Posts Tagged ‘Defamation’

Najam Sethi sues Mubasher Lucman for defamation, inciting violence

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Najam Sethi is suing Mubahser Lucman for Rs 1 billion alleging defamation. Documents reveal that the case is based on statements by Lucman considered to be “false and malicious allegations due to the current tense political situation in the country, especially high level of anti-Americanism…intentionally aimed at provoking and inciting mobs or extremists to engage in physical violence”.

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Campaign Against Najam Sethi Gets More Ridiculous

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

What appeared to be a coordinated smear campaign targeting Najam Sethi last week continues, today with Ahmed Quraishi using a clip from Mubashir Luqman’s show of 26th September and continuing to fan the flames. But rather than discredit Najam Sethi, Ahmed Quraishi’s latest move does more to discredit the smear campaign itself.

Here’s what Ahmed Quraishi says about Najam Sethi’s accuser:

Mr. Abraham was considered to be close to the pro-US lobby in the Pakistani government. In DC, Mr. Abraham was close to Ambassador Husain Haqqani and key figures in the US State Department working to cultivate influence inside Pakistani media. He often acted as a mouthpiece for the pro-US lobby, promoting talking points that served US interests and those of the pro-US Pakistani government.

That quote was from a post on Ahmed Quraishi’s website titled, ‘Najam Sethi & Family Demonize Pakistan For US Passports’ – a claim that Cafe Pyala notes may open both Mubashir Luqman and now Ahmed Quraishi to defamation suits since other than the slanderous statements, no one has been able to produce a single piece of evidence suggesting it’s true.

Here’s the problem with Sami Abraham’s statement based on what Ahmed Quraishi says – Sami says that he knows the accusations against Najam Sethi are true because when he was in America he was part of a secret American conspiracy to buy Pakistani media. Now that he’s back in Pakistan, though, he’s apparently turned on his old conspirators and is now accusing Najam Sethi. In order to believe Sami Abraham, one has to be willing to accept the word of a man who says different things depending on who he’s talking to, which is not a great recipe for credibility.

But let’s take a look at some statements by Najam Sethi to see just what Mubashir Luqman and Ahmed Quraishi find so offensive. Here’s a quote from Sethi’s editorial in last week’s The Friday Times:

By next April, the Taliban will be ready for a major operation to decisively derail President Obama’s Afghanistan agenda when the US establishment will be focused on the presidential election. America will be in desperate straits. In order to thwart the Taliban’s summer agenda, therefore, America is most likely going to “do more” in its winter agenda before next summer. Short of American boots-on-ground in Waziristan, only Pakistani boots-on-ground will work. But if the Pakistani army is still unable or unwilling to oblige, then cruise missiles and high altitude bombing could be options.

Should that come to pass, however, the war in Afghanistan will spill over to a war in Pakistan. And that should be the last thing America or its Western allies would want.

We’re supposed to believe that this is demonizing Pakistan? If this is Najam Sethi’s plan to earn a US passport, I hope he doesn’t sell his house too quickly.

Now let’s take a look at the other person who keeps popping up in this smear campaign: Ahmed Quraishi.

It does seem a bit ironic that Ahmed Quraishi would find a problem with anyone who takes money to act as a mouthpiece for a foreign government since that’s what, by his own words, Ahmed Quraishi has built his career on. This is not an accusation, it’s what Quraishi himself is proud to say. According to his bio, “Recently, Mr. Quraishi has been commissioned for public policy outreach projects as a consultant, serving mostly government clients in the larger Middle East region, including Pakistan”.

What governments are these? Well, that’s not completely clear, though he does make quite a big deal about his connection to the rulers of his home country, Kuwait, where he “was born, raised and educated”. Actually, though, Mr Quraishi’s education is not quite clear, either. His longer bio says that “he briefly attended a business school but did not graduate in that discipline”, and says that as he was “not very interested in academia” he got involved in political commentary. Quraishi goes on to brag that he used his Pakistani heritage as a means of avoiding suspicion in Middle Eastern politics.

“He got away with most of it in a region infested with suspicious governments because, well, he was a Pakistani, which literally made it difficult for security officials to place him within Middle East’ confusing maze of political alliances and rivalries.”

Actually, Ahmed Quraishi has been playing something of a girgit (chameleon) for years. When his columns appear in Jang Group publications, his by line says he “works for Geo TV”, though his role at Geo TV is unclear. His short-lived TV show on Aag TV, (Thori Si Siyasat), was canceled over a year ago. But even before Ahmed Quraishi was given a show, he was against Geo TV, saying it, too, was a tool of American interests. It should be noted that Geo TV still has a contract with Voice of America.

What is all the more curious about Ahmed Quraishi’s alleged affiliation with Geo TV is that he himself claimed last year that he is “not a journalist anymore”. His claim to have abandoned journalism came soon after it was discovered that Ahmed Quraishi was a member of the ‘American Association of Political Consultants’.

