The following report comes from the blog Let Us Build Pakistan. LUBP is an independent blog by supporters of PPP. Pakistan Media Watch is not partisan (we have defended individuals from different political parties, and will continue to) but only seeks to correct inaccurate and misleading information in the media. We are re-posting this analysis by Ali Munsif because it is very fair and raises several important questions about news reporting.
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Our self righteous media’s erstwhile investigative reporters, Ansar Abbasi and Tariq Butt are at it again. In their yet another report cum analysis titled “Confusion prevails over fact-finding committee report- Rehman Malik, Babar Awan to record statements now” with the sub-heading “What is the PPP Core Committee up to?” dated May 5, 2010(http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=28639) both gentlemen have yet again targeted Rehman Malik and Babar Awan.
It seems that the investigations of our media and focus has been towards the post-shooting / bombing scenario, the movement of vehicles, hosing down of the crime scene and most importantly the role of Rehman Malik and Babar Awan rather than who fired from the left, was there another shooter at the back and how did the bomber get to Liaqat Bagh.
I have a few questions for our erstwhile friends i.e. Ansar Abbasi and Tariq Butt:
Would BB have been alive even if the vehicle which “ran off with sinister motives” (as being portrayed by them) was there and she would have reached the hospital in time? Ms. Naheed Khan has said previously in public that when BB fell in her lap, she was already dead with blood gushing out with a fracture to her skull.
Ms. Naheed Khan and Safdar Abbasi were for sure the closest to BB. The Liaqat Bagh public meeting was entirely arranged by Naheed Khan and her team with all liaising of the security arrangements done by them. Have they been questioned that why people on the ground did not come up and take responsibility of the change of route and opening of gates that allowed people to come to BB’s vehicle? Remember Naheed Khan used to control a number of things and the Liaqat Bagh meeting was entirely her territory.
Why didn’t Naheed Khan, Safdar Abbasi and Makhdoom Amin Fahim make themselves available for fact finding? Off course Babar Awan and Rehman Malik are already the bad people of the PPP as they have been targeted from day one, however, others who could have provided some important clues about the last few minutes of BB didn’t present themselves to the committee.
Sherry Rehman is being quoted that she will present herself to the committee if called. I have seen videos and pictures of the Liaquat Bagh meeting. I could see Farzana Raja, Zamarrud Khan, Nayyar Bukhari, Mehreen Anver Raja etc on the stage near BB, but I somehow missed Sherry Rehman. Was she there even? Usually one could see her to be visible closest to BB or where the camera would be.
It seems that the focus is deliberately being shifted to the aftermath of BB’s death than what lead to her being assassinated. She was a target for radicals and was someone would have dealt with the extremists on her aggressive terms.
Post her assassination, there was a change of guard at the PPP. It is all but natural for a new leader to bring his team, which is what President Zardari has done. The team that was closest to BB i.e. Naheed Khan and Safdar Abbasi were shown the door. Off course, PPP is a big political party where internal differences have always been a major factor. Ansar Abbasi, Tariq Butt, Shahid Masood etc are playing a dirty role by instigating statements or rather putting words in mouths of people who are no more in favor and try to create divisions in the party.
It is my suggestion that focus of investigation should be on the threats to BB and what the impact of her assassination would be on Pakistan and the region. PPP has not been a very organized party in the past. When BB returned to Pakistan on 18th October, 2007, despite of a plan of not having the entire leadership on the truck due to the terrorist threat, the entire party leadership preferred to be on the truck. The terrorists could have easily wiped the entire party leadership in one go. The “lack of professionalism” as indicated by the UN Commission report is a very valid point which the PPP should focus on.
As far as our analysts are concerned, I request them to be more objective in their reporting; stop being analysts and for once validate your sources. However, if because of their ideological or political inclinations (e.g. links with the Hizbut-Tahrir or PML-N), these two authors are content with the exchange of their objectivity with biased opinion, then perhaps not much can be done about them or their analyses (often misrepresented as news reports).
Mr. Asif Ezdi, a former ambassador to Germany, has some pretty serious legal troubles. Mostly, troubles are understanding how laws work in a constitutional democracy. Last week we wrote about how Ezdi was propagating the latest conspiracy theory in the media about Zardari expanding his powers by signing the 18th Amendment. Today, Mr. Asif is back misrepresenting the debate about judicial review.
In his column for today’s issue of The News, Mr. Asif Ezdi repeats several misleading and, at times, contradictory talking points while he engages in some partisan name-calling. He begins his column by referring to PML-N as “hoodlums” who have issued a “threat” to the judiciary. This is both uncalled for and unprofessional. Even if he does not support PML-N, Mr. Ezdi should take note that this is the second largest political party which holds 97 seats in parliament. As such, PML-N is supported by a large number of Pakistanis. Just because Mr. Ezdi does not agree with someone, it does not make them hoodlums.
He then goes on to suggest that concerns raised by members of PML-N and PPP about the possibility of some “hidden hands” trying to influence the constitution are “meant to intimidate the Supreme Court.” This is curious for two reasons: First, Mr. Asif Ezdi is no child. Actually, he was an Ambassador when Gen. Musharraf was in power. So surely he knows a thing or two about “hidden hands” and the fact that these are sadly not unheard-of in our politics. Second, doesn’t Asif Ezdi have it backwards? Doesn’t it make more sense to say that threatening to overturn the 18th Amendment is the Supreme Court trying to intimidate the government?
