This has been a bad year for Muhammad Saleh Zaafir. The ‘Editor Special Reporting’ of Jang Group has been publishing one article after another of especially poor quality.
In January, Muhammad Saleh Zaafir wrote a bizarre conspiracy theory suggesting that President Zardari held a ‘mysterious meeting’ with President Obama, despite the fact that details of the meeting were available on the same day. Actually, the meeting was so not mysterious that photographers were even present.
A few months later, the same Jang Group reporter was exposed when he claimed to have received detailed information from ‘highly placed defence sources’ that turned out to be nothing but a cut-and-paste from Wikipedia.
Today, Muhammad Saleh Zaafir is back armed not with conspiracy theories or plagiarism, but drawing room gossip. Don’t take our word for it, this is how Mr Saleh Zaafir describes it himself!
This was gossip in the Kenyan reception held on Monday evening.
The gossip he ‘reports’ is that Husain Haqqani “tried to escape” but was prevented by the PM. The former Ambassador responded on Twitter noting that “First they said I will not come 2 Pakistan. Now they say I am in some hurry 2 leave. Wrong both times :)”.
It is important to note that Muhammad Saleh Zaafir has a long history of inventing and reporting false information. In fact, he was warned by the Supreme Court against this habit and made to publicly apologise in 2007.
Muhammad Saleh Zaafir, who is the reporter of the said news items, when confronted with the same, frankly and honestly conceded that he had made no effort to verify the veracity of the allegations levelled in the said news items before publishing the same nor did he have any proof in support of the contents thereof. He, however, added at the very outset that he had utmost regards and respect for not only the said hon’ble judges of this Court but for the entire judiciary; that he did not have even an iota of doubt about their integrity and character and that reporting the said news items was a grave mistake on his part.
Muhammad Saleh Zaafir needs to understand that ‘Special Reporting’ does not mean parroting drawing room gossips and cutting-and-pasting from websites, but actually taking the time to do some basic background research and fact-checking before filing an article.
Newsweek Pakistan shows us how easily media can start rumours. Following the resignation of Ambassador Husain Haqqani on Tuesday, Newsweek Pakistan posted the following on Twitter.
A few minutes later, Newsweek Pakistan posted again, clarifying that they were unable to verify the claims of their anonymous source.
While it is good that Newsweek Pakistan clarified their report, it will make little difference as can easily be seen from the number of re-Tweets. At least 20 people spread the unverified rumour, while as few as 5 passed on the clarification. In what looks like a rush to get a ‘scoop’, Newsweek Pakistan may have started a wildfire of inaccurate information. At the very least, they have added to an environment of confusion.
Being the first to report a lie is far worse than being second to report a fact. It is much more important that news reports be correct than they be fast. Newsweek Pakistan needs to exercise restraint and only report items once they have been verified.
What Maha Mussadaq’s short article lacks in substance, it makes up for in
While some had their appetite for food others were looking forward to some juicy gossip. “So I’ve heard the President is also coming tonight,” said a diplomat to another with raised eyebrows and quirky smiles. Yes, the most interesting sight of the night was the surprise appearance of President Asif Ali Zardari as the chief guest. Before his coming, there were rumours going on about his arrival, where some knew about his plan others were puzzled as to when and why was he coming?
President Zardari walked down the carpeted stairs towards the tent where all the guests were waiting, of course with an entourage, smiling, saluting, and waving. The president began his brisk round of the tent shaking hands with guests, and left leaving the guests with mixed feelings where a lot were puzzled, a few happy, some with smirks and a handful least bothered faces were spotted which were sweeter than desert.
Now, tell me, what is the point of this? It reads like the script from a drama serial, not serious reporting on a diplomatic event. And what is meant by the phrase, “some with smirks and a handful least bothered faces were spotted which were sweeter than desert”. Is the reporter injecting her own opinions into the article?
Our media already has too many gossip columnists and too few serious reporters. Please, the editors of Express Tribune should kindly stick to reporting news, not celebrity gossips.
Mr Hamid Mr writes in The News (Jang Group) today that President Zardari’s recent attendance at a diplomatic function honoring Turkey raised “disturbing questions”. Upon reading the column, however, it was only learned that Hamid Mir engages in more parlour gossips than a dozen busy-bodies.