Profile page for Ahmed Quraishi on website of American Association of Political Consultants

Profile page for Ahmed Quraishi on website of American Association of Political Consultants

Though he claims he has never had one American client, which we are in no place to dispute, it does raise the question why he joined an American political consulting group that costs $250 USD (Rs. 21,855) per year for a single membership if he had no American clients.

Neither was this Ahmed Quraishi’s first dabbling in using media for political propaganda. In 2008, Ahmed Quraishi wrote that America was responsible for riots in Tibet. His by line then claimed that “He heads the Pakistan Task Force at FurmaanRealpolitik, an independent Pakistani think tank based in Islamabad”.

But Furmaan Realpolitik was not really a ‘think tank’, it was a PR business whose services included “Intelligence, Research & Analysis” and “Surveillance & Confidential Investigations”, and whose products “can be tailored to business, political and military requirements”. And what exactly were their products? According to their website, they sold, “Immaculate Deception Creations Tailored to Your Senses.” Subtle.

More recently, Ahmed Quraishi claims that he is a “Senior Research Fellow” with “Project for Pakistan in 21st Century and PakNationalists, which he recently claimed is a nationalist political lobbying group complete with volunteers and interns, but no known source of funding. He’s also on the Board of Advisors for PKKH, an “alternative policy institute and news service” associated with Hamid Gul, and Opinion-Maker.org, as well as assorted fake news sites like Views Times that published a column attacking Najam Sethi last week.

Though it’s not known who is funding Ahmed Quraishi’s current crop of “think tanks”, he seems to have Najam Sethi firmly in his sights, not only claiming that he is ‘demonizing Pakistan’ in order to get a US passport, but taking his accusations even further on his Facebook page and claiming that “Najam Sethi & Co. are claiming their share of the $40 MILLION that US govt has set aside to buy Pakistani media”. As usual, Ahmed Quraishi provides no evidence of this shocking claim, leaving us to wonder again if he is prepared to face a very expensive defamation lawsuit indeed.

Dean Nelson Responds

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
New Delhi based British reporter Dean Nelson

British reporter Dean Nelson

Mr Dean Nelson whose column in the British newspaper Telegraph we recently criticised, has responded to our post. His comment appears on the original post, and is published again in full at the end of this post.

It has also been brought to our attention that Mr Dean Nelson has been falsely accusing this blog of deleting his comment, of censorship, and of hiding his comment. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Regular readers, and most people familiar with how blogs work, know that comments are automatically placed in moderation queue for review. This is a standard practice to prevent obscene, threatening, or spam comments from being published. All honest comments, even those critical of our posts, are published in full, as regular readers can attest. Mr Dean Nelson is welcome to review previous posts and comments to verify this fact.

Regarding Mr Nelson’s complaints, though, we feel we must point out the following:

Dean Nelson’s article carried the sensational headline, “£300m earthquake aid ‘misused by Zardari’”. Nothing in his article, however, supports this accusation. Nowhere does he suggest how Zardari is responsible for misusing funds. Nowhere does he suggest how Zardari is responsible even for diverting funds. Nowhere is there even an allegation from his anonymous source that Zardari is responsible for any budgetary matters related to ERRA or New Balakot.

Actually, with claims of budgetary matters it would be more realistic to hold the Prime Minister responsible who, as Chief Executive, could be held responsible for funding cuts. But even then, where is the evidence that the PM had anything to do with this? Actually, we will demonstrate that the opposite is supported by the facts.

The fact is, Mr Dean Nelson accuses Asif Ali Zardari of personally misusing 300 million in foreign aid for victims of the 2005 earthquake. He provides no evidence to support this claim, making the headline itself defaming and potentially libelous.

As for his claim that “the most important evidence of all” is the absence of New Balakot, I invite the respected journalist to do more than simply visit the site and then make wild assumptions. A quick review of recent news provides the following information that suggests much more plausible alternatives to Mr Dean Nelson’s theory of Zardari misusing the funds:

1. Dawn: New Balakot project: Bakrial residents refuse to surrender land

“It is injustice on the part of the provincial government to displace us by acquiring our residential and agriculture land to settle the earthquake affected people of Balakot,” Zahoor Ahmad, head of the committee constituted by the people of Bakrial to defend their lands, told Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Hazara Division, Mohammad Suleiman on Thursday.

“We will not vacate our land and houses until our agriculture and residential lands were not excluded of the New Balakot project,” he warned.

Work on the project was suspended some eight months ago after the death of a man during a violent clash between police and the residents over evacuation of their houses causing huge financial loss to the government.

2. Dawn: Work on New Balakot City resumes after 8-moth break

Relocation of old Balakot was agreed in consultation with the then provincial government and local politicians, who decided to provide land for rebuilding the new town free of cost at Bakrial, while the land in old Balakot remained property of the owners. The idea was to shift the people to new location for their safety.

Things, however, turned complex after the provincial government sought money for land acquisition from the federal government.

Erra fought for the case and in addition to Rs61.25 million paid to people of old Balakot under rural housing subsidy and a prefabricated house worth Rs400,00 to affected families, it got Rs1.5 billion approved to be paid as compensation for 11,463 kanals where a new city was to built, hosting nearly 5,000 families.

