Posts Tagged ‘Gilani’

Memos and Appointments – Media Speculation Gets It Wrong

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Media is sometimes said to be a reflection of the society. Most people enjoy a little idle gossip now and then, and a favourite past time of media too seems to be speculating – at times even wishing – about what the facts might be. However there is a difference between chatting with friends and the media which is taken as a credible authority on matters. Two recent examples show just how pointless it is for media to engage in gossip instead of facts, and how how doing so can actually make us less informed about what is going on around us.

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The first example is the much anticipated and debated issue of a new DG ISI term. Would Pasha be given an unprecedented fourth term? Or would a new face take over the head of the premier national agency? As we wrote last month, what you believed to be the answer probably depended on where you were getting your news. Today, though, the question can be answered with certainty. As The Nation reported on Friday night, PM Gilani appointed Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam as new ISI chief.

The Nation logoPrime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani Friday appointed Lt. General Zaheer-ul-Islam as the new chief of the country’s major intelligence agency, the Prime Minister office said. Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the incumbent chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) will retire on March 18. “Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has appointed Lt. General Zaheer ul Islam, Corps Commander Karachi, as new Director General Inter Services Intelligence (ISI),” a brief statement from the PM office said.

This might be an unremarkable news report about a routine government appointment if only the same newspaper had not reported only a few weeks ago that PM Gilani was giving Pasha a fourth term.

Sources said the prime minister has been vocal in supporting Gen Pasha, claiming he (PM) has also taken on board President Asif Ali Zardari on the issue of Pasha’s extension. They were of the view that Gilani believes that certain media outlets had created some misunderstandings related to ISI DG and army chief by overplaying the memogate scam, but those were later removed. The prime minister, they said, was also convinced that some US agencies were actively involved in backing media campaign to malign armed forces and security agencies including the ISI to achieve certain objectives.

The DG ISI appointment is not the only issue that has caused a media group to turn a quick ‘about face’ recently.

The News (Jang Group)In Decemeber, Editor The News Mr Mohammad Malick wrote a stinging piece about ‘Memogate’ in which he charged that “it’s only a matter of time before the real facts of the memo issue replace the perceived truths”. It was hard to not suspect that the Jang Group Editor was not reveling in a bit of personal attack when he claimed the president’s helicopter was delayed “reportedly by a perturbed and teary-eyed Husain Haqqani who, according to more than one eyewitness, was insistent that the president take him along” and that “word has it that he may already be wearing out his welcome at the prime minister’s house”. Petty gossip that has nothing to do with the substance of the ‘Memogate’ claim

A few weeks later, on 31st Demember, The News claimed in its editorial that “There are continuous efforts to politicise, even scandalise” what it termed “a simple case”.

On Friday, though, The News was singing a different tune. In its new editorial it now claims that the case is not so “simple” after all.

Some of the allegations made by Ijaz are grave indeed; but there is a creeping doubt emerging that they may not be of as much substance as he would have us believe. So far he has not produced any incontrovertible evidence. What he describes as a receipt from Haqqani for the email he sent is a BBM message open to alternative explanations and interpretations. Ijaz is thought by some to be pursuing an agenda beyond just sharing a truth.

Once people had a chance to recover from the initial shock of the memo and Mansoor Ijaz’s allegations, questions began to arise and proper scrutiny was finally given to Ijaz’s claims and his supposed ‘evidence’. Now, even The News is suggesting that it is time to move on.

This newspaper led the demand for an investigation into the origins of the memo. In several editorials we have focused on seeking a transparent inquiry and the ascertainment of all facts…But for truth and objectivity to be visible there has to be a lot more beef on the table than there has been to date. It is also clear that an early resolution of the memo issue is unlikely and, as such, should not distract the country from other, more significant and less confusing issues.

This is a perfectly reasonable position. It’s too bad it took The News so many months to get there. It’s especially too bad when you realise that it wasn’t necessary to take so long. Had The News showed a little less excitement about catching officials being naughty and a little more excitment about facts.

In both cases, media groups gave too much attention to rumours and gossips and too little attention to verifiable facts. In both cases also the expectations and understanding of the people could understandably be confused and possibly misled. We look to news media for facts. We’ll take care of the gup shup ourselves.

