The News has sunk to a new low in yellow journalism today by publishing an article that titled, ‘Website declares Zardari US citizen.’ Rather than conduct any actual research, The News appears to have simply repeated a rumour. Based on the content of the article, one has to wonder if the author, Azim M Mian, even looked at the website in question.
For the record, below is a screenshot of the profile of Asif Ali Zardari on the website in question, “Notable Names Database,” taken on 14 June 2010.
Screnshot from NNDB.com website
It very clearly says that Asif Ali Zardari nationality is Pakistan. Even if it said something else when Azim M Mian first saw the website, why would he believe it without investigating? Also it raises the question of who sent this website link to the reporter and what was their motive?
The individual who sent Mr Azim the link could have been a political operative who submitted a change to the website (anyone can email in a change to someone’s profile) and then sent the link to the reporter thinking that he is so foolish that he will accept it as fact without doing any actual investigating. Mr Azim should reveal who his source was so that it can be known.
But compare what the website actually says to how Azim M Mian reported the information in The News. He wrote:
A well-known US website, which contains the record of 36,000 prominent figures of the world, has declared President Asif Ali Zardari a US citizen, and said that he suffers from depression and is a diabetes patient.
First, one must ask why the reporter calls this a ‘well known US website.’ What is his reason for saying it is well known? The ‘Notable Names Database’is not a ‘well known US website’ like Facebook or Wikipedia, so if the reporter is going to claim that it is well-known, he should be able to provide some evidence to back it up. I checked how this website compares to actual well-known websites and look at what I found:
Obviously, this is not a ‘well-known’ website by the usual definition. So why did Azim M Mian write this?
Second, the article does not say that Zardari “suffers from depression and is a diabetes patient.” Both of these are misleading to the point of being outright lies. What the website claims is that Zardari has ‘Risk Factors’ for depression and diabetes. But even this claim is supported by absolutely no evidence.
This brings me to the reliability of the website on which Azim M Mian bases his entire report. He says, “The website says it collects such information about famous personalities through general sources, besides its own intelligence and other sources that are not known to the common man.”
The reporter’s claim is ridiculous. The profile of Asif Ali Zardari includes a bibliography of sources that include three sources of information. One is Wikipedia, the other is a website called “Public Information Research Namebase” which is only a blank page with a few links to other news stories. The third is the “Notable Names Database” itself! Looking at the website, it is laughable to know that someone to be so foolish as to believe that this website has “sources that are not known to the common man.” Does Azim M Mian believe anything that is written on the Internet?
Actually, there is no evidence for anything posted on this website’s profile of Asif Ali Zardari, and the reporter appears to have done absolutely no actual investigating of his own. Rather, it appears that this was a blatant attempt to use the media to smear a political office holder with complete disregard for the truth.
Azim M Mian goes on completely recklessly to imply that the Zardari could have taken an oath to “keeping US oath and interests supreme to all other loyalties and oaths.” Not only does the reporter fail to do any actual research to confirm a very public piece of information as a person’s nationality, but he then goes on to make libelous insinuations that the person is possibly not loyal to his country. This is a new low for The News, which should be ashamed.
This is a shameful example of failure on the part of both a reporter and the editorial staff who never should have let such a poor example of yellow journalism as this see the light of day. It does not matter that it is Zardari or someone else who is the target of such irresponsible and incompetent acts. The News and Mr Azim M Mian owe a public apology to their readers and to Asif Ali Zardari for such a failure. In the meantime, they may want to speak to a lawyer about their exposure to a legal case for libel. Truly shameful.
UPDATE: There is a website that says the White House in the US for sale! I wonder if Azim M Mian is going to try to buy it. Perhaps The News will publish an article about how Barack Obama is selling the White House. Because, of course, if it is on the Internet, The News thinks it must be true!
I have been holding off on this story for a while just because I wanted to see if it actually developed into anything. Sometimes these things pop up, but then quickly disappear if there’s nothing to them. Actually, I will not take any opinion about the validity of the charges, but I think that since the issue involves a major media organization and the story has begun to be reported in the international press, it is worthwhile to examine the facts.
The story involves Hamid Mir who works for Geo TV. He is accused of instigating the murder of Khalid Khawaja, and ex-ISI official, by Taliban kidnappers.
What is the story?
In order to get beyond the suspicions and rumours that seem to be surrounding much of this story, let’s look at how this incident was reported by the UK newspaper Guardian. I have removed paragraphs about reactions to the incident to put together a basic storyline. We will look at Hamid Mir and other reactions to the story directly also.
The tape purports to be a recording of a phone conversation between the journalist, Hamid Mir, and a Taliban spokesman about the fate of Khalid Khawaja, a former intelligence agent being held by the Taliban.
