Posts Tagged ‘incorrect information’

Ayesha: Javed Chaudhry’s Blatant Distortion of Facts

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Excellent fact checking by Ayesha! Cross-posted from her blog Sharp Perceptions.

Javed ChaudhryThe reading of Javed Chaudhry’s op-ed ‘Beech Ka Rasta’ (The Middle Way), printed in the February 4th Urdu newspaper Daily Express, made me realize that the media in general and the Urdu press in particular is so much bent on molding the public opinion that it don’t hesitate to resort to any unethical means including the misrepresentation of facts to achieve its hideous aims.

The Lahore shooting cannot be justified but the way the media is playing out the entire episode is repulsive. In his op-ed Javed Chaudhry vehemently builds up the case against Raymond Davis by quoting certain past diplomatic criminal instances. He begins by writing about the 1984 incident of Libyan embassy in London. In that case, one of the Libyan embassy officials was involved in the killing of a British female police officer. The accuracy of those facts can’t be contradicted as it is known when the British demanded the handing over of the official, Libya refused and this ultimately led to the severing of the diplomatic relations between the two countries. No one from the Libyan embassy was ever prosecuted.

The Case of Georgia’s Diplomat Gueorgui Makharadze

Next, Javed Chaudhry writes about one of the widely quoted diplomatic crimes committed by the foreign diplomat in Washington DC.

Javed Chaudhry’s version of facts:

On January 4th 1997, Georgia’s Second-in-Command diplomat killed a 16-year-old girl during driving, while the other four people sustain injuries. Washington police arrested the diplomat, Georgian president requested the diplomatic immunity from the President Clinton but the president refused the request.

The facts that world knows:

This case involved the Republic of Georgia’s Second-in-Command diplomat, Gueorgui Makharadze, killing a sixteen-year-old girl and injuring four others in a car crash. In the aftermath of an accident, the US asked the Georgian government to waive the diplomatic immunity which the Georgia refused initially and Makharadze was ordered to return home. A week or so later, the Georgian President waived the immunity and allowed Makharadze to be prosecuted.

There had been unconfirmed reports of Senator Judd Gregg, threatening to revoke the aid payments to Georgia if it didn’t waive the immunity. That was a mere threat, suppose if there was any truth to this report of threat even then the US would have not been able to prosecute Makharadze unless and until his immunity had been waived by the Georgia. In other words, Georgia would have ignored the threat and had recalled Makharadze. Chaudhry is totally wrong to say in his op-ed that Georgian President claimed immunity for Makharadze but the President Clinton refused.

There is no truth to Chaudhry’s claim either that Makharadze was arrested. The investigators didn’t conduct the blood alcohol test after the crash on Makharadze since he was identified as a diplomat. Makharadze was imprisoned to 7-21 years only after he pleaded guilty to one account of involuntary manslaughter and four accounts of aggravated assault. However, after three years Makharadze was transferred from the US to Georgia under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Treaty. Makharadze served two more years in prison in Georgia before he was released on parole.

The Case of Loren Wille

Javed Chaudhry’s version of facts:

Chaudhry continues distortion of facts and says that as retaliation in 1999 when an American ‘diplomat’, Loren Wille, got involved in a car crash killing a translator Georgia refused to accept his immunity and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

The facts that world knows:

First of all 54-year-old, Loren Wille was not a ‘diplomat’ as Chaudhry claims. He was instead a Catholic Relief Services worker. Yes, he was only a social worker. Second, he never ran over the translator as mentioned by Chaudhry. The translator, a woman called Manana Tsomashvili, was in fact traveling in Loren’s car and the accident occurred due to bad weather. The prosecutors failed to prove over-speeding besides, the passenger didn’t buckle up either despite Loren’s insistence. Chaudhry says, the US President claimed diplomatic immunity for Loren. What diplomatic immunity when Loren had nothing to do with diplomatic mission at all. Loren was released after five months.