Historical Revisionism

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said, “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it”. History will not be so kind to another Prime Minister, not if Ansar Abbasi (Jang Group) writes it. In fact, Ansar Abbasi has decided that rather than way for events to actually play out, he’s going to to go ahead and write history now. Of course, that’s not history at all – it’s just predictions coloured by wishful thinking.

On the front page of The News and Daily Jang on Monday, Ansar Abbasi writes that “Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani would make history today (Monday), not as a hero but as a villain”.

Now, if your first reaction to this is, “Wait…that’s not reporting facts, that’s just Ansar Abbasi’s opinion”, then congratulations – you are correct. But Jang Group publishing opinions instead of news is an old story. So let’s take a look at exactly what leads Abbasi to his opinion and see if he is at least giving readers all the facts so that they can make an informed decision about whether Abbasi’s harsh judgment is warranted.

According to Ansar Abbasi, “The Supreme Court had given him all possible opportunities to uphold rule of law by implementing the apex court’s order in the NRO case but Gilani has opted to be remembered as a loyal to his soiled party leadership”. This is certainly one interpretation of events. But there is interpretation that Ansar Abbasi conveniently ignores – one actually based in the constitution.

The Prime Minister has said continually that he has not written a letter requesting the Swiss authorities to open corruption cases against the president because he has been advised that to do so would be in violation of Article 248.

It should be noted that PM Gilani is not trained as a lawyer – his educational background is as a journalist. But being a lawyer is not a requirement for being Prime Minister. Actually, there is the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs which tenders advice to all the Federal Government on legal and constitutional questions.

In this case, the Prime Minister was advised by the Ministry of Law that writing the letter would be a violation of Article 248 of the Constitution, which says that, “No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President or a Governor in any court during his term of office”. This is advice that his attorney, Aitzaz Ahsan, has confirmed and argued before the Court.

Essentially, the Supreme Court is ordering the PM to act against the advice of the Ministry of Law under threat of contempt – something legal experts have described as a ‘contempt trap’

If one were to give the benefit of the doubt to the accused in the instance of Gilani’s contempt proceedings, one could see that Gilani has fallen victim to a type of contempt trap. The court has continued to demand that Gilani write a letter to Swiss authorities, asking for Pakistan to be reinstated as a party to the money laundering case against President Zardari. However, under Article 248 of the Constitution, Zardari enjoys immunity from all prosecutions while he is sitting as President of Pakistan.

During the recent hearings, Aitzaz Ahsan went so far as to say that the Swiss authorities had been contacted by government and they have chosen not to pursue a case against Zardari, respecting his immunity under the Pakistani constitution. The court was perhaps frustrated to hear this information so late in the game, after so many requests from the Prime Minister to explain his position and to show that his government took the court’s orders seriously.

Despite the fact that the court’s order to reopen the Swiss cases is no longer likely or possible, they are continuing in their contempt hearings against the Prime Minister. This is remarkable because the court is essentially asking the Prime Minister to violate Article 248, which the Prime Minster cannot do as a sworn member of Parliament, and thus invoking his contempt of the court proceedings.

Others have noted that Article 248 does not only provide immunity to the President, but provides qualified immunity to the Prime Minister.

The President, a Governor, the Prime Minister, a Federal Minister, a Minister of State, the Chief Minister and a Provincial Minister shall not he answerable to any court for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective offices or for any act done or purported to be done in the exercise of those powers and performance of those functions

Despite these assessments, the Prime Minister has not questioned the Supreme Court’s right to hear the case nor attempted to create a political issue out of the case. Rather, he has appeared before the Supreme Court not once but twice – ironically, making history as the first Prime Minister to show such respect to the judiciary where past Prime Ministers have chosen to storm the Supreme Court.

Nor did the Prime Minister request the president to remove the justices as was done by Gen. Mushararaf. Actually, Gilani’s first act as Prime Minister was to release from house arrest those judges who had been detained by Gen. Musharraf.