Ezdi did learn something since his latest column. He criticizes Abdul Hafeez Pirzada for making claims that are “beyond the realm of the possible.” But then he goes on to suggest that “there are many conceivable scenarios in which a constitutional amendment is so flagrantly in violation of the most elementary norms of democracy and of justice that it should not be permitted to stand.” Obviously this is true, but the question here is not whether there can be some bad amendment to the Constitution. That is obvious from the 17th Amendment.
The question, though, is who is the proper government authority to correct the constitution? The courts did not threaten to throw out the 17th Amendment. It is only the 18th Amendment when they have suddenly declared this power. So the question must be, is this within the rightful authority of the courts or the parliament? This is the actual debate, so let’s stick to it.
Mr. Asif Ezdi is very confused about the term “judicial review”. Judicial review is the doctrine that says that legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the courts to ensure they are compatible with the defining laws of the country. In Pakistan, this is the Constitution. Mr. Asif Ezdi argues that there is something even higher than the Constitution which he calls “basic structure.” But he cannot define what this basic structure is. Actually, nobody can because what it really means is “whatever I say.” That is not democracy, it is dictatorship.
Nevertheless, Ezdi suggests that constitutional amendments should be open to judicial review using a most poor logical sleight-of-hand.
Some of the arguments given by those who oppose a judicial review of constitutional amendments can be easily dismissed. The contention that such a judicial review is not possible because it is specifically excluded by Articles 239 (5) and (6) is clearly untenable, because it is a circular argument. It uses a premise to prove a conclusion that, in turn, is used to prove the premise. These clauses, incidentally, were inserted by Zia to give protection to amendments he had made to validate his martial law.
Ezdi does not realize it, but he has actually harmed his own argument here. First, the argument is not circular, as he claims, but actually answers his question. The court cannot declare the constitution unconstitutional. If there is something in the constitution, then it by definition is constitutional. Second, Ezdi dismisses Articles 239 (5) and (6) because they were inserted by Zia. But if the Supreme Court is responsible for throwing out parts of the constitution that are illegitimate, why have they not thrown these out before? It appears that there is some selectivity to the argument – again, “basic structure” means “whatever I say.” There is no logic to it.
Asif goes on to make more confused statements.
The constitutionality of a piece of legislation depends on whether it is in conformity with the Constitution, not on how many votes it received.
Here is one important clue as to part of Ezdi’s confusion. A constitutional amendment is not a regular piece of legislation like a bill for collecting taxes. Rather, once the constitutional amendment is approved, it becomes part of the constitution. Therefore, it cannot be out of conformity because it would have to be out of conformity with itself. That makes no sense.
Even an amendment decreed by a dictator has the same legal force or validity as one which was passed unanimously.
Here Ezdi is actually proves his entire argument wrong. By saying (correctly) that “an amendment decreed by a dictator has the same legal force or validity as one which was passed unanimously” he is saying that the only way to remove such an amendment is to amend the constitution again. This is what the parliament did in passing the 18th Amendment. Ezdi has made the case for the parliament, even when he did not mean to!
Ezdi continues with his confused explanations by making the following points:
Among these principles are the following: that the state would exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people…A parliamentary form of government is not one of these founding principles, but ensuring the independence of the judiciary is.
It is amazing to think that Mr. Asif Ezdi’s logic actually contradicts itself so obviously. Did he not even read his own column before he submitted it for publication?
The conclusion of Ezdi’s column actually sets aside all of his previous writing and says that, whatever else, he is certain that Article 65A is not in keeping with the Constitution. On this, we agree. After all, there is no Article 65A so how can it be in conformity with the document? Actually, perhaps this is the fundamental problem with Asif Ezdi’s columns on the constitution and judicial review: He apparently has not yet read the documents he is discussing.
Where is Amir Mateen? When he first returned to The News we were told that he would be doing profiles of the political parties. He then proceeded to publish three very long and somewhat entertaining, if not informative, profiles of PML-Q, PML-N, and PPP. Since then, however, he has gone missing!
This is truly a disturbing situation. Where could Amir Mateen have got to? We are waiting anxiously for his cutting profiles of JI, PTI, ANP, MQM, etc. Because certainly Jang Group did not hire Mateen only to write some slandergossips “profiles” of these three political parties and not the others? Imran Khan is going to have very hurt feelings!
All kidding aside, there must be some reason that Amir Mateen has suddenly disappeared from the pages of The News. Was his writing so over-the-top that even the editors at The News felt that it was making their publication look bad? Or was this always just some excuse to write outrageous “profiles” of the three largest parties so that they could cause controversy?
If it is the first, that the editors at The News have realized their error in publishing these columns, that is a positive sign for the health of our news media. Mistakes are made by everyone, and it is not unheard of for something to make its way into a newspaper that was poorly researched and badly written. If the editors of The News have realized their mistake, we applaud them for setting things right.
But if it is the second, if Amir Mateen was brought in only to write long, ranting slanders against the leaders of only certain political parties as a bit of political favor to those parties not mentioned, this is not only unacceptable from the point of view of journalistic ethics, it calls into question everything else that Jang publishes.
