American security establishment since the two countries established their post-9/11 strategic alliance, Pakistani officials proved Brahamdagh Bugti’s presence in Afghan intelligence safe houses in Kabul, his photographed visits to New Delhi and his orders for terrorism in Balochistan.

    The top US military commander and the CIA official were also asked why the CIA-run predator and the US military did not swing into action when they were provided the exact location of Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan’s enemy number one and the mastermind of almost every suicide operation against the Pakistan Army and the ISI since June 2006.

    One such precise piece of information was made available to the CIA on May 24 when Baitullah Mehsud drove to a remote South Waziristan mountain post in his Toyota Land Cruiser to address the press and returned back to his safe abode. The United States military has the capacity to direct a missile to a precise location at very short notice as it has done close to 20 times in the last few years to hit al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistan.

    Pakistani official have long been intrigued by the presence of highly encrypted communications gear with Baitullah Mehsud. This communication gear enables him to collect real-time information on Pakistani troop movement from an unidentified foreign source without being intercepted by Pakistani intelligence.

    Admiral Mullen and the CIA official were in Pakistan on an unannounced visit on July 12 to show what the US media claimed was evidence of the ISI’s ties to†Taliban commander Maulana Sirajuddin Haqqani and the alleged involvement of Pakistani agents in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.

    Pakistani military leaders rubbished the American information and evidence on the Kabul bombing but provided some rationale for keeping a window open with Haqqani, just as the British government had decided to open talks with some Taliban leaders in southern Afghanistan last year.

    Before opening new channels of communication with the Taliban in Helmand province in March this year, the British and Nato forces were talking to leading Taliban leaders through†Michael Semple, the acting head of the European Union mission to Afghanistan, and Mervyn Patterson, a senior UN official, before their unprecedented expulsion from Afghanistan by the Karzai government†in January this year.

    The American visitors were also told that the government of Pakistan had to seek the help of Taliban commanders such as Sirajuddin Haqqani for the release of its kidnapped ambassador Tariquddin Aziz, after the US-backed Karzai administration failed to secure Aziz’s release from his captors in Afghanistan.

    Admiral Mullen and Kappes were both provided information about the activities of the Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad and were asked how the CIA does not know that both Indian consulates are manned by Indian Intelligence who plot against Pakistan round the clock.

    “ We wanted to know when our American friends would get interested in tracking down the terrorists responsible for hundreds of suicide bombings in Pakistan and those playing havoc with our natural resources in Balochistan while sitting in Kabul and Delhi,”, an official described the Pakistani mood during the July 12 meetings.

    Throughout their meetings, the Americans were told that Pakistan would like to continue as an active partner in the war against terror and at no cost would it allow its land to be used by our people to plot terror against Afghanistan or India . However, Pakistan would naturally want the United States, India and Afghanistan to refrain from supporting Pakistani terrorists.

    Pakistani officials have said that the current “trust deficit” between the Pakistani and US security establishment is not serious enough to lead to a collapse , but the element of suspicion is very high, more so because of† the CIA’s decision to publicise the confidential exchange of information with Pakistan and to use its leverage with the new government to try to arm-twist the Army and the ISI.

    The Pakistani security establishment, officials said, want a fresh round of strategic dialogue with their counterparts in the US, essentially to prioritise the objectives and terrorist targets in the war against terror, keeping in mind the serious national security interests of the allies.

  4. Why treason trial is not doable Kamran Khan Friday, August 21, 2009 Kamran Khan on Treason Trial of General Pervez Musharraf http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=23981&Cat=13&dt=8/21/2009

    KARACHI: When Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani hinted in the National Assembly on Wednesday that institution of a treason case against Pervez Musharraf was not “doable”, he was actually alluding to those unwritten assurances provided to the former military ruler from the ruling coalition, military leadership and Pakistan’s trusted international friends in the week that followed his resignation from the office on Monday, August 18, last year, according to most informed political and security sources. Asking the opposition led by the PML-N not to play to the gallery on the issue of Musharraf’s trial, the prime minister advised the House on Wednesday that: “We should do what is doable,” Gilani, intentionally, did not elaborate the “doable”.

    Multiple sources with direct knowledge of what happened in the corridors of power between August 11 and August 18 last year said that the deal that finally saw Musharraf’s departure was cobbled together by the top PPP leaders, including President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W Patterson, Britain’s special envoy to Pakistan Sir Mark Lyall Grant and an emissary of the King of Saudi Arabia. “The bottom line of this deal was to grant Pervez Musharraf a graceful departure from the Presidency with guarantees that there would no impeachment or court proceedings against him in future,” said a senior official with the direct knowledge of what happened in the decisive week.

    “There is no guarantee to what happens to Musharraf in distant future, but the deal promises no official disgrace for Musharraf under the present government.” Prime Minister Gilani’s recent statement and President Zardari’s advice to “Friends” in an interview last week “to leave the politics of revenge” further testifies the sanctity of the arrangement reached in August last year. Notwithstanding the deal, senior PPP leaders seem convinced that Nawaz Sharif’s growing pressure on the government to file sedition charges against Musharraf were actually a political attempt from the PML-N to pitch the PPP government against the army.