Unfortunately, none of these historical facts appears in Ansar Abbasi’s front page column. Instead, he quickly moves away from the facts of the case at hand and resorts to repeating claims like, “corruption of Rs8,500 billion has been recorded during these four years as per the Transparency International’s assessment”. We have searched the TI website and have been unable to find any such assessment. Perhaps Ansar Abbasi is referring to his previous articles that have already been discredited.

In the past, history was often written by the victors. With the spread of the printing press, competing histories became written by different sides. With the advent of the Internet, this has become even more the case. Histories can be found that are written from all sides and perspectives – winners, losers, and bitter old men. Certainly Ansar Abbasi will have his own view of history, and that is his right. But facts are facts, and we hope that in the future, Jang Group will seek to include more facts and less biased opinion.

Ahmad Noorani Wrong Again

Monday, May 9th, 2011

The News (Jang Group)Writing for The News Ahmad Noorani reports that the government decided not to probe the Abbottabad attack.

The government has decided not to conduct inquiry of any kind at any level whatsoever about the shameful Abbottabad incident to find out the real culprits responsible for intelligence failure and violation of Pakistani borders and sovereignty. Only an in-house probe will be conducted by the Pakistan Army, it is reliably learnt from federal cabinet sources.

Credible Foreign Office sources say that this attitude of the Zardari-led Gilani government is also under American pressure that there was no need now to find out how the Pakistan intelligence agencies and intelligence system failed to monitor Osama or detect the arrival, operation and departure of US helicopters and other aircraft.

Apparently Ahmad Noorani’s sources are as credible as those of his mentor Ansar Abbasi.

Speaking before parliament today, PM Gilani stated that

“we are determined to get to the bottom of how, when and why about OBL’s presence in Abbottabad. An investigation has been ordered.”

It is fitting that the PM also said the following:

Very often it is the virtual or the media reality that obscures the actual. Yet, truth cannot for long be submerged in falsehood.

Today this was illustrated perfectly when the media reported one thing only to have it disproved within mere hours.

Conspiristan

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

“Conspiristaan” is the name that journalist Syed Abidi invokes in an article for ILIM TV’s website yesterday. Though Mr Abidi is discussing the reaction to the murder of Dr Imran Farooq, his assessment is also apt when one considers the past week of reporting.

As pointed out by Mr Abidi, the nation’s numerous conspiracy theorists got to work quickly once news of Dr Farooq’s death was reported.

Instead of mourning the loss of a political worker and taking the society for correction they got busy working hard on table-stories by inciting more hatred by writing personal and biased opinions and calling them ’sources’ which have no way to be verified or proved.

After this, there is a follow up of SMS campaigns by the same maniacs sending links to log on or full texts declaring the deceased’s own party as his killer. There are always some who would like to learn about negative before the positive and blindly believe in it, being a huge society of illiterates but aware of politics it works very well with them on a massive level. News about MQM is more interestingly read in up country than in Karachi itself, the difference is that in the 90’s it was national media, and now its blog sites and websites only. If these propaganda sites were so true, then our mainstream free media would have been the first to discuss about these conspiracies publically and put these questions to the party.

But the murder of Dr Farooq is not the only story that has become the target of conspiracy theories. Earlier this week, The Nation published an opinion column that claims that the US military has developed a machine to create global warming and control the weather that is being used by a secret group called “New World Order” to dominate the world.

The article, by A. R. Jerral, is essentially a paranoid rant that combines old conspiracy theories of secretive groups trying to control the world with a new spin of science fiction to add a spicy twist. This is a story that has been circulated in emails and websites of paranoid and discredited conspiracy theories, but that it has now been published in a newspaper should give all serious people concern for how low the standards of journalism have fallen.

Some of these conspiracy theories, however, are not simply paranoid rants but are actually political attacks meant to target specific people for personal or political vendettas.

Discredited conspiracy theorist Ahmed Quraishi has seemed to have a long and strange obsession with the Ambassador the the USA, Husain Haqqani. A few weeks ago on his Facebook page he accused Mr Haqqani of arranging luxurious accommodations for the Foreign Minister’s visit to New York City, only Mr Ahmed Quraishi was then shamed when it was reported that actually Husain Haqqani was in Pakistan for his mother’s funeral.