In order to clear the air, we hope that the editors of The News will end the mystery and explain…Where is Amir Mateen?
The following is a guest post submitted by dear reader Sibtain Naqvi who took some time out of studying for his exams to respond to misleading statements in The News. Please, if you would like to submit a post for publication, or if you see a particularly misleading article in the media, send us an email at email@example.com
Since the inception of the 18th Amendment, The News has been constantly attacking the newly minted legislation. Being a major publication, it is the paper’s duty to pinpoint the flaws of the legislation and enlighten the public of discrepancies they may find. However, the two main articles that have been published only look to manipulate the public’s perception of the legislation by creating bogus facts or twisting the clauses to misrepresent what has been passed.
In the first article published by The News “PM to stay a puppet”?, Ansar Abbasi suggests that Prime Minister Gilani will still remain a dummy premier, even though he would have amassed all the constitutional powers granted to him. Although the 18th Amendment is a long piece of legislation the important migration of powers from the President to the Prime Minister should not go unnoticed. The President no longer has the authority to dissolve the Parliament or appoint the head of the military. These two powers, previously belonging to President Zardari did not sit well with the “independent” media. From the second Mr. Zardari took his Presidential oath, media personalities constantly lambasted him for retaining such powers. After passing on this authority to the Prime Minister, Ansar Abbasi seems to be dumbfounded.
The author backs up his argument by stating “After the insertion of the 18th Amendment…the PPP-head he can remove the prime minister, get unseated any number of ministers or the members belonging to his party”. He further articulates “there is no more room left for any member to vote according to his or her conscience except at the risk of getting unseated”. Now, to a layperson, such bold statements would truly make our members of government look like lame ducks.
It is the basic art of writing that when one makes an assertion he backs it up with a source. In the 627 word article “PM to stay a puppet”, Ansar Abbasi has not once given a reference from the 18th Amendment. After all, he is making such sweeping statements that the party head can get his politicians removed, I am sure there would be a clause somewhere in the text of the 18th Amendment. Being an amateur journalist, I took the liberty of reading the Constitution of Pakistan and the new legislation.
Article 63A. Disqualification on grounds of defection etc, (1)“If a member of a Parliament Party composed of a single political party in a House
(a) resigns from membership of his political party or joins another Parliamentary Party,
(b) votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the Parliamentary Party to which he belongs, in relation to
i. election of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister; or
ii. a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or
iii. a Money Bill or a Constitution (Amendment) Bill
he may be declared in writing by the Party Head to have defected from the political party, and the Party Head may forward a copy of the declaration to the Presiding Officer.
The “a Constitution (Amendment) Bill” is the only addition to this article in the 18th Amendment. Therefore, in no way have the political Party Head’s received greater power under the new law. If Ansar Abbasi believes that this is the case, I would request him to show me the article or clause by which he made this assumption.
I was going to take the higher route and let this particular Mr. Ansar Abbasi make himself look like a fool, but when he wrote another article today “Convicts can grab top political posts” it was difficult for me to let this article slide. Being fair to the author, this time around he did manage to give a reference to a particular clause in the 18th Amendment from which he drew his assumption. In “Convicts can grab top political posts”, Ansar Abbasi states “The 18th Amendment inserted a new Article 63 (1) (j). This is not true as such clause was already present in the Constitution. Furthermore, clause (j) as quoted by the author is incorrect, it is actually clause (g) to which he should be referring to.
Ansar Abbasi is trying to make the case that due to the addition of the statement “unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release” to Article 63 (1) (g)(h)(i), all convicts will now automatically become office bearers. I would like to reiterate that in order to become any “public –official” one needs to win an election. The power of the vote lies with the people and if the electorate is content on handing a public office to a convict, than that is the democracy. Furthermore, an elected convict could still be challenged under “Article 62 (1) (d) he is of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic Injunctions” and Article 62 (1) (f) he is sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and amen, and there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law”. There are still laws protecting irrational characters from being elected to office. The electorate is a strong minded body and I would ask Ansar Abbasi not to under-estimate the power of the vote.
The purpose of my writing this article is to identify the incorrect and misleading manner by which our reporters have started to pen their assumptions. It is unprofessional and irresponsible for journalists such as Ansar Abbasi to mislead the public by misinforming them of the facts. I should have been studying for my exams instead of writing this article. But since what was written in the newspaper was so outrageous and deceiving, I am going to be getting an earful from my parents about procrastinating on my academics. Thanks a lot The News!
Before we begin, we must mention that The News has published this bit of writing in the National News section, not the Opinion page. Perhaps the editors were confused by the lack of a ‘Libel’ section in the newspaper – something they should definitely consider including. It would make it so much easier on their dear readers.
Sehbai starts his column in a prison, which he seems to have detailed knowledge about. We meet the ‘Evil Genius’ Zardari that Amir Mateen introduced us to, but now he is not just an Evil Genius, but he is running a massive prison gang filled with goons that would make Scarface blush with envy.
Sehbai doesn’t tell us who exactly these people are, or how he has learned any of this information, of course. Rather he just tells us that “a number of mafia-type jobbers, some trouble shooters, a couple of well-dressed attack dogs and a bunch of gun-wielders” are now running the show and that “every other sane voice, adviser or friend” has been suppressed. So, we are to believe that the people elected a national government filled with mafia-type killers.