Chaudhry so blindly copy and pasted material that he failed to figure out whether the slain translator was a man or a woman; whether Loren was a diplomat or his case got America’s attention only because he was a US citizen. Under the doctrine of State Responsibility it is common for states to get in touch with their citizens abroad when they get into legal trouble.

The claim that Georgia retaliated by imprisoning an American citizen is a misconception. There was a clarification regarding it in the New York Times which says:

‘The State Department says it has never maintained that the jailing of the American, Loren Wille, was a retaliation for that of a Georgian diplomat, Gueorgui Makharadze, who killed a teenager in Washington in 1997 in a drunken-driving accident.’

The Case of Munir Akram

Javed Chaudhry’s version of facts:

Lastly, Chaudhry discusses the case of Pakistan’s ambassador to UN, Munir Akram saying that he was arrested by the police. Pakistan invoked diplomatic immunity but the US refused to accept it.

The facts that world knows:

In 2003, Akram’s girl friend, Marijana Mihic called up 911 after a brawl with Akram. The police arrived but upon discovering that Akram was protected by diplomatic immunity, returned.

In the wake of misdemeanor charges against Akram, the US asked Pakistan to waive Akram’s immunity. Pakistan didn’t waive immunity instead Akram was recalled. There was no arrest made as Chaudhry falsely claims in his op-ed.

Instead of playing to the gallery, I hope the next time when Chaudhry makes such claims; he’ll bother to do a little bit of research rather than copy and pasting (or translating) erroneous reports from different news sources.

Javed Chaudhry's article

Click to Read

First US Controls the Weather, Now Time Travel Also

Monday, January 24th, 2011
Time Machine

Time machine used by US Congressman in conspriracy against Jang Group?

An article by Azim Mian published in both Jang and The News claims that President Zardari has engaged in a conspiracy against the media by convincing members of the US Congress to write a letter to Hillary Clinton requesting that visas not be granted to “media men not condemning the killing of Salman Taseer”. Judging by the evidence, though, the conspiracy appears once again to be Azim Mian’s and not Asif Zardari’s.

You will recall that this reporter Azim Mian has a chequered history of ridiculous smears leveled against the president including an article of June 2010 that tried to claim a ‘well-known’ website listed Asif Zardari as a US Citizen. The website turned out to be neither well known nor authoritative, and even so by the time Azim’s article was published it did not list Asif Zardari as US citizen.

Azim Mian also reported in June that Hussain Haroon would resign his post as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations before August 2010 due to “palace intrigues and impediments in his work”. It is now over seven months since the article and five months since Azim’s prediction has proven false despite the claims of his ‘sources’. These are only two examples of the reporter’s ridiculous claims and failed predictions.

So Azim Mian has a history of making ridiculous anti-Zardari claims in apparent attempts to embarrass the government without having good facts to back up his claims. But this latest conspiracy theory is even more foolish than his past articles.

According to Dawn, the letter sent to Hillary Clinton actually requests the State Department to  “identify those Pakistani citizens that have shown demonstrable support of the assassination of Governor Taseer”.

“Some of the most prominent clerics, journalists and lawyers who have praised Mr Taseer`s death and have demonstrated support of his murderer, are people who frequently travel to the US and hold American visas.”

Obviously, this request is not aimed at “media men not condemning the killing of Salman Taseer” as Azim Mian incorrectly states. This is his first error, and probably the smallest one though it is important to note as Azim’s article could lead readers to incorrectly believe that the US is pressurizing journalists to make a statement against the murder of Salmaan Taseer which is not stated by the letter.

Azim Mian then goes on to claim that “…indications are there that the US State Department had prepared a list of journalists and others on whom entry in the US may be denied by cancelling or denying visas”. The only “list” that has been published according to our research was a group of names published by Daily Times on 20 January. But this list is unsourced except to anonymous “sources in Washington” and carries a dateline of Lahore, as Azim Mian admits in his report. Furthermore, Azim claims to have spoken with a source at the US State Department who indicated that no list of Pakistani journalists had been prepared.