But shame does not appear to bother Quraishi, who is at it again accusing the Ambassador of interfering in the Dr Aafia case. According to an article this week, Ahmed quotes extensively an article by Yvonne Ridley, who he calls “investigative journalist”. Actually, Miss Ridley is a propagandist who does not do very well with facts.

For example, according to Miss Ridley’s article, Husain Haqqani holds US citizenship. This is an old accusation that Ahmed Quraishi has tried to peddle before only to be disproven as it was revealed that a diplomat cannot hold another citizenship. Mr Haqqani has Pakistan citizenship only, though he has worked in the US like thousands of other Pakistanis.

Yvonne Ridley and Ahmed Quraishi accuse the Ambassador of secretly telling journalists that Dr Aafia was “a bad woman”, though they naturally provide no evidence for who was told this or where it was published.

But the Ahmed Quraishi and Yvonne Ridley conspiracy falls apart once they claim that their case is proved because an American politician Cynthia McKinney was refused a visa to visit Pakistan to lobby the government on Dr Aafia’s case.

This simply makes no sense. Dr Aafia is not held by the Pakistani government but has been held by the American government. Why would an American politician fly to Islamabad to lobby the government on a case that is actually taking place in her own country? It simply makes no sense.

But even more ridiculous is the claim that Husain Haqqani has been working against Dr Aafia’s case. Actually, news reports have been filled with public statements by the Ambassador urging the American government to turn over Dr Aafia to Pakistani authorities and let her return home.

Actually, the facts are that the government including its representatives in the Embassy at Washington have been doing extensive work in support of Dr Aafia which has been widely reported.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, has also taken a keen interest in the Afia Siddiqui case given its political importance at home, sources say. He had two meetings with the Bush administration’s Attorney General and has made President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder at least four times to discuss the case. The US government has been unusually considerate in allowing these meetings, American officials point out, as it is not usually US policy to let foreign ambassadors get involved in cases pending before its courts.

Senior diplomats from the Pakistani embassy in Washington have been following Aafia Siddiquis case since the beginning. On the insistence of her brother Mohammed Ali Siddiqui, an expensive team of lawyers was hired to defend her in court with special approval from Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. It was unusual for the Pakistan government to pay top human rights lawyers, who had successfully defended other Al-Qaeda linked prisoners in the past, to defend a single Pakistani citizen who was not arrested while in service.

Whether it is the murder of a political worker like Dr Imran Farooq, science experiments by American universities, or complicated legal cases like Dr Aafia, there are facts and there are fantasies. Proper journalists investigate the facts and report them so that the citizenry may be well informed and make good decisions. Unfortunately, we are seeing an enormous amount of misinformation and wild conspiracy theories being published in all forms of media. These conspiracy theories distort our perceptions, cloud our minds, distract us from important issues and put us off the path of progress.

When you think about it clearly, Syed Abidi’s conclusion is correct.

Information that is verifiable is what we should believe in and develop on. It is our responsibility to be mature and not fall for such theorists, which blocks your positive imagination and creativity. They are getting paid to do it, but you are made a victim for free.

Let us be victims of these conspiracy theorists no longer.

Ahmed Quraishi and Flood Contributions

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Ahmed QuraishiAhmed Quraishi’s latest blog post for Express Tribune (why are they giving this discredited conspiracy theorist a platform?) is either a c-grade comedy routine or further evidence that Ahmed Quraishi is willing to ignore facts when they are inconvenient to his political agenda.

Ahmed Quraishi, by his own admission, is a political consultant who is “not a journalist anymore” and supports the jihadis. In short, he is a propagandist. So perhaps it should be no surprise that his blog post today accuses Pakistan’s “rich political elite” of “refusing to budge” and donate to flood relief, except that this claim is so easily demonstrated to be false, we wonder why he even bothered to write it.

According to Ahmed Quraishi,

The Pakistan Army donated one day’s salary of its soldiers, who mostly come from poor backfgrounds, for the relief effort. No politician is yet to take a similar step.

Only problem – that is false. Actually, it was widely reported earlier this month that parliamentarians and cabinet members have donated one-month salary to relief efforts, and 17-Grade government officials will donate one-day salary. Is it too much to ask that Ahmed Qurashi at least read the newspaper before he writes for one?