Do not wait for Sehbai to be filling in the cast later. This is one of his most common plot devices – the ‘Mystery Man.’ Shaheen Sehbai knows that he will quickly be sued for libel if he even hints at a name for one of his these colorful characters who you never actually meet, so he gives no one a name. But here is a question for Mr. Sehbai: If you truly believe what you write – that there are mafia-type killers in the government – why don’t you file some report? Why don’t you, at a minimum, name some names? Surely you will be protected by the courts who will see you are only doing a duty. Unless, of course, you are making it all up.
Next, Shaheen Sehbai begins to cry that Zardari and his government “make wild accusations and tall claims and trash the opponents without any decency.” This is really too much! Shaheen Sehbai is accusing someone of ‘making wild accusations’ and ‘tall claims’ and ‘trashing opponents without any decency!’ Oh, I just might fall out of my chair. That is truly hilarious.
Who is the victim of these attacks by Zardari and his friends? According to Sehbai it is “a democracy and freedom-loving media.” Yes, you have read this correctly. It’s okay. I will wait for you to finish laughing.
Shaheen Sehbai spends the rest of his article writing things like this:
[Zardari's] close associates, who talk freely against him when sitting in private drawing rooms, say he will stick to the Presidency to keep his immunity if the courts force him to quit either the PPP office or the Presidency.
How does Shaheen Sehbai know what Zardari’s close associates say in private drawing rooms? Are we to believe that the close friends of the President of Pakistan are stabbing him in the back to give some gossip to…Shaheen Sehbai? Shaheen Sehbai can’t even get himself invited to a military press briefing, but we are supposed to believe that he has insider knowledge from the President’s close friends. It is too much to believe.
Sehbai makes more of his famouspredictions, this time about Zardari’s secret plans to place his sister as head of PPP. Sehbai’s evidence for this is that:
…the PPP post is called that of a co-chairperson, when it actually should be co-chairman.
Really? THAT is your evidence of a conspiracy? Perhaps Shaheen Sehbai is a sexist, but that does not make a conspiracy.
After this, things take a turn for the truly bizarre as Shaheen Sehabi then calls on the entire nation to unite against Zardari in order to prevent…”another spell of military rule.” It is almost as if Shaheen Sehbai believes that if he follows one crazy statement with another that is even crazier, that maybe people will forget that the first thing he said is crazy.
Obviously, people can have their own opinions about the 18th Amendment and whether there need to be some more changes made. But does anyone really believe that Zardari is going to usher in military rule? Rather it seems that uniting to overthrow Zardari would usher in the military. I don’t pretend to see the future, but Sehbai’s logic is truly puzzling.
Sehbai next goes on to suggest that the Prime Minister to dismiss all the ministers and government officials and replace them with…well, Sehbai doesn’t say. He just says “credible and respected people” should be appointed. Perhaps Shaheen Sehbai could provide a list?
Most hilarious, though, is what Shaheen Sehbai says about the Supreme Court.
It is unfortunate that through a smart game of politicking the focus on implementation of NRO judgments has been shifted to the tussle between the SC and parliament. This tussle is a long drawn test match but the SC has to complete the T20 match it started on the NRO first.
Does Sehbai really want to call the NRO judgments a ‘T20′ match? T20 may be popular, but it is obviously just flashy entertainment and all show, not a real ‘test’ of the two sides. We have had enough show trials in this country. The NRO judgments should be given more thought and consideration that a T20 match.
And this is the problem with Shaheen Sehbai’s column. It is as if he wrote it while watching a match on television, and hurried to write down whatever nonsense popped into his head. His column is filled with the typical assortment of mystery sources, wishful journalism, crazy predictions, and poor logic. He writes a long and drawn-out attack with a poison pen, and he complains that his victim is hurting his own very sensitive feelings. Once again, Jang Group publishes all of this as news. THAT, dear readers, is the real shame.
On Monday we reviewed The News‘s latest failure feature, Amir Mateen’s gossip column about PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif. As promised, we will continue this series of reviewing Mateen’s juicy gossip columns so that you can spend your time reading actual news. After attacking Nawaz under the guise of profiling PML-N, Mateen turned his sights to the PPP. Of course, by PPP Mateen only means ‘Zardari’ and by profile, he only means ‘slander.’
Part I of Mateen’s latest profile makes no pretense of being an unbiased, well-researched report. Rather, the author jumps immediately to outlandish statements, most specifically claiming to speak for the late Benazir Bhutto and claiming that it is better for her to be dead. Apparently, Amir Mateen knows neither journalistic ethics nor shame.
All of this, though, is merely a set-up for the true target of Mateen’s poison pen – Asif Ali Zardari. Mateen quickly begins to throw slanderous accusations at Zardari, claiming that the President “treats his wife’s friends and close party colleagues with contempt.” Mateen provides no anecdotes, no examples, nor any statements from these friends and close party colleagues who he claims are so ill-treated.
Strangely, though, Mateen’s major problem with Zardari seems to be that he has changed some things in the PPP, including sidelining people who treated him badly in the past. I suppose Mr. Mateen only invites his own enemies to dinner. Amir Mateen says that Benazir Bhutto treated with respect those who “treated her like a kid and thought they they, not she, should lead the PPP.” Even here, Mateen manages to slander Benazir in her grave.