Here are the so-called “disturbing” question according to Hamid Mir:
Despite all this political gossip, many Western diplomats were seriously trying to understand the unusual presence of President Zardari on the national day of Turkey. Some Foreign Office officials were telling them that it was not unusual because presidents had attended diplomatic functions in the Chinese and US embassies in the past.
A top government official informed The News that President Zardari had given a goodwill gesture to Turkey for its unprecedented help given to the victims of the recent floods. He also said Pakistan, Turkey and Iran had become partners in 6,566 km long railway line project worth $20 billion.
Many people were discussing whether Turkey was going to invest a lot in the power sector and was this the reason President Zardari graced the national day of Turkey but they were also asking what was the role of a president in a parliamentary democracy.
The presence of President Zardari in a very important diplomatic gathering raised many valid questions in the minds of foreign guests. They were asking their Pakistani friends that if prime minister had become powerful after the 18th Amendment, then why US President Obama is still calling and inviting President Zardari to visit Washington?
They were also asking whether President Zardari was giving signals to the diplomatic community of Islamabad that he was still the most powerful man in the government. They were asking where was PM Gilani? Poor Pakistanis had no answer to all these disturbing questions raised by their foreign friends.
These questions are not disturbing, and probably they were never even asked by anyone. Let’s think about this for one moment, shall we? Why was the President attending a diplomatic function for a close ally that is making some investments in our country? Do we really even have to ask such a question?
Why is US President Obama calling for Zardari to come visit if 18th Amendment made the PM more powerful? President Zardari may have returned some powers to their proper office as part of democratic reforms, but he is still ‘head of state’ and the head of the PPP. The office of President was not abolished. Why shouldn’t Obama invite Zardari for a chat?
These questions are not disturbing, they are banal.
But there is one disturbing thing reveal by Hamir Mir. The so-called ‘disturbing questions’ account for only the final paragraphs in a long column of many paragraphs. What is reported in the rest of the article? It is only the most stereotypical gossips you can imagine. Did someone move to the other side of the room and not shake Zardari’s hand? Was someone whispering in the corner? What did some PML-N say about some Minister?
Is Hamid Mir is auditioning for a new celebrity gossip show? Perhaps he can call his new show “Auntie Talk” because he reminds me of listening to my auntie sit around and gossip about the people in our neighborhood over tea with her friends.
Whatever his intentions, Hamid Mir has only embarrassed himself by writing such a gossip column. Whatever one’s political preference, it must be admitted that a real journalist could easily write a column about any world leader titled ‘Disturbing Questions’ that includes real questions of governing, diplomacy, and politics. For Hamid Mir, though, there is apparently only some parlour gossip. Disappointing, indeed.
On Monday we reviewed The News‘s latest failure feature, Amir Mateen’s gossip column about PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif. As promised, we will continue this series of reviewing Mateen’s juicy gossip columns so that you can spend your time reading actual news. After attacking Nawaz under the guise of profiling PML-N, Mateen turned his sights to the PPP. Of course, by PPP Mateen only means ‘Zardari’ and by profile, he only means ‘slander.’
Part I of Mateen’s latest profile makes no pretense of being an unbiased, well-researched report. Rather, the author jumps immediately to outlandish statements, most specifically claiming to speak for the late Benazir Bhutto and claiming that it is better for her to be dead. Apparently, Amir Mateen knows neither journalistic ethics nor shame.
All of this, though, is merely a set-up for the true target of Mateen’s poison pen – Asif Ali Zardari. Mateen quickly begins to throw slanderous accusations at Zardari, claiming that the President “treats his wife’s friends and close party colleagues with contempt.” Mateen provides no anecdotes, no examples, nor any statements from these friends and close party colleagues who he claims are so ill-treated.
Strangely, though, Mateen’s major problem with Zardari seems to be that he has changed some things in the PPP, including sidelining people who treated him badly in the past. I suppose Mr. Mateen only invites his own enemies to dinner. Amir Mateen says that Benazir Bhutto treated with respect those who “treated her like a kid and thought they they, not she, should lead the PPP.” Even here, Mateen manages to slander Benazir in her grave.