If Azim Mian was simply questioning the validity of the list published by Daily Times, he might have a point – it seems suspicious. But Azim did not stop there. Instead, he added to his growing portfolio of baseless speculation and misinformation.

According to Azim, the letter to Hillary Clinton is part of a conspiracy by the president against media freedoms. Azim claims that when Zardari went to Washington to attend the funeral of Richard Holbrooke and met with US officials, he spent his time referring negatively about Pakistan’s media and specifically Jang Group. Azim claims that:

It was in this scenario that the aides of the Zardari-Gilani government taking notice of the sentiments, perceptions and also complaints of their boss lobbied with the anti-Pakistan congressmen and made them to write a letter to Secretary Clinton.

Please recall that this is the same visit termed ‘mysterious’ by Jang Group because the president did not take a large government contingency along with him. If this trip was so mysterious, one might ask, how does Azim Mian know what Zardari said in these private meetings? What is the evidence to support this conspiracy theory? Actually, there is none.

In fact the only basis for Azim Mian’s conspiracy is his claim that “informed circles are of the opinion…” This is not fact by his own admission, but merely the opinion of some people who do not even want their names associated with it. It seems Azim Mian’s anonymous sources are as trustworthy as his colleague Ansar Abbasi‘s.

This brings us to the final point, the one that does away with this foolishness for good. It turns out the error of Azim Mian is quite obvious and an easy one to prove. In fact it is telling that the reporter and his editor gave so little thought to this story that they could not realize it before they published it in two newspapers. You see, President Zardari met with US officials on 14 January during which time they discussed pressing issues, according to reports from both The White House and Ambassador Husain Haqqani who was present for the meetings.

How do we know these meetings didn’t include discussions of Jang Group followed by lobbying US Congressmen for a letter to be sent to Hillary Clinton? The letter to Hillary Clinton was written on 13 January 2011 – the day BEFORE the meetings.

letter to hillary clinton

First page of the letter to Hillary Clinton dated 13 January 2011

second page of letter to hillary clinton

According to The News Zardari was driving from New York to Washington during this time because he is afraid of heights – a ridiculous assertion, but one that shows just how desperate some people are to smear Zardari at any cost. Actually it was reported by APP that Zardari did not arrive in Washington until Thursday evening. Furthermore, if the letter is dated 13 January, it means that the Congressmen would have had to begun coordinating even before that date. Not only was Zardari not in Washington before the 13th, he was not even in the US.

If Azim Mian’s conspiracy theory could be true it would require that Asif Zardari complained about the media in his meetings with US officials on 14 January, and then some unnamed “aides of the Zardari-Gilani government” lobbied these four US Congressmen and convinced them to travel back in time to write a letter to Hillary Clinton. It simply defies all reason.

Tension between the media and the government has been present since day one. Jang Group in particular has been a loud voice accusing the government and President Zardari specifically of wanting to curb media freedoms, but certainly not the only one. And yet it is now three years into the government’s term and still these voices continue to make such accusations freely. If President Zardari intends to curb media freedom, he is doing quite a poor job of it. And I understand that some of our esteemed colleagues in the media believe that the US has a machine that controls the world’s weather, but now we are asked believe that they can travel through time also?

The government has a responsibility to be honest and forthcoming with the people and not to attempt to curb the media’s ability to inform the people. But the media has a responsibility to be honest and forthcoming with the people and not spread baseless accusations and ridiculous conspiracy theories also. Three years into the government’s term and the media is still free – how long until the media will accept their own responsibilities and stop wasting everyone’s time with such nonsense?

Cover up is always worse than the crime

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

The Nation logoAs was reported by most news agencies yesterday, PEMRA imposed fine on two TV channels for projecting terrorists, showing blood and gore. The two TV channels are Samaa TV and Waqt TV.

Waqt TVDespite this official press release, The Nation published an article on page 12 headlined:PEMRA denies fining Waqt TV. According to this article the newspaper Pakistan Today was “had been asked to publish a contradiction and also apologise”.