In part II of his gossip column, Amir Mateen continues his unsubstantiated tirade against Zardari as well as his Benazir Bhutto slander. Mateen writes,
A furious Zardari made hysterical calls from New York, shouting at everyone and anyone who was foolhardy enough to have answered his phone. This may be the reason why he has not forgiven Yousuf Talpur, a PPP veteran, who now lives his life on the outskirts of the party power circle.
Because of such incidents, the cabal of Zardari’s friends and family felt that they were held back because of Benazir’s advisers and close associates. And now that they are in power, they are settling the scores. Benazir’s life-long associates are easy prey for Zardari’s wrath and vengeance.
Not even Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani dares messing with the president’s friends. But it is difficult to forget that these friends include the people who were not even allowed to enter Benazir’s house or office. She disliked many of them. Benazir once got angry when Fehmida entered her office in Naudero without permission, because “the woman gives me a headache.”
This is quite a claim! Was Mateen present when Zardari made these alleged ‘hysterical calls from New York’? And has the PM told Mateen that he ‘dares not mess with the president’s friends’? Mateen even makes up some story about chanting at a rally. Obviously, he does not quote any sources or provide any evidence. Mateen oh-so-cleverly subtitled this column, “sub par bhari” but I believe it would be better subtitled, “Sub Par Bollywood” because Shahrukh Khan would have nothing to do with this ridiculous plot.
In Part III of his gossips, Amir Mateen – true to his “Sub Par Bollywood” style – adds a twist to the plot! No longer is he slandering Benazir’s grave by painting her as both too weak to stand up to bullies in her party and also a wicked woman who treats her friends badly; Now Amir Mateen as a kind hearted soul who worked tirelessly to make everyone feel loved.
Benazir turned this raw PPP energy into structures and forms. It took her over 30 years to devise a system in which she could cut across all tiers and communicate with the workers at the lowest rung. She was informed about the minutest details; she knew the PPP office-bearers in every Tehsil, their electoral history, and even about their wives and children. A charismatic leader, she left an impact on those she led and all the workers who had met her had a story to tell. The stories of what she ate, wore or said to, say, Sitara Baji in Denmark to Hassan Akhtari’s mother in Sahiwal.
Benazir stayed in touch, sharing joys and sorrows by sending birthday cards, wedding gifts, condolence messages and, the prized trophy, her signed photographs. She called party leaders at all levels personally, sent them emails and SMS messages, sometimes hundreds a day. When the workload became heavy, she became more selective about sending the replies herself, but for all intents and purposes, everyone thought she was the one responding.
She was very particular about the party structures at the district, divisional, provincial and national level. She may have worked through a kitchen cabinet, but she also gave a general sense of participation to the office-bearers at every level. And while she realised that the elected members were the face of the party for a certain section of society, she knew the provincial and district leadership was very important. She tried to maintain a balance between the two, but when needed, she tilted towards the latter. She ensured that the various party wings – women, labour, youth – and the committees on, say, foreign policy remained functional and effective. Benazir turned the party’s organisation into a well-run machine that survived the times, especially the bad ones. And herein lay the PPP�s strength.
Why, just the day before, Amir Mateen told us that Benazir was a heartless woman who treated Fehmida Mirza with cruelty. Now she is a saint. Amir Mateen, it appears, is not even concerned to keep his story straight, rather he only wants to keep the plot juicy!
The entire point of this episode of Mateen’s drama, though, is to say that Zardari is destroying the PPP with his power-hungry incompetence. Which is ironic, of course, since Zardari has just voluntarily signed away many of his powers as President to the PM, Yusuf Gilani. One would think that Zardari might not do such a thing since Gilani is – according to Mateen – so scared of him. Actually, I think Mateen just forgot that he made this claim in part I. So there is some small plot holes, let’s keep going.
Remember the past few episodes in which Zardari was a power-hungry bumbling idiot who was causing the PPP to crumble, ruining the legacy of Saint Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto (except when it was more convenient for Mateen to Slander Benazir, of course). Well, in the final episode, Zardari is not a bumbling idiot! No! Now he is an evil GENIUS!!!
Beneath this facade of a seemingly powerless Presidency lurks the most potent political and administrative machinery this country has ever seen. He has got twice the size of senior bureaucrats overseeing his invisible government than Musharraf had. The dictator was often accused of running the entire show from the Presidency and his prime ministerial troika was dubbed as a mere rubber stamp. But Musharraf only had four director generals of grade 20. Zardari’s administrative colossus has five additional secretaries of grade 21 (Zaid Zaman, Shahzad Arbab, Ishaq Lashari, Zafar Qadir and his press secretary Taimoor Azmat); the sixth slot vacated recently by Abdul Shafiq who got promoted as Secretary is to be filled; Justice (R) Ali Nawaz Chauhana gets the equivalence of additional secretary as legal consultant; Additional Secretary Hassan Javed of the Foreign Office has been replaced by Director General, Farrukh Amil; and at the top is Secretary to the President, Asif Hayat. There is a team of baboos and finally, at the top of this pyramid sits a super babu.