The amount of Rs1.5 billion was paid for land acquisition in November 2006 and Erra had been negotiating resumption of work and demanding land free of encumbrances from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for the past nine months.

Even now Erra has received partially cleared land, where the reconstruction has commenced.

3. Daily Times: ERRA starts rebuilding Balakot City

The relocation of the old Balakot City was decided in consultation with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government while local politicians had agreed to provide land for the new town, free of cost at Bakriyal, while the ownership of land in old Balakot City would remain with the property owners. But the reconstruction came to a halt due to the unwillingness of the provincial government to provide land free of cost. ERRA had planned to shift the residences of the people to a new location. But the reconstruction had to be halted when the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa demanded money for land acquisition. ERRA Deputy Chairman Lieutenant General Haroon Aslam recently held a meeting with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti and discussed the issue in detail and highlighted the decisions taken in the council meeting chaired by Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani.

As is clear, there have been multiple obstacles to the completion of the project – something not unusual for such expensive and expansive projects in any country, especially when such a project involves the reallocation of land. In this instance, landowners and residents of Bakryal have been protesting since 2007.Does Mr Dean Nelson believe that Asif Ali Zardari has been orchestrating some conspiracy since before he was even elected?

Despite these setbacks, it is clear from these reports that the provincial and national governments were working together to resolve difficult issues to everyone’s satisfaction. Nowhere is there any suggestion that Asif Ali Zardari had anything to do with the delays, much less the misuse of funds.

As for claims that funds were inappropriately diverted to some other project, again there is not evidence to support this accusation.

According to a Daily Times report of 6 April by Ijaz Kakakhel, budget allocations were reduced across all sectors.

Keeping in view an emergent financial situation, the sources said the government has informed all federal ministries / departments and organisation to prepare priority lists for their respective developmental schemes under total PSDP Rs 290 billion for 2010-11.

With total Rs 290 billion federal component of PSDP, Rs 10 billion is likely to be allocated for Earthquake Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA), which makes total value of PSDP Rs 300 billion. Last year’s (2009-10) allocation for federal component of PSDP was Rs 421 billion and Rs 25 billion for ERRA. The proposed PSDP allocation of Rs 290 billion is 31 percent lower than the last year PSDP 2009-10 allocation Rs 421 billion. The proposed PSDP 2010-11 allocation for ERRA Rs10 billion is 60 percent lower than last year allocation of Rs 25 billion.

The article goes on to report that the government by way of the Prime Minister had requested that the PSDP budget be enhanced, but that such a move would threaten the International Monetary Fund program.

Mr Dean Nelson claims in his response that his evidence consists of,

“…minutes of meetings, correspondence, ERRA schedules, and the most important evidence of all: The absence of New Balakot as a promised new settlement.”

The delays in completion of the project are well explained above. Without having access to the documents provided to Mr Dean Nelson, it is hard to know what exactly is in them. But it sounds like Mr Dean Nelson spoke with someone at ERRA who is disappointed that they did not receive the full amount of funding that was requested. But what agency receives the full amount of funding that is requested every year in any country, especially during a financial crisis?

In Mr Dean Nelson’s own country, Finance Minister George Osborne announced £6.2bn budget cuts this year. Does Mr Dean Nelson believe it proper to infer from this policy announcement that the Queen Elizabeth has misused these funds? Such a claim would be absurd. So it is with Mr Dean Nelson’s claim that Asif Ali Zardari has misused £300 millions.

In the face of overwhelming and documented evidence to the contrary, one cannot help but wonder why Mr Dean Nelson chose to publicly accuse Asif Ali Zardari of personally misusing £300m in earthquake aid. Is it a manifestation of personal or political ill-feelings towards the president? Or is it a result of sloppy and improper reporting?

Furthermore, as Mr Dean Nelson himself admits in his response, Pakistan is currently suffering from a ‘trust deficit’ that threatens our ability to raise the funds necessary to address the current flood crisis which has been called the worst disaster in recent history. Does Mr Dean Nelson deny that publishing sensational and misleading accusations of government misuse of relief funds contributes to this image problem? Publicly accusing President Zardari of misusing £300m in disaster relief funds exacerbates a problem that is believed to be preventing Pakistan from receiving vital international aid. If it was true, it would be the fault of Asif Ali Zardari. If it is easily demonstrated to be not true, who is responsible then? That Mr Dean Nelson did not intend such is beside the point. Actions have consequences, and it is not unrealistic to contend that Mr Dean Nelson’s column may be a contributing factor to Pakistan’s difficulties in raising relief funds.

Mr Dean Nelson is correct in one respect, and we will admit as much. Our original post made too much of the fact of his station in Delhi. This is an irrelevant distraction and we regret our error in suggesting that his station in Delhi has any bearing whatsoever on the accuracy of the reporting in his article. We politely ask our readers to judge Mr Dean Nelson’s article and our subsequent review only on the merits of the facts presented.