Rather than publish a contradiction and also apologise, however, Pakistan Today has a follow up article which reports PEMRA has sent a letter has been sent to CEO Waqt TV Nidai Millat directing to “pay the fine within 15 days and abstain from airing such footages of dead bodies, bloodshed and the interviews of terrorists in future.”

Strangely, even though The Nation denied that Waqt TV was fined by PEMRA still it felt the need to publish an Editorial condemning the fine. In the course of their Editorial, The Nation mocks PEMRA as unintelligent.

It thus became obvious that PEMRA, instead of being an independent regulator, was comfortable with the role of a tool of the government for suppressing the freedom of press and the free flow of information. This exercise of discretionary power was particularly blatant because it should have been obvious to PEMRA that the supposed interview consisted of existing video footage put together. It is frightening enough to learn that PEMRA lacks the expertise to make such a distinction, and it is even more frightening that the government has found itself in the position of such lack of intelligence.

It should be noted that Waqt TV is owned by Nawa-i-Waqt media group which also owns The Nation.

Two questions are raised by this situation.

First, how did such an obviously inaccurate story as to claim that no fines had been issued get past the editors? Surely this would have been caught as incorrect since the newspaper was preparing for the very same day an editorial condemning the fines.

Second, given that Waqt TV and The Nation are owned by the same media group, was this an intentional effort by Nawa-i-Waqt group to misinform its readers due to the embarrassment of having Waqt TV subjected to PEMRA fines?

It is not clear if this was a case of intentional or unintentional mistaken reporting. What is clear is that The Nation not Pakistan Today owes its readers a contradiction and an apology.

Special thank you to dear reader Farrukh for bringing this story to our attention! If you see something inaccurate, inappropriate or unprofessional in media, please report a tip and we will research and post on the item.

Conspiracies, Media and a Willing Public

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

I’m glad that the discussion of these fake Wikileaks cables has not ended with the apology of some newspapers. I’m truly disappointed – no, I am truly depressed – that even after the story is admitted to be fake, some newspapers and TV networks continue to peddle the story. If it is unknown to be a forgery, the story is a mistake. Once it is known, it is simply lies. So, why do these lies continue? Unfortunately, the answer is too complex for some simple conspiracy theory. But reading several writers today, you can begin to piece together the answer.

Nadeem F. Paracha calls them ‘The liars collective’, a media that is used by agency men to protect the vested interests of an establishment whose irrelevance threatens its very existence.

Each time any of these institutions is rocked by a scandal or an exposé, certain newspapers and TV channels suddenly start teeming with loud deniers who would go to absurd lengths to divert the public’s attention towards something more ‘substantial’, such as of course, the ‘record-breaking corruption’ of this government, the fantastic job the free judiciary is doing, or how India remains the greatest threat to Pakistan. Or some feel-good lectures by a crank or two, usually crammed with airy myths presented as historical facts, are unleashed.

This has happened so many times that one wonders whether what many journalists and politicians on the other side of the ideological fence say, is true. Whether most of the media personnel we see on our TV screens or read about in the newspaper, who are always so passionately waving the flag of Pakistan and spouting contempt against corruption (especially when a narrative by the establishment comes under stress), may very well be the proverbial ‘agency men?’

NFP, as usual, is on to something. In fact, his thesis is at least partially confirmed by one of these ‘agency men’ himself, Ahmed Quraishi, who admits using media to spread propaganda, even when it is not true.

Just like the Guardian and NYT, the Pakistani media retains the right to manipulate and highlight WikiLeaks documents that serve our interest. This could involve some exaggeration in some parts of the media. But not everything is ‘incorrect’, as the Guardian claimed.

The Pakistani story shifts the focus to India, and shows we too can use WikiLeaks for propaganda like everyone else. The Guardian and the other two journals have been doing the same for the past two weeks. I am not saying Pakistan did use WikiLeaks for propaganda but it certainly can, like everyone else.

This is not journalism, but psychological warfare by manipulating an unsuspecting public. It is not right for the CIA, and it is not right for RAW…and regardless of Ahmed Quraishi’s perverted justification – it is not right for him and the ISI to do either.