The team of baboos runs the invisible government of Zardari where they get a soft copy of every important file – involving lucrative deals, leases, exemptions, quotas, awards of contracts, important transfers and postings – from every ministry, division, or corporation. A discreet system has been devised where a copy (called “soft” because it is not officially required and acknowledged) of every important file from every government department lands at the Presidency. Once it is approved at the Presidency, after the “deal” they say, the message is conveyed to the concerned department or ministry either on telephone or through a coded message like, say, a green “tick” mark.
Really, Amir Mateen’s “Sub Par Bollywood” plot has become so ridiculous, I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Now it is not corrupt, stupid, and incompetent Zardari that is ruining the PPP. It is evil genius Zardari who has made the PPP into an unstoppable political machine. All in 24 hours, it seems.
Amir Mateen even includes some international intrigue by claiming that Dr Qayyum Soomro “is believed to have kept a visa of Afghanistan and a vehicle ready on the border to whisk him away…” As usual, Amir Mateen’s extensive journalistic experience could not be bothered to find any evidence – not even a phony quote from some ‘anonymous source’! No, he only says it “is believed.” Sorry, brother, I don’t believe it.
Actually, Mateen does finally make a phone call to get a quote in this episode. He calls Farhatullah Babar to get some evidence about the “invisible government” that the evil genius has secretly constructed. Only problem, Farhatullah says it is nonsense. Amir has come too far to let this get in the way of his “Sub Par Bollywood” plot, though, so he simply dismisses the only evidence he has:
“Babar being a straight and honest soul would not know of such mechanisms.”
Amir Mateen really makes things too unbelievable, though, when he claims that the media is controlled by Zardari through his team of Farahnaz Ispahani and Dr Qayyum Soomro. Really? Am I supposed to believe this? I think perhaps Amir has access to some other media than I do if he thinks Pakistan’s media is a tool of Asif Ali Zardari.
And thus concludes Amir Mateen’s latest Gossip Column AKA “Sub Par Bollywood.” Until next time, here is a quick preview of Amir Mateen’s next column:
I am getting quite fed up with the planted, biased, illiterate, and highly unprofessional so-called reporting by the The News International. Its current owner Mir Shakil ur Rehman was not above cheating in the exams. More about this in a moment.
At one point of time, I was very negative about Asif Zardari, and still am, [read my article of Sep. 04, 2008] but whatever he is or his past, he is at least a known commodity. And to be honest, what the PPP government under President Zardari has achieved in political terms in just two years, Zia and Musharraf could not achieve in the twenty two years, these murderers and traitors ruled the country. Zia killed ZAB and Musharraf killed Akbar Bugti. Whatever ZAB and Bugti’s wrongs might have been, every one deserves a fair trial. Both Zia and Musharraf violated the constitution and the law of the land with impunity and contempt. So it is not out of line to accuse them of murder and treason.
Now about the Jang Group.On Saturday, April 10, 2010, the News published a report by Ahmad Noorani that claimed, “a highly controversial clause regarding the judges’ appointment in the 18 Amendment bill has changed the whole scenario of lawyers’ politics with the government trying to gain their loyalties. According to the Law Ministry sources, sensing the lawyers’ reaction on the passage of the controversial clause of judges’ appointment, the law ministry has decided to launch a full-fledged campaign against the country’s independent judiciary. Credible sources confided to The News that senior officials of the ministry had been deputed for this purpose and they had been assigned to give cases to certain lawyers so that they feel obliged and sympathise with the government at an appropriate time.”
What kind of nonsense, unprofessional, planted and inspired reporting is this or for that matter reporting at all. Law Ministry sources, credible sources, reliable sources.. and so on! Another one was “lawyers plan to challenge the 18th amendment” without naming a single lawyer. This is not reporting. Name the sources or have the guts to say that it is your opinion. But then put it on opinion pages and stop publishing one-sided and inspired material as front page news items.
First of all, to term the clause regarding the judges’ appointment in the 18 Amendment bill as highly controversial is ludicrous, dishonest, and factually incorrect. The Amendment won an overwhelming majority and this particular clause was passed without any opposition, whatsoever, by the National Assembly. Would any one who is a journalist worth his salt and has any professional caliber, term this as “highly controversial” unless he is either very biased or is working on some agenda.
Such journalists should join politics and then they would be free and entitled to say whatever they fancy but as long as they profess to be journalists, they should learn to observe some professional standards. Or is that too much to expect. Maybe it is.
Specially from the Jang Group. This Group has played a special role in Pakistan’s history in promoting dictatorships, jingoism, sectarianism, ethnic conflicts, and in general keeping its readership in a world that can be described as xenophobic. Its role in projecting Jamaat-e-Islami in the 1970s, turning the newspaper into a pamphlet and printing highly inflammatory slogans [as a border] that provoked the language riots in Sindh (1972), barely six months after the dismemberment of Pakistan, remains one of the darkest chapters in Pakistani journalism. Jamaat Islami Chief, Tufail Mohammed was an uncle of Zia ul Haq and an agent of the CIA as Mr. Bhutto documented in detail in his book, If I am Assassinated.
Jang Group’s TV channel has promoted people with dubious credentials like Aamir Liaqat Hussain who have fake degrees. GEO, on its website, prides itself as the CNN of Pakistan, totally oblivious of the reality that in most countries outside the United States, CNN is considered to be a biased mouth piece of American establishment and is not exactly known for objectivity or independent reporting. GEO TV colloborates with the Voice of America, which is an official news arm of the government of the United States. Yet, it claims to be indpendent and objective.