We stand by our complaint that Mr Dean Nelson fails to provide any evidence whatsoever supporting his scandalous claim that Asif Ali Zardari misused £300m in earthquake relief funds. Mr Dean Nelson also fails to provide any substantive evidence to support a claim of malfeasance related to ERRA or New Balakot project. We believe that the evidence presented above more than handily refutes Mr Dean Nelson’s article, and we look forward to his correcting the record.

Mr. Dean Nelson had the following response to our original post:

Dean Nelson says: August 16, 2010 at 11:00 pm

I object to this ‘analysis’ of my piece on earthquake aid being redirected by the Pakistan govt to other projects.

I don’t know who supports your group, but if it has any understanding of journalism, especially in a country like Pakistan, then it will understand that sometimes sources need to be protected.

In these circumstances the journalist must make a judgement: Is the source reliable and authoritative? Do I believe the source? What supporting evidence is there for the claim?

My original source in this case had minutes of meetings, correspondence, ERRA schedules, and the most important evidence of all: The absence of New Balakot as a promised new settlement. I visited it and it wasn’t there despite it being scheduled for completion last month.

I’m satisfied my story is true, which is why it was published.

Beyond this story you make claims that I have some kind of bias against Pakistan or an agenda to dissuade donors to its flood funds. Why would anyone want people to withhold donations for people so clearly suffering? You don’t provide any evidence but a commentary piece on why Britain is courting India for trading gains.

In India I am as severely criticised as I am by you and other government supporters for my commentaries on Kashmir or for suggesting that Pakistan deserves better friends for allies.

Here are the links to them:
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/deannelson/100032154/indias-achievements-put-pakistan-in-the-shade-now-it-is-time-for-western-manipulation-to-cease/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/7923727/Pakistans-burning-sense-of-injustice.html

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/deannelson/100050312/the-world-wants-to-think-the-best-about-india-so-we-turn-our-back-on-kashmir/

It is a sad reflection on the psychological relationship between Indians and Pakistanis that objective reporting on one is seen as siding with the other.

I love India and Pakistan equally, and I’ve been traveling in both for twenty years and reporting both for five.

They each have great strengths and serious problems, and I report on and comment on both.

There are many in Pakistan who have criticised the government’s handling of the flood crisis, and many governments around the world who have held back or given to the UN fund rather than the PM’s flood relief fund because of concerns about trust and transparency. Nawaz Sharif raised this point with the PM on Saturday when they agreed to create an independent fund to address these concerns and allow people to give with confidence.

I can’t see how reporting on these concerns or exposing redirection of aid funds is an attempt to dissuade people from giving.

For the record, I wish Pakistan nothing but peace and prosperity, and I hope the millions affected by the floods right now get ALL the aid sent to them as soon as possible.

I hope this addresses the points you’ve raised. What I don’t understand is why you didn’t contact me first before writing this ‘analysis’ to ask me why the source wasn’t named.

All I can tell you is that the source could not have been better placed or informed. Right now the source is very afraid. Pakistan doesn’t really have a whistleblower culture.

Shaheen Sehbai's Defamation Double-Standard

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
MNA Azeem Daultana quotes Shaheen Sehbai's own words - is this defamation?

MNA Azeem Daultana quotes Shaheen Sehbai's own words - is this defamation?

One would think that after a 42-year career in the field of journalism, Shaheen Sehbai would have grown a slightly thicker skin. Instead, it appears that he’s grown quite a bit of cheek! Apparently the Group Editor of The News had his feeling hurt by an article penned by MNA Azeem Daultana and has responded with a Rs 100 Millions defamation notice. Reading The News report about the defamation notice, one wonders if Shaheen Sehbai is asking to be treated with a different standard than he himself observes.

Shaheen Sehbai’s complaint, filed against two province-based newspapers, claims that,

On May 30, 2010, the Editor-in-Chief of The News International received for publication from the Principal Information Officer of the Press Information Department an article entitled ‘Differentiating between journalism and ‘churnalism’: a case study of Shaheen Sehbai’s (‘Defamatory Article’ authored by Azeem Daultana, PPP Parliamentary Secretary for Information).

Besides making several aspersions on the professional integrity, credentials, character and intentions of Shaheen Sehbai, the article specifically stated that Mr Sehbai ‘sought an ambassadorial position from Asif Ali Zardari and the PPP government and when Mr Zardari and the government denied him the coveted position and office of profit, he embarked upon a revenge mission against Mr Zardari.’

The PPP MNA was given an opportunity by Mr Sehbai to retract his baseless allegations through an e-mail dated June 12, 2010, within one week and tender an apology for the defamatory accusations. Instead of withdrawing the defamatory accusations and tendering an apology, the article by Mr Daultana was given wider dissemination and was published in two province-based newspapers, besides some suspicious blogs.

This defamation claim is particularly curious because the complainant, Shaheen Sehbai, is notorious himself for writing “baseless allegations” and “defamatory accusations”.

Just in the past few months Shaheen Sehbai has written numerous columns that include charges and allegations that he even admits have no factual support.