But even this is only part of the story. Unfortunately, things are not so simple. There is also the news agencies who have a perverse incentive to publish the craziest headlines without checking their facts. Cafe Pyala describes this situation in their post today:

The defence that “if anyone goes on Goggle [sic] and writes: Wikileaks Leaks About India, Israel and Afghanisan” one would be able to get the same news we got” would be uproariously funny were it not simultaneously so appalling. That’s your defence Online??? So tomorrow, if you go on the net and search for “Conspiracy Theories About Moon Landing Being Fake”, you would pass that along to news organizations as valid news? Second point: why exactly then do news organizations need you? I mean all they need to do to get their ‘news’ is Google (or Goggle, if that’s your thing), right?

Of course none of this takes away from the news organizations’ own responsibilities to verify stories they take on. Are we to gather from this that the news sense of the staff at these papers and channels has deteriorated to such an extent that NONE of them saw anything remotely strange about the story?

There are a lot of news researchers, producers, and editors out there who are not on the payroll of any intelligence agency. But they have their own vested interest, which is the public which consumes the news – us. As Nadir Hassan makes quite clear today, we also share responsibility for all this mess.

The media was only the vehicle for delivering the WikiLeaks-that-weren’t. The ultimate responsibility lies with us, the consumers. That the news stories based on the falsified cables were believed by so many people shows that they only told us what we so desperately want to be true. For a story to pass muster, it must ring true. And a heady brew of inflammatory textbooks, government sabre-rattling, media sensationalism and, it must be admitted, our own prejudice, have convinced a large percentage of the population that a hidden Hindu hand must be behind every local problem. Any media organisation which claimed, for example, that the slippery Swiss were behind the Baloch separatists, would be laughed into bankruptcy. Since we have so successfully demonised India, for many its involvement doesn’t so much as merit an arched eyebrow.

Since self-congratulation is easier than reflection, there will also be a lot of chatter in the coming days about the burgeoning photosphere. True, the fraudulent cables were first exposed as such by blogs and Twitter users. Inevitably, this will be used as proof that the Pakistani population is too sophisticated to fall for such hoaxes. Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking a few liberal journalists are representative of a country that is all too willing to believe the worst about its neighbour.

Fake stories are not published because of one sinister villain sitting in some hideout like in the movies. If it were so simple, we could simply find him and throw him behind bars. Problem solved. Unfortunately, there are complex reasons and complex motives behind media propaganda and lies. The good news is, there is a solution – it just takes a little bit of work. Just as word-of-mouth and ‘word-of-Twitter’ can be used to spread misinformation, it can also be used to expose it. It is said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Therefore, let the sun shine on these cockroaches and we will watch them scurry away.

Lessons From Forged Wikileaks Story

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Wikileaks Forgery

I don’t want to spend too much time on the forged Wikileaks story that was exposed by The Guardian yesterday as it has been covered fairly extensively already. But there are some important lessons that should be discussed, and so I will spend a short time on those.

Some have laid the blame squarely on Jang Group, but that’s not quite fair. While Jang certainly shares some fault, they were not the only media group to run the story and neither were they the originators. Actually, the story was also run by The Nation and Nawa-i-Waqt as well as Express Tribune. That this story was not carried by one media group only but by a wide selection suggests that the mistake was not intentional but the result of two common media problems.

The first problem that is highlighted is the rush to ‘scoop’ other news organizations and be the first to publish headlines – especially if those headlines will get attention – without doing proper background checks to confirm the facts. We see this far too often. In the case of a bomb blast, news programmes will report a certain number of deaths before their reporters have even arrived to the scene, only to change their reporting several times until the facts are known. There must be a balance between reporting news quickly and reporting it factually. It is better to be second to break a story and have it correct than to be first and be incorrect. In this case, Dawn did not run with the original story, and comes away looking more reliable because of it.