Observing this lowly and sleazy standard of journalism, I have been reflecting on an evening in the distant past. I was preparing for my final exams for the B.Com in 1976 in Karachi. One evening, when I was studying, my door bell rang. When I went out, it was my friend Zain Ghazali, son of Commander Ghazali, a former manager of Pakistan’s cricket team. He asked me to come and sit in the car parked outside my house. As I got into the volkswagen, I saw a nice looking boy on the wheels. It was Mir Shakil ur Rehman. He was very excited as he had managed to get the Accounting paper “OUT”. So I asked what then was the problem? “I don’t know how to solve it”, was the answer. I hope the readers get a picture.
I believe, Shakil has now moved to Dubai with his family and does not even live in Pakistan. I wonder if such people, who did not have the ability to even cheat in an exam and do not even live in Pakistan despite making so much money here, would have even bothered to provide some elementary training in journalism and its basic standards to the members of their staff. It seem not.
The News recently announced the return of senior journalist Amir Mateen who was supposed to bring his 24-years of experience and write a series of profiles on political parties – “how they may have performed, changed, and developed in the two years after the last elections.” What resulted, however, is better titled, “Amir Mateen’s Gossip Column.”
Amir Mateen’s “profiles on political parties” are little more than sleazy character assassinations of leading politicians that belong in tabloid gossip magazines, not serious newspapers. Despite having 24-years of experience, Mateen has spent the past several weeks writing sensational ‘special reports’ against the nation’s top political leaders that are filled with juicy gossip and slanderous innuendo, but fail to provide any actual evidence or journalistic merit.
What are his habits; his likes and dislikes? What does he read, if at all he does? There is more emphasis on his food habits than his mental and intellectual growth, particularly after his return from exile. What are his perceptions about the rapidly changing Pakistan and the world around him?
Mateen, unfortunately, provides no answers. Instead, he dishes out the same yellow journalism and character assassination that brought us to the point of his original complaint. Consider this “analysis” by Mateen:
The PML-N offers a vague one-size-fits-all policy on most issues. The idea is to keep the mainstream swing voters in a flux and show the real teeth once the levers of power are in control. The same strategy is in practice within the party where nobody knows who is going to do what in a future power set-up. A deliberate chaos has been created where all PML-N leaders are saying all things to all people. The real position, if there is one, is only known to Nawaz Sharif.
Mateen, of course, offers no evidence. He simply says this as if idle gossip it is a proper replacement for actual investigative reporting. Actually, idle gossip makes up most of the article. Consider the following:
It is widely believed in Lahore that if your name has a suffix of Kashmiri castes like Butt, Mir, Lone, Khawaja, Dar or Banday, you have a better chance of your grievance being addressed.
Rather than actually investigate whether some families are receiving special treatment and providing the evidence, Mr. Mateen simply repeats a rumour!
A deliberate aura has been created where he is presented almost as a cult leader with his devotees, their eyes shining with respect, are not encouraged to question his great wisdom.
Again, where is the evidence? Mateen then goes on to complain that Sharif dared to treat him with suspicion, asking “what side” he is on. Certainly this would be a strange question for a reporter, but if the reporter has decided to make a living out of writing character assassination articles without any actual facts or investigative reporting, what is he supposed to think?
Mateen goes on to admit that what he is after is not any actual reporting about politics or important issues, but sensational gossip stories filled with sex scandals:
When asked how many wives and children does Shahbaz Sharif have, he flared up instantly. It took some effort to explain that when a politician offers him or herself for a public life, he or she may not have the same rights to secrecy as a private citizen does. He was asked that if Mustafa Khar’s wives and Asif Zardari’s philandering could be discussed, why could not a journalist ask a benign question about, what the number of wives and children the chief minister of the biggest province may have.
Think of how many different issues could have been asked about. Inflation, militancy, corruption, constitution…but instead all that Mateen and his gossip brigade care about is somebody’s private affairs? What a waste.
This is truly a pity because a thorough and well reported profile of different political parties and their positions on important issues would be a great asset to to the people as they evaluate their choices. But Amir Mateen and The News are not providing fact-based reporting, merely rumours, sleazy gossip, and character assassination.
Today’s issue of The News includes a very good editorial praising the gathering of editors and senior journalists in Karachi under the Aman ki Asha initiative, and pointing out the important role that media can play in countering misinformation and fostering cooperation and progress.
The editors of The News make an excellent point:
Once people ‘meet’ each other, through the print and electronic media, they may find the sentiments held are not quite so hostile after all. Like people everywhere, Indians and Pakistanis essentially seek an improvement in their own lives and a better future for their children. The media can perform an important service by encouraging the cooperation that can help achieve this.
But let’s take the logic of this statement and extend it – or, rather, bring it back home. Too much of the reporting and “news analysis” that is being published, especially by The News itself, violates the core principles that the editorial claims it is promoting in its Aman ki Asha initiative.
There is a lot of suspicion between people over borders due to misinformation that is used strategically to promote particular ideologies. This is called propaganda. But propaganda does not only occur over geographic borders, it also occurs over political borders, which causes suspicion, distrust, and negative outcomes within our own country.