In the tape Mir describes Khawaja as a CIA collaborator, questions his Islamic credentials, and accuses him of playing a treacherous role in the 2007 Red Mosque siege in which more than 100 people, including the chief cleric, were killed. When the abductor asks the journalist whether Khawaja should be released, he urges him to further interrogate him.
Last month Khawaja’s bullet-pocked body was found on a roadside in Waziristan with a warning note to other “American spies”.
The Taliban added to the controversy by issuing a statement that denied the tape was real but, confusingly, threatened the state telephone company for having taped the conversation.
On 24 April the Taliban issued a video showing a strained-looking Khawaja admitting to having worked for the CIA and betrayed the Red Mosque clerics.
A week later, after his execution, Mir wrote a detailed account of Khawaja’s life. He recycled the allegations against the former ISI agent, attributing them to militant sources.
Hamid Mir Responds
Hamid Mir publicly responded to the charges against him in a column for The News, the newspaper owned by Jang Group which also owns Geo TV on which his show appears. Calling the story a “grand plot against media.”
‘We are taking legal action against Daily Times(owned by Salman Taseer) and some US based blogs supervised by Mr.Hussain Haqqani for hatching a conspiracy against Hamid Mir by using a fabricated tape.’
In DT’s editorial “Shocking revelations” (May 17, 2010), we argued: “There should be a thorough investigation into the matter by the security agencies. It should first be ascertained whether it was actually Hamid Mir or an impersonator on the audiotape.” We did not pass judgment on the genuineness or otherwise of the audiotape, but left room for the possibility that it was a forgery, as Mir has subsequently claimed amidst his loud protestations of innocence. In an inadvertent admission, however, he says the audiotape is an amalgam of bits and pieces of other conversations (innocent journalistic exchanges, according to him). Even if this is conceded, there is sufficient in the ‘bits and pieces’ to arouse alarm. Surely Mr Mir should welcome the opportunity to clear his name if the tape is indeed a forgery. On the other hand, if it turns out to be genuine, Mir has a lot to answer for and the law should take its course. The country is in the middle of a life-or-death struggle against the homegrown jihadis who have declared war on the state. Journalists, who are engaged in an increasingly precarious and dangerous profession in conflict areas, may be required for professional reasons to keep lines of communication open with the ‘enemy’. However, this does not give anyone, journalist or not, room to transcend the law of the land or the ethics of his profession. If the tape is genuine and Mir did say the things about Khalid Khwaja that are on the tape, a prima facie case is made out for his arraignment on charges that could include being an accessory before the fact to the murder that followed, as well as in possible violation of the Army Act (applicable to civilians in times of war). The statement released by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan denying the contents of the tape and trying to clear our intrepid anchor’s name has done more to muddy Hamid Mir’s case than anyone else could have.
Other Journalists Weigh In
Ayesha Sidiqqa is a regular contributor to Dawn, and has a Ph.D. in War Studies from King’s College, University of London. She has written two books on Pakistan’s military. On her blog, Dr. Sidiqqa writes,
Is the man conversing with, whats alleged as a member of the Punjabi Taliban, Hamid Mir? The simple answer is yes. The man in the tape is Hamid Mir beyond doubt. The voice and style of conversation is his. I have had conversations with him on several occasions and he breaks stories in this very style. The conversation should not surprise people as Hamid Mir has old links with the Islamiscts and the intelligence agencies. In the world of the armed forces information is difficult to access. Relatively better access to information comes at a price which Hamid Mir and many other journalists in the world, particularly Pakistan pay happily. There is not a single journalist, especially on the electronic media who comments on national security and is not fed by the military. I remember one very popular journalist who even writes for foreign press. He is considered an authority on military affairs. The poor chap cannot tell the front of a submarine from its back. Planting people in the media and intelligentsia is an old trick. The only matter of concern really is that how and why is the audio recording made available on the net? The real story is the disclosure rather than the conversation.
UPDATE: Journalist and former BBC correspondent Shahid Malik writes in an email today:
Award winning journalist and documentary maker Asad Qureshi life is under severe danger of being cut short by his captives in Waziristan. Hamid Mir claiming that the famous tape recording is fake and fabricated is naked lie, for no ones voice can be faked perfectly, as it is like your finger print and the voice on the tape certainly does belong to Hamid Mir. TTP member has supposedly come forward in support of him claiming it to be fake also.
As Hamid Mir is the only known clue to who have abducted Asad Qureshi as he is in touch with them, he should be questioned ASAP to recover Asad from his captors. The media trial and or taing sides can go on, but a stake is a innocent life and that also of the one of our best reporter/ director and documentary maker. Please to check the credentials of Asad Qureshi at www.imdb.com and also look at his award winning documentary on the 2005 earth quake and Wazirisan called ‘Wana Olives’ and many others.