Ahmed admits in his post that President Zardari has personally donated Rs.6 Millions and the Sharif family has donated Rs.10 Millions to relief funds. His complaint there is both the old “do more” line with the added insult of insinuating corruption by saying that “no one knows how this amount will be spent”.

Ahmed then goes on to condemn MNAs and MPAs both because they have not “been seen in the affected areas helping people or distributing aid”, and for being “shameless politicians …quick to jump in front of visiting TV crews”. Typical Ahmed Quraishi – you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t also!

Ahmed Quraishi’s column is embarrassing for the author as well as the Express Tribune that agreed to publish it. It is based on easily disproven misinformation and scandalous insults backed by no evidence whatsoever.

This leaves only one question. How much, pray tell, has Ahmed Quraishi done to help?

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.

The News (Jang) Uses Double-Standard for PPP, PML-N

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

The News (Jang Group)The News has had a difficult time lately with its star journalists using double standards for politicians that they like and don’t like. Mostly this has been making excuses for PML-N and giving no mercy to PPP. This would be fine if it was only on the opinion page, but rather it has been more and more affecting the entire newspaper. The latest example exposes a bias across the entire news team.

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif is given front-page coverage for speaking out against the PA resolution against media,when it is his party that is responsible for the measure. Shahbaz Sharif (PML-N) also receives prominent coverage for speaking out against the same resolution despite his party being the source. Meanwhile, PPP MNA Sherry Rehman is only covered briefly inside the newspaper for her statements against the resolution.

But it is not simply this giving more coverage to one political party taking a popular position (in effect an attempt to convey that the other party is not speaking out), there is a distinct double-standard at work if you look at how the newspaper treats PML-N and PPP.

The coverage of PML-N leaders speaking out against the resolution that their own members passed is meant to demonstrate this this was the action of some rogue MPAs who were not following the party line. In fact, The News takes this PML-N talking point at face value in their editorial today.

PML-N leader has called for the expulsion of the mover of the resolution, member of his own party and has accused him of trying to cover up his crime of faking his degree. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said that he ‘cherishes the free media as much as he likes an independent judiciary in the country.’ A belated damage control effort within PML-N appears to be underway.

Obviously, it is possible for some MPAs to act out of turn and The News is perfectly happy to give the benefit of doubt to Nawaz and Shahbaz.

But when it comes to PPP, the standard is different. Instead of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, The News takes the position of ‘assumed guilty’! In an adjacent editorial about a leaked letter that is allegedly by NAB Prosecutor General Irfan Qadir questioning the reinstatement of CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry, The News lays the blame firmly on the PPP.

If they were not the views of the government of Mr Gilani, then whose views were they and what was afoot with Mr Qadir seemingly playing a lone game? NAB is under the control of the Law Ministry which itself is piloted by Law Minister Babar Awan. Presumably the Law Ministry is accountable to somebody at a higher level and who else would that be but the prime minister – unless ministers have been given a freehand? Babar Awan increasingly seems to be a law unto himself.

So where does this leave Mr Gilani and his statement that Mr Qadir’s views were not those of his government? They might not be the views of his government, but again, his might not be the only government operational today; which might also explain why the law minister is able to act as he pleases – above or below the law.

Do you see what they have done? Nawaz and Shahbaz are praised for speaking out against out-of-line party members, but PM Gilani is insinuated to be a liar and the government is to be held accountable for any misplaced comma of a PPP member. This is a double standard so obvious that it is hard not to think that The News is acting not as journalism but as propaganda to promote one political party over another.

That is not all. Other so-called ‘journalists’ for The News continue to use innuendo to smear politicians they don’t like (PPP only).

Tariq Butt begins his column about the selection of a new NAB chief by insinuating that PM Gilani is trying to appoint a ‘crony’.

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani is incapacitated under the case law and statute to appoint a crony as the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) because he has to convince two other key consultees about the credentials of such a nominee before notifying his selection, legal experts say.

The remainder of the article discusses the legal process and requirements for appointing chairman of the NAB. There is no presentation of any evidence that Gilani or anyone in government is trying to appoint anyone but the best, most qualified person. Instead, Tariq Butt simply assumes this is the case and smears the PM by implying as much.