The people who control Jang may have a particular political agenda, but that should not influence the reporting in their newspaper. Certainly it is appropriate for them to publish whatever opinions they please on the Opinion page and to take whatever position they choose in their editorials. This is the appropriate place for opinion and commentary.
Unfortunately we have seen a growing trend whereby The News blurs the lines between reporting and opinion. This is also a form of propaganda. Rather than performing “an important service by encouraging the cooperation that can help achieve” a stronger and more prosperous Pakistan, too often The News is creating an atmosphere that stifles cooperation and progress.
Take, for example, the recent “news analysis” by Ansar Abbasi. Also, today’s issue of The News includes a column by Farrukh Saleem that is nothing more than a rebuttal to the argument that judges are displaying ‘judicial activism.’ None of this is news reporting, it is opinion. So why does it not appear on the opinion page?
It is good that The News understands the importance of proper and truthful reporting across borders, and the beneficial role that media can perform with honest and proper reporting. But they must also practice this principle in their own home and not be hypocrites when it comes to reporting across political borders within our own country.
Poor Mr. Ansar Abbasi – he does not know how to quit while he is ahead. After his very poor showing on Friday, Mr. Abbasi has decided to have another go at writing his “news analysis” about the NRO. The column, “After Sindh card, Zardari uses Benazir,” is Ansar’s attempt at playing judge against President Zardari. Of course, he did not do his homework and is therefore out “LBW” – Learn Before Writing!
Today’s column by Ansar Abbasi is, once again, published as “news analysis.” Even though it is a rather incendiary opinion piece, The News (Jang) has not seen fit to put it properly on the opinion page. This is an unfortunate habit of the The News as it is quite misleading to readers.
But perhaps more unfortunate is the fact that Mr. Ansar Abbasi continues to believe that insulting rants are a proper substitute for research and reason.
Take, for example, his suggestion that, “Legally and constitutionally speaking, there is no way out for the government but to implement the Supreme Court’s order in letter and spirit. But practically if the government does this, it would mean political death of the PPP’s co-chairman against whom the corruption cases are too serious.”
Actually, this is not quite true. The constitution states in Article 248 that certain officials may not be tried while they are in office. Any cases against them will have to be heard once their term is complete.
248. Protection to President, Governor, Minister, etc.
(1) The President, a Governor, the Prime Minister, a Federal Minister, a Minister of State, the Chief Minister and a Provincial Minister shall not he answerable to any court for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective offices or for any act done or purported to be done in the exercise of those powers and performance of those functions:
Provided that nothing in this clause shall be construed as restricting the right of any person to bring appropriate proceedings against the Federation or a Province.
(2) No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President or a Governor in any court during his term of office.
(3) No process for the arrest or imprisonment of the President or a Governor shall issue from any court during his term of office.
(4) No civil proceedings in which relief is claimed against the President or a Governor shall be instituted during his term of office in respect of anything done by or not done by him in his personal capacity whether before or after he enters upon his office unless, at least sixty days before the proceedings are instituted, notice in writing has been delivered to him, or sent to him in the manner prescribed by law, stating the nature of the proceedings, the cause of action, the name, description and place of residence of the party by whom the proceedings are to be instituted and the relief which the party claims.
[Geneva prosecutor Daniel Zappelli] said he can’t reopen the case against Zardari, who was elected president in 2008 after years of battling corruption allegations, because he enjoys “absolute immunity” as a head of state.
“We could go further only if the competent authorities in Pakistan decide to lift the immunity of the head of state, which I do not know whether it is possible according to their constitution,” said Zappelli, speaking in English. “If not, we can’t. Absolutely not. Period.”
Ansar Abbasi then goes on to peddle outrageous rumours including that a major political party was planning to attack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
After the NRO decision, the unnerved PPP was alleged to be even planning physical attacks on the Chief Justice of Pakistan to embarrass Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Money was also reportedly distributed amongst some student leaders of the PSF to organise demonstrations against the judiciary.
If this is true, it is a serious charge that should be taken up with the proper authorities immediately. I ask that Ansar Abbasi immediately file a grievance and reveal his evidence. Otherwise, what are we to think except that he has made the whole thing up?
Ansar Abbasi’s entire column is actually a poor attempt for him to play judge, jury, and executioner of Asif Zardari. Abbasi says the Supreme Court “is serious to ensure a fair trial of past corruption cases.” Perhaps they are, but Ansar Abbasi sees no need for a fair trial. Instead, he says “Allowing a fair trial to prove his innocence would be a risky gamble that everyone in the party knows is bound to be lost…”
What is the point of bothering with a trial, when Ansar Abbasi has already judged the outcome? This blog takes no position on the issue of Asif Zardari’s guilt or innocence. There is very important legal discussion about Presidential immunity, and even if the President did not enjoy this immunity, surely the courts are the proper place to hold a trial, not the last issue of The News. Perhaps Mr. Abbasi is challenging Shahid Masood to be “Chief Justice of the Media”?
Ansar Abbasi: Challenging Shahid Massod to be Chief Justice of Media?
Ansar closes his opinion by saying that, “Instead of being befooled by political slogans, the people of Pakistan deserve to know if there is any truth in the NAB’s claim…” Perhaps Mr. Abbasi would do us all the favour of ceasing his foolish political sloganeering, then, so that proper journalists can do their work. At the very least, sir, we beg of you…Learn Before Writing!