    “Mian Saheb, we [the PPP] have had enough of confrontation with the army and have given enough of sacrifices, this time please excuse us now, you go ahead and do the job,” this was the response of President Zardari to Nawaz Sharif when the later insisted that the government should go ahead and file sedition charges against Musharraf during President Zardari’s visit to Sharif’s Raiwind estate for a “courtesy meeting “ on 17th of last month. “This is a fantastic deal which none of the participants would own or confirm, yet there is nothing to suggest any violation of this unwritten agreement,” the official said. “Its more sacred than most written political agreements.” Units from all three military services gave Musharraf a final salute before a warm send-off by three services chiefs and the chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee that followed his historic resignation speech.

    “This was all very carefully choreographed to give a message to the nation and the world that no military rebuke was attached to Musharraf’s departure after nine years in the Presidency,” according to a senior security official. “Pakistan Army is least interested in General Musharraf’s political ambitions and its subsequent fallout, but his trial for past actions by this government would make things uncomfortable,” the same source observed. Another sources said the presidential security both from the army and civil law enforcing agencies including provisioning of armoured vehicles and continued stay at the Army House – the official residence of the army chief – were provided to the former president till he lived in Pakistan as part of the same deal.

    The international element in Musharraf’s exit deal also promised similar treatment and protocol for him during his stay abroad. It may not be in common knowledge that during his stay in Britain, the British government has provided him a 24-hour security cover with armed personnel and armoured vehicle, an arrangement reserved for very important people in Britain. Incidentally, it was Britain that had played a key role in stitching the final deal for Musharraf’s departure by sending Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s former ambassador to Pakistan who is known for his deep personal ties with both top PPP and PML-N leadership, in the second week of August last year. “Sir Grant’s visit was a turning point,” informed an impeccable source. “He had the clout and ability to convince Musharraf that it was time to go and to simultaneously request Zardari and Nawaz Sharif not to mess with Musharraf’s departure, but the final screws were driven by General Kayani, whom the British envoy had met last.”

    Sir Grant returned to London on August 14, as the army leadership began to write the final act in Musharraf’s saga in power. Incidentally, on August 15 last year, only a day after Sir Grant’s return to London from Islamabad, respected Financial Times wrote an editorial under the headline: “Bye Bye Musharraf.” Giving an identical advice given to top Pakistan political leadership by Sir Grant in the last few days, the Financial Times wrote in the same editorial: “But that [Musharraf’s imminent departure] does not mean it [Pakistan Army] will stand by and watch General Musharraf, its former chief of staff, humiliated by parliamentary impeachment. The ruling coalition must not overplay its hand because Pakistan cannot afford another layer of crisis.” Multi-layered efforts were made from London to Washington to Islamabad to Riyadh to make sure that political leadership, particularly Nawaz Sharif, does not try to disrupt Musharraf’s graceful departure. Various sources confirmed that in the final act before Musharraf retired to his bedroom Sunday night to prepare for his resignation speech due next day morning, the military leadership, including Gen Kayani, CJCSC Gen Tariq Majid, the then ISI DG Lt Gen Nadeem Taj and Rawalpindi Corps Commander Lt Gen Mohsin Kamal, spoke at length with their former commander in chief and soothed him with heartfelt assurances on future treatment. On a separate front Sir Mark Lyall Grant’s clear message to Musharraf was followed by similar messages, in shape of telephone calls, from the then United States Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

    At the same time, US Ambassador Anne W Patterson was working phones and meeting political and military leadership in Islamabad to ensure that a formal end of nine years of military rule in Pakistan remains as smooth as possible. On political front Messers Mark Grant and Anne Patterson secured full assurance from both Asif Zardari and Premier Gilani that they were not interested in any impeachment or future trial of Pervez Musharraf and at the same Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party in direct communication with the former president informed him that they would like a graceful departure for him, and, in future also, they would not be part of any political attempt to drag him to courts.

    An interesting behind the scenes meeting that took place between Musharraf and the ANP President Asfandyar Wali at the height of the controversy over his future remained secret to the media. At least two senior official sources insisted that Musharraf finally made up his mind to resign after a private conversation with the Custodian of two holy mosques King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on August 16, 2008. “King Abdullah backed Musharraf’s decision with a firm affirmation of continued close personal relationship and offered him to consider Saudi Arabia as his homeland,” one source said. Since leaving, Musharraf is believed to be in touch with King Abdullah whom he met also in May this year.

    After the private visit, King Abdullah gave Musharraf his private royal aircraft for a return journey to London from Riyadh. “I’m sure if Nawaz Sharif raised temperature for Musharraf’s trial under treason, King Abdullah would intervene on Musharraf’s behalf.” This was an impression gathered by one of Musharraf’s friend after the former president’s last meeting with King Abdullah. The deal to grant a secured graceful exit from power between the PPP, international powers, military and Pervez Musharraf was second in series of such unwritten deals whose sanctity was observed even under most difficult scenarios. For example, an unwritten agreement reached between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto Shaheed as a result of their meetings in London and Abu Dhabi in 2007 remained intact even after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination when Musharraf continued in power several months after the elections in exchange for granting unprecedented pardon in all corruption cases registered under Nawaz Sharif government and pursued during his tenure as military ruler against many PPP leaders and federal and provincial officials.