On 28 June, Shaheen Sehbai wrote:

The latest in the Zardari camp is to attack the judges, on the one hand, threatening to withdraw their Executive order and throw them on the street by Rehman Malik’s executive power, while on the other to secretly encourage General Musharraf to seriously come back and put together the remnants of the PML-Q under his wings and then cooperate with the PPP against Raiwind.

Where is Shaheen Sehbai’s evidence for such a claim? Or is this merely “baseless allegation” and “defamatory accusation” as well?

On 10 May Shaheen Sehbai wrote:

Brimming with self-delusional overconfidence, President Zardari and his closest minions are also quietly planning a similar offensive against the Establishment, which includes both the Pakistan Army and the country’s bureaucracy.

Against the GHQ, the presidency has plans to restructure the top hierarchy of the services chiefs and reports have been deliberately leaked from the top that the heads of the army, navy and the air force may be brought under a Chief of Defence Staff or CODS.

Of course this never happened. Isn’t this also “baseless allegation” and “defamatory accusation” as well?

On 23 April, Shaheen Sehbai wrote:

Inside the prison, the first objective for an influential, moneyed person is to develop a network of loyalists who can bypass the jail procedures, the manual, deceive the jailors, provide facilities to make life easy, bribe or negotiate with captors and judges and find conduits to communicate with the outside world. This is what Zardari did in his years of jail. He developed the hard core of his cronies – a jail doctor, a hospital owner, a business caretaker, a protocol provider, a media handler, a few political artists, a number of mafia-type jobbers, some trouble shooters, a couple of well-dressed attack dogs and a bunch of gun-wielders who he calls as his loyal security guards.

Where is Shaheen Sehbai’s evidence for such a claim? Or is this merely “baseless allegation” and “defamatory accusation” as well?

It seems that Shaheen Sehbai has a very long history of writing defamatory accusations about President Zardari. So why is he shocked when someone writes of him,

The extent of the writer’s venomous hatred for the President of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, is well known to the readers of this newspaper. It can be judged by a recent piece written by Sehbai titled “Why is the President scared of political actors” published in The News of April 23, 2010, in which he sadly used words like “fiendish” and phrases like “attack dogs” to describe the person and the official staff who – whether we like it or not — represent the office of the President of Pakistan.

Shaheen Sehbai may not like what Azeem Daultana has to say, but at least he has provided some evidence in the form of Sehbai’s own words. That is more courtesy that Shaheen Sehbai ever extended to the president, is it not?

In fact, Azeem Daultana’s supposedly “defamatory” article is filled with quotes from Shaheen Sehbai’s own articles followed by corrections. Does Shaheen Sehbai allege that he has defamed himself?

Sadly, Shaheen Sehbai cannot even help but to make some defamatory statements in his own complaint about defamation. For example, why does he write, “…the article by Mr Daultana was given wider dissemination and was published in two province-based newspapers, besides some suspicious blogs.”

Mr Daultana’s article appears to have been published on the popular blogs Pak Tea House, which is editied by Raza Rumi, a regular columnist for The News, as well as Let Us Build Pakistan, which is edited by a group of Co-editors, all of whom are publicly listed on the website. So why these blogs are called “suspicious”? Is this not yet another example of merely “baseless allegation” and “defamatory accusation” as well?

Shaheen Sehabi has been writing column after column of rumour and innuendo against President Zardari and others. His allegations are regularly made without any evidence, and his predictions have repeatedly failed to come true. He hides behind the cloak of ‘professional journalist’ and uses this title as a talisman to ward off any criticism. Even though Shaheen Sehbai has no problem criticising others, when someone dares to criticise him, he makes a defamation claim. Does Shaheen Sehbai believe he should be held to a different standard than his own?

Ansar Abbasi Served With Defamation Notice

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

The News (Jang) reports today that Mr. Ansar Abbasi has been served with legal notice under Section 3 (1) of Defamation Ordinance, 2002 for comments made about Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab on the TV programme ‘Dunya Today.’

She said in a TV programme, ‘Dunya Today,’ telecast on 10th of May, Ansar Abbasi referring to her allegedly uttered words ‘in ka bus chale to humari gardan utaar dein’, (if it was up to her (Ms Fauzia Wahab), she would slit our throats).

“These words were below the civilisation values and immoral, and tantamount to my insult and insult of my party,” she added.

The PPP leader said the media was independent, but it did not mean that ‘irresponsible statements’ should be uttered. She said she was in politics since last 30 years but not a single FIR had been registered against her on criminal or corruption charges. She said under these conditions, Ansar Abbasi’s words were allegedly an assault on her integrity.

I think Ms. Wahab makes an important point: Freedom of media does not grant license to slander and defame people.  With freedom comes responsibility. Ansar Abbasi has a long history of professional mistakes, many of which have been catalogued here on this blog. Now, it seems, Mr. Abbasi is being called to account for his words. 

Ansar Abbasi responded to the notice saying, in part,

I was making a general and sarcastic statement about the attitude of the government/PPP towards certain journalists, who have been receiving threats and death messages from certain members of the PPP and its government.