In part II of his gossip column, Amir Mateen continues his unsubstantiated tirade against Zardari as well as his Benazir Bhutto slander. Mateen writes,
A furious Zardari made hysterical calls from New York, shouting at everyone and anyone who was foolhardy enough to have answered his phone. This may be the reason why he has not forgiven Yousuf Talpur, a PPP veteran, who now lives his life on the outskirts of the party power circle.
Because of such incidents, the cabal of Zardari’s friends and family felt that they were held back because of Benazir’s advisers and close associates. And now that they are in power, they are settling the scores. Benazir’s life-long associates are easy prey for Zardari’s wrath and vengeance.
Not even Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani dares messing with the president’s friends. But it is difficult to forget that these friends include the people who were not even allowed to enter Benazir’s house or office. She disliked many of them. Benazir once got angry when Fehmida entered her office in Naudero without permission, because “the woman gives me a headache.”
This is quite a claim! Was Mateen present when Zardari made these alleged ‘hysterical calls from New York’? And has the PM told Mateen that he ‘dares not mess with the president’s friends’? Mateen even makes up some story about chanting at a rally. Obviously, he does not quote any sources or provide any evidence. Mateen oh-so-cleverly subtitled this column, “sub par bhari” but I believe it would be better subtitled, “Sub Par Bollywood” because Shahrukh Khan would have nothing to do with this ridiculous plot.
In Part III of his gossips, Amir Mateen – true to his “Sub Par Bollywood” style – adds a twist to the plot! No longer is he slandering Benazir’s grave by painting her as both too weak to stand up to bullies in her party and also a wicked woman who treats her friends badly; Now Amir Mateen as a kind hearted soul who worked tirelessly to make everyone feel loved.
Benazir turned this raw PPP energy into structures and forms. It took her over 30 years to devise a system in which she could cut across all tiers and communicate with the workers at the lowest rung. She was informed about the minutest details; she knew the PPP office-bearers in every Tehsil, their electoral history, and even about their wives and children. A charismatic leader, she left an impact on those she led and all the workers who had met her had a story to tell. The stories of what she ate, wore or said to, say, Sitara Baji in Denmark to Hassan Akhtari’s mother in Sahiwal.
Benazir stayed in touch, sharing joys and sorrows by sending birthday cards, wedding gifts, condolence messages and, the prized trophy, her signed photographs. She called party leaders at all levels personally, sent them emails and SMS messages, sometimes hundreds a day. When the workload became heavy, she became more selective about sending the replies herself, but for all intents and purposes, everyone thought she was the one responding.
She was very particular about the party structures at the district, divisional, provincial and national level. She may have worked through a kitchen cabinet, but she also gave a general sense of participation to the office-bearers at every level. And while she realised that the elected members were the face of the party for a certain section of society, she knew the provincial and district leadership was very important. She tried to maintain a balance between the two, but when needed, she tilted towards the latter. She ensured that the various party wings – women, labour, youth – and the committees on, say, foreign policy remained functional and effective. Benazir turned the party’s organisation into a well-run machine that survived the times, especially the bad ones. And herein lay the PPP�s strength.
Why, just the day before, Amir Mateen told us that Benazir was a heartless woman who treated Fehmida Mirza with cruelty. Now she is a saint. Amir Mateen, it appears, is not even concerned to keep his story straight, rather he only wants to keep the plot juicy!
The entire point of this episode of Mateen’s drama, though, is to say that Zardari is destroying the PPP with his power-hungry incompetence. Which is ironic, of course, since Zardari has just voluntarily signed away many of his powers as President to the PM, Yusuf Gilani. One would think that Zardari might not do such a thing since Gilani is – according to Mateen – so scared of him. Actually, I think Mateen just forgot that he made this claim in part I. So there is some small plot holes, let’s keep going.
Remember the past few episodes in which Zardari was a power-hungry bumbling idiot who was causing the PPP to crumble, ruining the legacy of Saint Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto (except when it was more convenient for Mateen to Slander Benazir, of course). Well, in the final episode, Zardari is not a bumbling idiot! No! Now he is an evil GENIUS!!!