UPDATE II: Shahid Malik email may be fake
From the comments:
An extract reportedly from an email has been attributed to journalist and former BBC correspondent, Shahid Malik. I write this to clarify that the credit for its authorship is not mine.
The paragraph in question caught my attention only today (November 10, 2010); hence a belated correction.
Shaheen Sehbai is back with more of his psychic magic in The News. Today he uses his psychic powers to read the mind of, as usual, President Zardari who he says is ‘on a warpath‘ against, well, everyone. But today’s column takes a new, and troubling direction. While the silliness and contradictions that we have come to expect from Shaheen Sehbai are ever present, there is a dark lining to this new column that suggests something very sinister in the works.
Sehbai begins his column by claiming that President Zardari ‘and his closest minions’ are planning an offensive against the military the same way they are waging a war on “the Supreme Court, parliament, its own coalition partners, the opposition, the media and its own government, even the party and its prime minister.”
His presidential powers are gone, despite the best delaying tactics that he could deploy. His strategies have failed miserably, examples being not restoring the judges, toppling the Sharif brothers in the Punjab, resisting the nullification of the NRO, getting money from the so-called Friends of Pakistan, appointing his own judges, taking over the ISI, dictating the India and Afghan policy, running the day-to-day government, buying over the media and finally keeping the PPP under his thumb.
So, which is it Mr. Sehbai? Has Zardari gone on a warpath against everyone, or is he a failed President who has given away his powers?
Of course, the truth does not matter to Shaheen Sehbai. This is all a set up, of course, to allow him to publish a new set of rumours. This time, he starts by saying that the President is going to try to cut the powers of Gen. Kayani. Sehbai’s evidence is that “There have been whispers in power corridors for several weeks…” That’s right. Sehbai claims that there is a rumour. He names no sources, of course; presents no evidence, but only claims that he has heard a rumour. Then Shaheen Sehbai does something truly surprising.
Sehbai admits that he is making it up.
Surprisingly, all efforts of this writer, and my team in Islamabad, to get to know the factual position about these structural changes in the armed forces have come to a naught so far.
What?!? Let’s read that one more time…
Surprisingly, all efforts of this writer, and my team in Islamabad, to get to know the factual position about these structural changes in the armed forces have come to a naught so far.
That’s right. Sehbai says himself that he has no factual evidence for anything he is writing. It has been already shown that Sehbai does not have connections in the armed forces, so why should we be surprised that he has no facts? But I must admit that I am a bit surprised that Sehbai has decided to admit that he is just making the whole thing up.
Of course, this does not stop him from continuing with this web of conspiracies and rumours.
Actually, when Shaheen Sehbai does reveal some of the sources of these rumours, they are quite troubling. “Circles close to General Musharraf in London and Washington are already telling everyone…” Wait just one minute. Is Shaheen Sehbai truly writing that his sources for inside information are “Circles close to General Musharraf in London and Washington”?
These are the “whispers in power corridors” that Shaheen Sehbai has been listening to? Not only are these not people in power, these are people who have a very clear agenda against Pakistan. Musharraf is being investigated in connection with the murder of Benazir Bhutto – and Shaheen Sehbai thinks that his advisors in Washington and London are a good source of inside information about the government? This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.
In fact, Shaheen Sehbai’s entire column appears to be simply repeating rumours started by Musharraf’s advisors overseas. Shaheen Sehbai writes:
This is quoted by the Musharraf people as one more reason for the growing belligerence of PPP against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who it is said, may be turned into a Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, if he tried to press too hard on the Swiss cases.
We are supposed to believe Musharraf’s foreign advisors about any issues related to Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry? Rubbish.
Shaheen Sehbai really becomes quite cheeky though when he says that officials in the Law Ministry “have opted to go home as they know that these political gamblers will be the first to fly away leaving them in the lurch.”
Remember, all of what he is telling is rumour coming from “Circles close to General Musharraf in London and Washington”. Tell me again who will be the first to fly away?
Let’s take a moment to go back and examine his present column knowing this:
First, he tries to set government against military.
Then, he tries to set government against judiciary.
Next, he tries to incite MQM against PPP.
Not content to be finished there, Sehbai writes some slander about PM Gilani and tries to create suspicion between the PM and FM Qureshi.
This is what causes me great concern. Shaheen Sehbai has resorted to publishing rumours he has been told by Musharraf’s foreign advisors, and slandering officials in the military, parliament, and the government. He is clearly trying to incite suspicion and doubt between government officials. Normally, I might think he is just trying to get headlines. But the fact that he admits all of his evidence comes from rumours told to him by Musharraf’s Washington and London advisors makes me fear there is something more sinister going on.
Could it be that Shaheen Sehbai is acting as a political operative, not a journalist? If so, what is his political objective? Is he actually trying to pave the path for Musharraf to return to power?
Given all this, a question arises: Why is The News allowing its pages to be used for political propaganda?
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.