If this is true, these journalists should file reports against anyone who is making threats or death messages. Otherwise, it seems to fit the same pattern of Ansar Abbasi in the past in which he makes some general accusations against ‘mystery men’ without providing any names or evidence. Actually, one has to wonder if these people even exist.

It is also unfortunate that throughout his full reply, Mr. Ansar Abbasi cannot even have the character to apologize to Ms. Wahab after he says some nasty and brutish things about her on TV. 

It will be up to the proper legal authorities to ultimately decide this case against Ansar Abbasi, but it should be a lesson to other media personalities that proper journalism does not require and should not include nasty personal attacks. If you believe that you must resort to making up attack stories about someone, perhaps you should consider if the problem is actually the weakness of your reporting.

Threats to Journalists Threaten Press Freedom

Monday, November 16th, 2009

There is no defense for threatening journalistsThreats to the safety of journalists represent a serious problem in Pakistan, and the danger journalists face in our country has resulted in a respected international NGO ranking press freedom in Pakistan below Afghanistan and Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, some people like Ahmed Quraishi are trying to defend these threats.

Reporters Without Borders recent 2009 Press Freedom Index lists Pakistan at 159 out of 175 nations represented. Mr. Ilhan Niaz took issue with the harsh ranking in Dawn yesterday, saying that “One can only wonder what methodology would enable Pakistan to be bracketed alongside one party dictatorships, theocratic police states and warlord infested polities on the issue of press freedom.” After inquiring with Reporters Without Borders, the newspaper was told that “The bad situation of Pakistan in the ranking is mainly due to the attacks against journalists by [T]aliban and other groups…”

This should not come as too much of a surprise to Mr. Niaz since in May of this year, Reporters Without Borders and International Federation of Journalists sent a joint letter to the President requesting him “to take urgent action to condemn any suggestion or threat of attacks against these three men and other media personnel in Pakistan.”

On Friday, Ahmed Quraishi defended his and other newspapers’ efforts to threaten journalists by unilateraly declaring them spies – a move recently condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists as well as other Pakistani media outlets and Pakistani blogs.

Quraishi dedicates a significant portion of his column to listing incidents in which journalists engaged in such “unusual activities” as “travelling [sic] to sensitive parts of the country.” In other instances, Quraishi reports incidents that are completely unrelated to journalists or Pakistan, such as John Yettaw’s visit to Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and US special operations agents riding in a car with fake number plates. What do these incidents have to do with journalists? Nothing.

In fact, Quraishi even says in his article, “None of the above might be a spy…” and goes on to defend his paper’s irresponsible behavior by complaining that the US media misreported about Pakistan’s nuclear programme in the past. It’s as if Quraishi thinks that “two wrongs make a right.”

Quraishi, and The Nation‘s editorial staff as a whole, continue to miss the deadly point of their actions. Journalists in Pakistan have been repeatedly attacked and murdered – not for being spies, for being journalists.

A brief scan of the Reporters Without Borders haedlines for Pakistan over the past year reveal significant dangers for journalists in Paksitan. Here are only some of the headlines:

Ahmed Quraishi says of the Matthew Rosenberg accusations that “some of our commentators would do well to advise US media representatives to move to Islamabad instead of reporting on Pakistan from New Delhi. That might help the US media reduce some of its hostility toward Pakistan.” But Ahmed Quraishi clearly cannot ensure the safety of Mr. Rosenberg. In fact, he has all but signed his death warrant.

There is no defense for threatening journalists. Threats to journalists threaten press freedom. It is a sad day when international journalists feel they must report on Pakistan from another country because of concerns for their safety. It is a sadder day still when the safety of journalists is made even more threatened by people like Ahmed Quraishi.

Where is the freedom?

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

A view on how the right-wing journalists try to defame and bring down any author or writer who disagrees with their views. It is time such journalists are held accountable and not allowed to merrily trample over any obstacle to their agenda. They are setting double standards when as a source of income they hold politicians accountable everyday, but yet are unwilling to accept any criticism or attempt to be held accountable by others. The beauty of being in a democracy and not a dictatorship is the ability to hold all parties involved answerable for their actions and we must not allow any one to take this liberty away from us!

The heart desire's more!

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Another fantastic argument by Agha Haider Raza

Looking at the past week, one can see how resilient Pakistanis have become.  Suffering numerous suicide bomb attacks and wide-spread military action, we are here yet again, still standing.  But how long can we sustain ourselves at this current rate of demolition? How many times will we resist smacking the hammer on our own foot? Nowadays we seem to have become the offspring of Glenn Beck and the Republican Party.  With a constant denial of the harsh reality and a love for misconstruing and fabricating baseless facts that just aim to maim the United States, we seem to be struggling.  And when we struggle, we play the role of a secluded, spoilt child. 