Beneath this facade of a seemingly powerless Presidency lurks the most potent political and administrative machinery this country has ever seen. He has got twice the size of senior bureaucrats overseeing his invisible government than Musharraf had. The dictator was often accused of running the entire show from the Presidency and his prime ministerial troika was dubbed as a mere rubber stamp. But Musharraf only had four director generals of grade 20. Zardari’s administrative colossus has five additional secretaries of grade 21 (Zaid Zaman, Shahzad Arbab, Ishaq Lashari, Zafar Qadir and his press secretary Taimoor Azmat); the sixth slot vacated recently by Abdul Shafiq who got promoted as Secretary is to be filled; Justice (R) Ali Nawaz Chauhana gets the equivalence of additional secretary as legal consultant; Additional Secretary Hassan Javed of the Foreign Office has been replaced by Director General, Farrukh Amil; and at the top is Secretary to the President, Asif Hayat. There is a team of baboos and finally, at the top of this pyramid sits a super babu.
The team of baboos runs the invisible government of Zardari where they get a soft copy of every important file – involving lucrative deals, leases, exemptions, quotas, awards of contracts, important transfers and postings – from every ministry, division, or corporation. A discreet system has been devised where a copy (called “soft” because it is not officially required and acknowledged) of every important file from every government department lands at the Presidency. Once it is approved at the Presidency, after the “deal” they say, the message is conveyed to the concerned department or ministry either on telephone or through a coded message like, say, a green “tick” mark.
Really, Amir Mateen’s “Sub Par Bollywood” plot has become so ridiculous, I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Now it is not corrupt, stupid, and incompetent Zardari that is ruining the PPP. It is evil genius Zardari who has made the PPP into an unstoppable political machine. All in 24 hours, it seems.
Amir Mateen even includes some international intrigue by claiming that Dr Qayyum Soomro “is believed to have kept a visa of Afghanistan and a vehicle ready on the border to whisk him away…” As usual, Amir Mateen’s extensive journalistic experience could not be bothered to find any evidence – not even a phony quote from some ‘anonymous source’! No, he only says it “is believed.” Sorry, brother, I don’t believe it.
Actually, Mateen does finally make a phone call to get a quote in this episode. He calls Farhatullah Babar to get some evidence about the “invisible government” that the evil genius has secretly constructed. Only problem, Farhatullah says it is nonsense. Amir has come too far to let this get in the way of his “Sub Par Bollywood” plot, though, so he simply dismisses the only evidence he has:
“Babar being a straight and honest soul would not know of such mechanisms.”
Amir Mateen really makes things too unbelievable, though, when he claims that the media is controlled by Zardari through his team of Farahnaz Ispahani and Dr Qayyum Soomro. Really? Am I supposed to believe this? I think perhaps Amir has access to some other media than I do if he thinks Pakistan’s media is a tool of Asif Ali Zardari.
And thus concludes Amir Mateen’s latest Gossip Column AKA “Sub Par Bollywood.” Until next time, here is a quick preview of Amir Mateen’s next column:
The News recently announced the return of senior journalist Amir Mateen who was supposed to bring his 24-years of experience and write a series of profiles on political parties – “how they may have performed, changed, and developed in the two years after the last elections.” What resulted, however, is better titled, “Amir Mateen’s Gossip Column.”
Amir Mateen’s “profiles on political parties” are little more than sleazy character assassinations of leading politicians that belong in tabloid gossip magazines, not serious newspapers. Despite having 24-years of experience, Mateen has spent the past several weeks writing sensational ‘special reports’ against the nation’s top political leaders that are filled with juicy gossip and slanderous innuendo, but fail to provide any actual evidence or journalistic merit.
What are his habits; his likes and dislikes? What does he read, if at all he does? There is more emphasis on his food habits than his mental and intellectual growth, particularly after his return from exile. What are his perceptions about the rapidly changing Pakistan and the world around him?