The pro-PML-N bias of The News is easily proven today. Obviously, editorial pages are for opinions and the authors can take whatever position they choose. But when the opinions of the reporters and editors are so obviously using double standards and those double standards begin to color the entire reporting – that is not journalism but is political propaganda.

Perhaps Jang Group needs to update the name of its English-language newspaper from The News International to The News (PML-N). Then the readers would at least know what to expect. Better, though, would be for Jang to require some objectivity and fact-based reporting so that The News can be useful to the entire nation, and not only one political party.

Ansar Abbasi For the Prosecution

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Reporting on court proceedings and legal matters is an important and legitimate duty of the media. But in doing so, journalists should be fair to both sides of a complaint. After all, it is up to the court to decide the outcome - not a reporter. For Ansar Abbasi, however, that restraint appears to be too much to ask. In today’s The News, Abbasi writes about a complaint filed on Steel Mills that reads like a plea for the prosecution.

Abbasi’s column, “SC asked to intervene immediately,” reports that Watan Party has moved and application saying that the Steel giant is on the verge of collapse. While it may be true that a political party has filed some application with the court, Abbasi appears to have failed to do any independent research, and merely repeats the claims of the complaint.

Abbasi even goes so far as to suggest that the problem is one of political interference:

The PSMC, it is said, has the potential to meet the steel requirements of the country as per installed production capacity of the plant, provided it gets adequate supply of required material, an efficient, honest and professional management and is saved from the political interference.

But even Abbasi is forced to admit that the government has been acting only to remove administrative corruption from the industrial giant.

In August last year, the prime minister sacked the then chairman PSMC Moeen Aftab Shaikh on corruption charges and directed the Interior Ministry to investigate the affairs of the PSMC and to submit a report.

Watan filing a complaint on Steel Mills is a newsworthy story. But it is not proper to take this story as an opportunity to use the media to influence the public or the court to support one side or the other. Abbasi’s writing, unfortunately, does a disservice to the ideal not only of a fair media, but of a fair judiciary as well. How can anyone believe that they will get a fair hearing when they have to defend not only against the prosecutor, but the news media as well.

Please, Mr Abbasi, let the lawyers make the speeches and you only report the facts.

Who is Shaheen Sehbai working for?

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Shaheen SehbaiGen. Musharraf

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.”

Allow me to explain just how devious Zardari is. He has masterminded a war on the Supreme Court by reinstating Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry; on the parliament by signing 18th Amendment to return more power to it; on coalition partners by asking for open discussions and negotiations about difficult issues. He has gone to war with the opposition by consulting them on important issues – how else was the 18th Amendment passed unanimously? As for attacking the PM, handing over powers to him is a strange method of attack.

Actually, it was only a few weeks ago that this same author Shaheen Sehbai wrote that Zardari was all but finished, and that he was struggling to stay in office.

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?

But knowing that Shaheen Sehbai is only repeating talking points from Musharraf’s Washington and London advisors helps make some sense out of his article. It has been well established by other commentators that Shaheen Sehbai has a history of trying to set different actors against each other. Actually, this is his modus operandi.

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?

Shaheen Sehabi Explains What It Means To "Have No Shame"

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Amir Mateen’s attempt a script writing seems to have disappointed ‘The Godfather’ of wild storylines, Amir’s mentor Shaheen Sehbai. In today’s The News, Sehbai shows Mateen how to really write an attack column. Sehbai’s column targets his favourite topic, of course, Asif Ali Zardari.

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.

shameSehbai 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.

Sehbai goes on to claim that Zardari lost his powers “despite the best delaying tactics that he could deploy.” Apparently the best delaying tactics he could deploy were to voluntarily push the parliament to pass the 18th Amendment and then signing it. Seems like a strange way to delay a bill, if you ask me. Of course, many of the “failures” that Shaheen Sehbai mentions “may not be entirely visible.” This is more exciting than saying, ‘it didn’t happen.’ Or perhaps this is just more of Shaheen Sehbai’s ‘Wishful Journalism.’

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 famous predictions, 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.