The second problem is the habit of relying on questionable sources. This story appears to have been first broken by the website dailymailpost.com, a website that has previously been exposed as part of a propaganda ring. According to today’s The News,

A check on the Internet as well as The Guardian report showed that the story was not based on Wikileaks cables, and had in fact originated from some local websites such as The Daily Mail and Rupee News known for their close connections with certain intelligence agencies.

This blog and others have been trying to bring to light the question of intelligence agencies and other vested interests using journalists as puppets. Perhaps some times there is money changing hands, perhaps other times a reporter is awed by access to a well-connected source, perhaps the reporter simply believes the story is too good to pass up – whatever the reason, we see too many incidents in which news reports make claims based on statements by ‘reliable sources’ that never come true and then fade away. This is not to say that journalists should ignore their sources, but perhaps they should do a little more investigation to verify the story.

Both of these lessons center on the same point – the need for better fact checking.

Express Tribune has published a retraction and public apology letting readers know that the story was a mistake. Jang Group has also been forthcoming and published front page stories explaining that the story was a mistake and revealing the source for the material as some questionable websites. These media groups should be commended for their honesty in retracting the story and admitting the mistake. Unfortunately, today’s issue of The Nation continues to peddle the story even after it has been shown as a forgery.

In journalism, mistakes are made. This is why many newspapers include a ‘corrections’ section where they can let readers know in the event of a mislabeled photograph or some details that have been reported and later learned to be incorrect. For larger incidents like these forged Wikileaks documents, a full article such as published by Express Tribune and The News is appreciated. We hope that the lessons will be taken and all media groups will use the unfortunate incident to remind their editors and reporters of the importance of getting the story right.

Ghosts, Goblins, and Shaheen Sehbai's Cloudy Crystal Ball

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Shaheen SehbaiI will admit, what Shaheen Sehbai lacks in facts he certainly makes up for in tenacity. That man is relentless! Having spent some time reading the Wikileaks database, he has figured out a way to justify all of his mistakes over the past two years. But when you boil down Sehbai’s column to its essence, you find that no matter how hard he wishes, there is still no meat in the pot.

According to Shaheen Sehbai today:

The ghosts say when Ambassador Patterson conveyed the minus-1 formula to Washington, the delayed reaction was indifference and almost a tacit approval as if people would be much relieved if that happened in a constitutional or legal way, without direct military intervention or takeover.

This is essentially the same as what Sehbai wrote before:

The State Department, specifically Hillary Clinton, has almost categorically declared that they are no longer interested in saving President Asif Ali Zardari if he falls in his current battle for survival, waging in the superior courts of Pakistan.

Here is what the secret US diplomatic cable actually says:

3. (C) During Ambassador’s fourth meeting in a week with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Kayani on March 10, he again hinted that he might, however reluctantly, have to persuade President Zardari to resign if the situation sharply deteriorates. He mentioned Asfundyar Wali Khan as a possible replacement. This would not be a formal coup but would leave in place the PPP government led by PM Gilani, thus avoiding elections that likely would bring Nawaz Sharif to power. We do not believe Army action is imminent. We do believe Kayani was laying down a clear marker so that, if he has to act, he can say he warned the U.S. in advance and gave us ample opportunities to pressure both sides to back down. Kayani is trying to leverage what he considers predominate U.S. influence over Zardari, instead of seeking a direct confrontation that could provoke an unhelpful civil-military clash.

Do you see the glaring problem here? Despite Shaheen Sehbai’s most wishful thinking, the fact remains that the cable says something completely different from Sehbai’s reporting. Actually, it says that Gen. Kayani ‘hinted’ to the US Ambassador Anne Patterson that he might have to ‘reluctantly’ persuade President Zardari to resign “if the situation sharply deteriorates” in the hopes that the Americans would influence the president to not make any mistakes. The cable concludes with a statement by the US Ambassador, “Zardari needs to win back the military’s confidence.” That’s a far cry from Zardari being removed by the Army with the blessing of the US State Department.

What the document doesn’t say is that the Army is planning a minus-1 ‘soft coup’. Neither does it say that the Americans approve – tacitly or otherwise – such a plan.