Mateen, unfortunately, provides no answers. Instead, he dishes out the same yellow journalism and character assassination that brought us to the point of his original complaint. Consider this “analysis” by Mateen:
The PML-N offers a vague one-size-fits-all policy on most issues. The idea is to keep the mainstream swing voters in a flux and show the real teeth once the levers of power are in control. The same strategy is in practice within the party where nobody knows who is going to do what in a future power set-up. A deliberate chaos has been created where all PML-N leaders are saying all things to all people. The real position, if there is one, is only known to Nawaz Sharif.
Mateen, of course, offers no evidence. He simply says this as if idle gossip it is a proper replacement for actual investigative reporting. Actually, idle gossip makes up most of the article. Consider the following:
It is widely believed in Lahore that if your name has a suffix of Kashmiri castes like Butt, Mir, Lone, Khawaja, Dar or Banday, you have a better chance of your grievance being addressed.
Rather than actually investigate whether some families are receiving special treatment and providing the evidence, Mr. Mateen simply repeats a rumour!
A deliberate aura has been created where he is presented almost as a cult leader with his devotees, their eyes shining with respect, are not encouraged to question his great wisdom.
Again, where is the evidence? Mateen then goes on to complain that Sharif dared to treat him with suspicion, asking “what side” he is on. Certainly this would be a strange question for a reporter, but if the reporter has decided to make a living out of writing character assassination articles without any actual facts or investigative reporting, what is he supposed to think?
Mateen goes on to admit that what he is after is not any actual reporting about politics or important issues, but sensational gossip stories filled with sex scandals:
When asked how many wives and children does Shahbaz Sharif have, he flared up instantly. It took some effort to explain that when a politician offers him or herself for a public life, he or she may not have the same rights to secrecy as a private citizen does. He was asked that if Mustafa Khar’s wives and Asif Zardari’s philandering could be discussed, why could not a journalist ask a benign question about, what the number of wives and children the chief minister of the biggest province may have.
Think of how many different issues could have been asked about. Inflation, militancy, corruption, constitution…but instead all that Mateen and his gossip brigade care about is somebody’s private affairs? What a waste.
This is truly a pity because a thorough and well reported profile of different political parties and their positions on important issues would be a great asset to to the people as they evaluate their choices. But Amir Mateen and The News are not providing fact-based reporting, merely rumours, sleazy gossip, and character assassination.
The Nation is well known for it’s right-wing politics and sympathy for conspiracy theories. But this week, The Nation has both stooped to a new low by reporting gossip of a type that is more typically used to create controversy and attention for film stars and cricketers.
The issue in question is whether or not President Zardari possibly met with Sharifuddin Pirzada. An article published in today’s ‘Politics’ section gives away the topic as pure gossip by actually posing the title as a question: ‘Zardari seeks Pirzada’s counselling?’
Let’s look at the facts present in The Nation’s article:
1) The reporter claims that “Presidential spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, has categorically denied the meeting.”
2) “Sources close to Sharifuddin Pirzada did not say anything about his meeting with the President.”
3) “Sources close to Sharifuddin Pirzada…confirmed that he was in the Federal Capital on Wednesday.”
These are all the facts that are presented. Everything else comes from some unidentified ‘source.’ Actually, nothing is known about this source at all to judge the merit of his claims. That The Nation even published the title as a question implies that there is some doubt about the truth of the claim.
The problem with this article in The Nation is not that it is necessarily wrong that the President met with Pirzada. The problem is that The Nation has no way of knowing if it is true. They published an article that is so poorly researched that even they felt it necessary to make the headline a question in case they were found to be wrong!
I have no way of knowing if the President has met with Mr. Pirzada. In fact, I would not be terribly surprised if this was true. Although The Nation tries to slander the name of Mr. Pirzada by saying he was “top legal aide of…General (Retd) Prevez Musharraf,” they fail to report to their readers that Mr. Pirzada has actually been advising leaders since he was Honorary Secretary to Jinnah. Why did they not say, “Advisor to Quaid-i-Azam?” Maybe there is some reason not to respect Mr. Pirzada, but The Nation certainly has not given any reason in its very poor article.
The Nation claims to be “the most credible of English Newspapers in Paksitan,” but they continue to destroy any last remaining credibility they might have with very poor reporting such as this. Perhaps The Nation is better suited to the title, “the largest gossip paper in Pakistan.”