Prior to 9/11, we perfected this character, but now the circumstances have changed. We can no longer do as we please without being held accountable for our actions.Pakistan has suffered.  Thousands of innocent lives have been lost at the hands of suicide bombs and ambush attacks.  Women have lost husbands, sons and brothers and it is despicable at the number of families that have suffered.  Much to the dismay of our right-wing journalists, I am not going to be making a presumed argument as to how India, Israel or even the United States are after Pakistan’s existence.  It’s just not happening, guys! I feel it would also be fruitless to engage in a history lecture as to who gave rise to the mujahedeen since various institutions in our country groomed them.  But by excluding so much, the foreign influence and historic aspect many would argue that I have no argument.  But for a split second, would it be possible to sit and analyze how we can carry ourselves into the future rather than dissecting the past?

Many times a day, we read in the newspapers and on the internet, the extent by which America has extended its influence within Pakistan.  From Blackwater to US diplomats wielding weapons and the constant chatter in regards to the Americans taking over our nuclear arsenal, we’ve heard it all.  I would like to take this opportunity and remind my avid readers that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not hidden in any underground garage that can be easily picked up by “US diplomat”.  I have more faith in my military that protects such weapons than those journalists and commentators who seem to believe otherwise.

The United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, came and went.  Although she was given a red-carpet upon landing, there were times where her reception was – well – jagged.  Criticism and resentment towards the United States is understandable.  Issues ranging from drone attacks (which is debatable!), alleged presence of US personnel and expansion of the US embassy are some of the concerns Pakistanis share.  But how much credit have we given Hillary Clinton for taking the initiative of reaching out across the political spectrum?  Firstly, she stayed for three days.  Both President Bush and President Clinton had to arrive in secrecy in Pakistan, and the statements they made seem more like a photo-op than anything substantive.  Upon meeting specific people, both Presidents took off and that was the end of their journey into Pakistan.

Secretary Clinton on the other hand, not only met those in office, but those outside of office as well.  She took a step further and held a town-hall debate with students and met various journalists while giving time to Pashtun elders as well.  But was this enough to please our right-wing journalists? Of course not! They had problems with the type of journalists she met, the transparency of the business leaders she conversed with and the lack of money she brought with her.  Did they even dare comment on the extent to which she tried to rectify the failure of previous administrations?  We only felt too proud, when a journalist claimed that we are fighting America’s war.  Proud because we assumed someone was able to stand up to the mighty Clinton.  Unfortunately, the moderator failed to realize that when a Pakistani is killed on a daily basis, it becomes the responsibility of our government and our military, thus our war.

I fail to understand how we keep asking for more aid money and assistance from around the globe, but at the same time are completely unwilling to be held accountable for the pennies we spend.  We lambasted the IMF for bailing us out of near bankruptcy.  No doubt the IMF places stringent conditions when offering loans, but is it safe to assume that if we had the money, we would not need to be borrowing? Pakistan’s tax-GDP ratio is a number that is so micro, I don’t think it would be visible here.  On the other hand we enjoy receiving other countries money, as long as we do not tell them, where and how it is being spent.  Frankly speaking, it is not fair to use aid money in this manner of secrecy, nor should we allow other countries to micromanage us, just because we have been given their aid money.  This mantra of dil maange aur (the heart desires more) needs to stop.  And can only stop if we are faithful to ourselves.  Although we tend to be very egotistical when it comes all other issues, but taking a kashkol (begging bowl) to other countries seems to make us forget all about our ego.

Pakistan is at its wits end.  We must take the reins of our future and grasp them tightly.  Rooting out militants from South Waziristan is only a step towards cleansing our country of this disgusting and twisted ideology that causes inhumane persons to blow themselves up and kill others.  Condemning the United States will not stop a child in Lahore from gathering a bogus understanding of Islam that will cause him to take the lives of others, nor will it rid us of the poverty in Karachi and unemployment issues in Peshawar.  To counter this we need a united front in order to stop the ethnic tensions rising between us.  This is where your role as a Pakistani citizen comes into play.  All our lives we learnt not to point fingers at others, and now when the going gets tough, we find it only to easy blaming others for our predicaments.  At the end of the day, we all know our destiny lies only in our hands; no other country has control over it.  Believe it!

Enough is enough!

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Agha Haider Raza’s latest piece:

A few days ago, the education minister of Baluchistan was shot down outside of his house.  Tragic as it may seem, little attention was given to the horrific murder.  Ironically, no sizeable protests were carried out, nor were Facebook statuses changed to condemn the minister’s death.  A day’s worth of news stories were written in honor of the slain minister, but then our attention was focused on what our media views as the primary target, the United States.  Where is our humility and humanity? Have we become so immune to hearing about death, that we have stopped caring for those who leave this world?

Muslims pride in the belief of the afterlife and respect for our current existence.  But now it seems we just don’t give a damn about it all.  If I were to tell you that a governor was appointed for paying massive amounts of dollars or a minister is making money by selling LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) files, I can guarantee you no less than a thousand emails and text messages would be circulating Pakistan.  We are not a nation of drama queens.  Enough is enough!