To understand this better, consider a topic besides back-room political dealings. Without having any contacts in the military or being privy to any secrets, it is probably safe to assume that there are contingency plans with both the Pakistani and Indian armies for the event of a nuclear war. These plans are, of course, discussed between the military and intelligence so that “if the situation sharply deteriorates”, no one is caught unaware.

But it would be beyond the pale to make the leap from, “the army has considered what could happen in a ‘worst-case’ scenario” to declaring that Pakistan and India will be in a nuclear war any day now. This is the style of Shaheen Sehbai – wishful thinking packaged in sensationalism. All spice and no meat.

What does begin to reveal itself, though, is how Shaheen Sehbai has been made a puppet of certain factions within the establishment who feed him rumours and leaks that they know he will package and publish in a manner useful to their plans. Perhaps these elements of the establishment must feel that Sehbai is not clever enough to realize the actual situation, or perhaps Sehabi is a willing participant.

What is clear is that Shaheen Sehbai is quite selective about his facts, carefully choosing certain sources who he is willing to believe without question – he calls these ‘ghosts’, and certain others whose statements he dismisses out of hand as nothing but cronyism – what he calls ‘power players’ but are clearly the ‘goblins’ in his fantasy tale. To Sehbai, the statements of these ‘ghosts’ that follow Pervez Musharraf to New York City are like gold form the tongues of Angels, while those who dare suggest that Sehabi does not have all the facts are merely ‘anti-Army zealots’ – a curious charge from a man with a well documented record of anti-Army headlines of his own. Of course, the fact that the tiger has changed his stripes now is simply another example of the double-standard that Shaheen Sehbai uses for himself.

It should also be noted that this is the same Shaheen Sehabi who wrote an article on 22 October 1999 for Dawn that describes Pakistan as a “patient” and Pervez Musharraf as the “surgeon”, and who wrote earlier this year that his sources for information about Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry were “circles close to General Musharraf in London and Washington”. It seems that these ghosts of Musharraf are sitting squarely on Shaheen Sehbai’s shoulders and whispering directly in his ears.

Shaheen Sehbai, having read through the Wikileaks database, has decided that his predictions over the two year past are vindicated because the American diplomatic cables have revealed that there are disagreements and tensions in the Pakistani government. He is encouraged by the ghosts of Pervez Musharraf.

Shaheen Sehbai writes almost 2,000 words describing an establishment and a political class deeply distrustful and suspicious of each other. Again, not exactly ground-breaking news there. But Sehbai conveniently ignores the facts – that the evidence in the Wikileaks cables proves that his predictions and his reporting were wrong from the very beginning.

Despite writing over two years ago that “the present Zardari-led set-up will not last long”, Asif Zardari remains president, and the PPP remains in government. Undeterred by an inconvenient reality, Shaheen Sehabi concludes his 2,000 words by making the same prediction he has been making since before day one – that Zardari will be removed from government.

It appears Shaheen Sehbai is using what is called the ‘broken clock strategy’ since even a broken clock is correct twice a day. Obviously, someday Zardari will not be president of Pakistan. It could be in 2013, it could be 2018…it could be sooner or later. But Sehbai knows that as long as he keeps predicting that Zardari is leaving office, eventually he will be correct. Rest assured that the day Zardari leaves office, Shaheen Sehbai will pen a column declaring himself vindicated again.

In the meantime, you’ll get better news by looking out your windows than Shaheen Sehabi gets from his crystal ball. And you won’t have to read 2,000 words to get it.

Cafe Pyala Sends The News (Jang) Back To Kindergarten

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

The News (Jang Group)Yesterday, we showed an example of The Nation using Wikileaks documents to support their conspiracy theories. Of course, they are not the only media group that is making sensational headlines out of the Wikileaks cables. But while The Nation may be mischaracterizing statements in order to support a conspiracy theory, The News (Jang Group) is simply getting the facts wrong altogether.

Good work by Cafe Pyala for noticing this one!