  5. Kamran Khan Bunkum on Pak Army & USA in 2007 🙂

    Belligerent Benazir inadvertently helped Musharraf Kamran Khan Friday, November 23, 2007 http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=11319&Cat=13&dt=11/23/2007

    KARACHI: Just three weeks after pushing Pakistan into the second emergency rule of his eight-year reign, President Gen Pervez Musharraf appears to have survived the strongest challenge yet to his hold on power. The Pakistan Army is still standing solidly behind him, the United States is ‘’pretty comfortable’’ with the situation and his fractious political supporters are busy in getting their act together for the elections.

    Based on this recovered confidence, anchored in American and Army support, President Musharraf is now getting ready to step down as Chief of Army Staff within the next few days, say his associates.

    According to an important aide, President Musharraf’s articulation of views and candour were at their best when he spoke to President Bush in an unpublicised telephone conversation early last week. During this dialogue, he convinced Bush that the emergency was imposed for “only a few weeks” in the best interests of democracy. This landmark telephone conversation between President Bush and President Musharraf, kept secret from the media in both countries, was also used by Musharraf to provide a timetable for the complete restoration of democracy in Pakistan to the person who is perhaps his best international friend.

    Musharraf followed up the promise made to Bush during this conversation when he gave the date for the general elections and ordered the release of thousands of political detainees. President Bush was clearly happy and he couldn’t resist expressing his satisfaction publicly on Wednesday by declaring one more time: “I think he (Musharraf) truly is somebody who believes in democracy.”

    In an interview with this correspondent in February last year, President Bush had said that he shared Musharraf’s “vision for democracy.” Now 21 months later, Bush said last Wednesday, “I do believe that he’s going to end up getting Pakistan back on the road to democracy, I certainly hope so.”

    Opposition politicians, particularly Benazir Bhutto, are discouraged. But what she is probably unaware of is that her belligerent political posturing since her return to Pakistan last month, reinforced the perception among the country’s military commanders that it was the worst time to lift support from Musharraf. More ominously, Bhutto’s combative statements dealt a severe blow to her desire of finally making peace with the Pakistani military establishment.

    “What does Ms Bhutto expect from the Army or the people when she starts her day by demanding that the US cut off aid to the Pakistani military,” asked a general not authorised to speak on the record with the media . “I know Gen Musharraf and Gen Kiyani (Vice Chief of Army Staff) had a hard time selling the NRO (National Reconcliation Ordinance) to senior commanders,” the same general claimed. He said General Musharraf’s decision to grant amnesty to Benazir was considered a highly unpopular decision within the institution.

    “Her statements on AQ Khan and the Army’s role in curbing militancy had already complicated the situation before she launched the aid cut-off campaign in the western media,” another Army general explained during a private conversation last week. “The notion that she is playing to the gallery in western capitals is gaining ground in the Army in particular and the country in general,” he said.

    This became evident when the visiting United States Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte was informed by the government during his visit to Islamabad last week that his desire to arrange a personal meeting with Ms Bhutto would carry negative consequences.

    Negroponte got a detailed sense of this perception during his meetings with President Musharraf and two meetings with Vice Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, an informed official said.

    During several private conversations with senior military and intelligence officials over the last several days, a consensus view seemed emerging. In this view, international forces were using discontent against President Musharraf to undermine the institution of the Army in Pakistan.

    This perception within the Army emanated from the campaign to reinstate the chief justice when the angry lawyers allegedly failed to distinguish between President Musharraf and the largely apolitical Pakistan Army. Their slogans, even in the presence of Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, allegedly targeted the rank and file of the Army and the media ran the campaign unedited, several Army officials claimed.

    An element of mystery was added in the military minds when Ms. Bhutto, backed by huge support from the western media, suddenly opted to increase pressure on General Musharraf by demanding the US to cut military aid to “nuclear-armed” Pakistan.

    Hence the final decision was taken in informal and formal discussions between the corps commanders and Gen Musharraf just before and after the imposition of emergency to completely detach the Army from civil governance under the new Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani and to maintain strategic support to President Musharraf’s vision for democracy which the GHQ is most happy to share with President George Bush.

    This was the period when the military commanders also turned down President Musharraf’s offer to quit both as the Army chief and president if that would help restore the much desired civil- military balance of power in Pakistan. According to a reliable official’s account of the meetings and conversations that took place between President Musharraf and several corps commanders and principal staff officers in the last week of October and the first week of this month.

    Barring an unprecedented development, the Army seems ready to vanish from the public eye, even to the extent that senior Army officers may be asked to restrict their contacts with civilians only to close relatives and old friends.

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