I am not taking this opportunity to preach you on how to think, but rather pleading with you to find some humility and most important some dignity.  On the one hand we take immense pride in our flag, so much so, that we consider it less an offense and more a sin if the Crescent and Star were to touch the ground.  On the other hand, we have no problem burning any other nation’s flag.  Many of us have heard incidents where upon an accident, one party suffers due to the ‘political connection’ of the other.  If none comes to mind, let me repeat the unfortunate incident of April 20th 2009, where a student of LUMS died due to drunk driving.  I won’t go into the specifics of the accident, but the drunk driver had ‘political connections’.  Although the LUMS students protested, after a few days, the incident fizzled out and nothing much became of it.  This episode was hardly covered by the media.  Today, a similar incident was reported by the media (no loss of life however was reported) with a lot of hue and cry.  Allegedly a drunken US diplomat ran a red light and rear ended a CDA (Capital Development Authority) vehicle.  The author of the news piece reporting on the accident concluded his articles with a passionate and emotional plead “the question once again is: is there any law applicable to Americans in Pakistan?”  By putting such a moving statement in the article, resentment for the US is bound to rise.  Is this healthy?  If only the newspaper could be so passionate in holding all MNA’s this accountable, if only!  Either law is egalitarian or everyone under the sun is prosecuted.

My argument here is to solely prove the malice with which we condemn the United States.  No one is saying their hands are clean.  They have caused much damage to our region.  But how clean are our hands?  At times we cheat the system and avoid the law and sometimes don’t mind paying a few hundred rupees to avoid a speeding ticket.  We love mocking the United States for their poor foreign policy, but do we salute them for their strong judiciary system?  Do we commend them for their work ethic?  Do we applaud their punctuality in the labor market? I’ll let you answer.

Muslims have been known throughout the world as being traditionalists.  We have a strong sense of brotherhood as was preached by our forefathers.  This notion of brotherhood stems out of not only our religion but culture as well.  Now it has come to the regrettable point where we hardly give attention to our lost citizens.  I want to emphasize the word “citizen” here.  A death in Punjab is as hurtful and upset as a loss of life in Baluchistan.  However, is this really the case?  Ethnic divisions are the root cause of the exploitation by not only the Establishment, but the political elite and militants who threaten our peace, security and freedom.  The isolation of the citizens belonging to the North and West has been carried out for far too long.  It is time show them the humility and humanity Pakistani’s are capable of.  Our nation is indivisible, and I’d like to keep it at that!  We need to stand up to those people who threaten our unity.  Let it be known, we will hunt them down, be they in Waziristan wielding Kalashnikovs or in newsrooms and media offices yielding a pen.  Enough is enough!

Conspiracy Theorists Put On Notice

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Conspiracy theorists have finally been served notice. This week, Husain Haqqani served notice on The Nation after they published an allegedly defamatory article by Ahmed Quraishi. This comes after countless articles by Quraishi that attempt to cast the reputation of the Ambassador to the US in question. The legal notice also puts conspiracy theorists on notice: If you’re going to make some these claims, you had better have some evidence to back them up.

This week, Lahore daily The Nation was served legal notice for publishing a defamatory article against Mr. Haqqani. Ahmed Quraishi was a well-known supporter of Gen. Musharraf and seems to be completely obsessed with Husain Haqqani, writing about the envoy almost every day.

The article in question accuses Haqqani of blackmail and is based only on alleged conjecture by unnamed sources. Nowhere in the article does Quraishi provide any evidence that can be verified by independent parties, nor does he reveal any of the “unnamed sources” that supposedly told him the story. With a complete lack of evidence to support Quraishi’s thesis, Haqqani’s lawyers have demanded an immediate retraction and apology from The Nation for publishing the story.

The Nation, the newspaper that published the article in question, is edited by Dr. Shireen Mazari, who was famously referred to by Khalid Hasan as “the Ann Coulter of Pakistan,” and has been a thorn in the side of the Pakistani government and its Ministers and Ambassadors.

Haqqani’s lawyers filed the notice of libel pursuant to Defamation Ordinance, 2004 read with other enabling laws. They said the statements published in the newspaper are false and defamatory and such “malicious and reckless defamatory statements impugn the reputation of our client”. They demanded the newspaper publish, and post on its website, a written and unqualified apology within 14 days of the receipt of the notice, including a passage stating: “Today, we acknowledge that the ambassador has acted ethically, morally, and legally and retract the statements we made to the contrary. We apologise to the Pakistan ambassador to the US for the unfounded attacks made on his reputation.”

The ambassador’s legal counsel has also demanded the newspaper remove the defamatory article from its website immediately. However, it added, the newspaper must “preserve and not alter any paper or electronic files and other data generated by/or stored on your computers and storage media relating to matters addressed by this Notice of Libel”, adding failure to comply might result in sanctions being imposed by the court and liability in tort for spoiling evidence or potential evidence.

It would seem that Mr. Haqqani has finally had enough of Mr. Quraishi’s obsessive conspiracies, and has served notice not only to The Nation but to conspiracy theorists across the country that enough is enough.