Back to Kindergarten for the Lot of You

Whatever else the merits of the Wikileaks expose may be, one thing is for sure: it is a DISASTER for some of Pakistan’s media. The huge information dump has resulted, annoyingly for our journos, in having to actually read things properly and double check facts, and far, far too much temptation to make laughing stocks of themselves.

Thanks to @sohaibgulbadan who pointed this out, here is The Newsversion of one on the released cables. Breathlessly, The News’ reporter Umar Cheema tells us on the paper’s front page:

Pakistan, a private nightmare for Obama

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

By Umar Cheema

“ISLAMABAD: US President Barack Obama considers Pakistan as his “private nightmare”, a front-line ally in the war against terrorism that could surprise the whole world waking up one morning to hear that the country had been taken over by the extremists.

A diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks reveals that Pakistan is one of the major causes behind the US decision of not attacking Iran, amid fears that any strike against this neighbouring Muslim country could further fuel the militancy in Pakistan. Nevertheless, the US president understands that avoiding confrontation with Iran has portrayed his country as a weak superpower.

Obama, however, believes attacking North Korea would earn less criticism and also teach a good lesson to the countries harbouring nuclear-ambition. “He described Pakistan as his ‘private nightmare,’ suggesting the world might wake up one morning ‘with everything changed’ following a potential Islamic extremist takeover,” disclosed a cable. Obama expressed concerns about Pakistan in two consecutive meetings with ranking US Senator Codel Casey and Congressman Ackerman of the House’s Foreign Relations Committee before their visit to Israel for a meeting with defence minister Ehud Barak last year.

When asked if the use of force on Iran might backfire with moderate Muslims in Pakistan, thereby exacerbating the situation, “Barak acknowledged Iran and Pakistan are interconnected, but disagreed with a causal chain.” To the contrary, Obama argued that if the United States had directly confronted North Korea in recent years, others would be less inclined to pursue nuclear weapons programmes. “By avoiding confrontation with Iran, Barak argued, the US faces a perception of weakness in the region.”

Contrary to King Abdullah’s opinion of Zardari, the UAE rulers had very positive views of former President Musharraf, disclosed a cable narrating meeting of the US diplomats with the UAE Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander Mohammad bin Zayed, after the latter returned from a visit of Pakistan where he met Musharraf in 2005. First, he congratulated Washington for its decision to allow the US firm to bid for contracts to provide F-16s and other defence technology to Pakistan. “He said it was important to support Musharraf as he battled the terrorists. There was no alternative leader in sight,” said the cable. He also questioned the US suspicions that Pakistani authorities had deliberately delayed the news of the arrest of Abu Faraj al Libbi, negating the wrong perception towards Pakistan.”

Here is the actual cable. The operative part reads:

“11. (C) Barak reinforced his message regarding Pakistan in both meetings. He described Pakistan as his “private nightmare,” suggesting the world might wake up one morning “with everything changed” following a potential Islamic extremist takeover. When asked if the use of force on Iran might backfire with moderate Muslims in Pakistan, thereby exacerbating the situation, Barak acknowledged Iran and Pakistan are interconnected, but disagreed with a causal chain. To the contrary, he argued that if the United States had directly confronted North Korea in recent years, others would be less inclined to pursue nuclear weapons programs. By avoiding confrontation with Iran, Barak argued, the U.S. faces a perception of weakness in the region.”

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the person being quoted is former Israeli Prime Minister and then Defence Minister Ehud Barak, not Barrack Obama. The cable is from the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

Had Mr. Cheema and his editors at The News given it just a little bit of thought, by the way, why the hell would an American foreign mission be quoting their own president’s views to the State Department? A little bit of thought though seems far from some of the reporting going on.

Express Tribune Photo Caption Error

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Express Tribune photo of Rehman Malik with incorrect captionExpress Tribune on 23 November featured a story, ‘US-based group working to establish caliphate‘ that included a photo of Interior Minister Rehman Malik with the caption, “Pakistani activist of ‘Jamaat-e-Islami Sa’ee’ in FIA custody”.

There is no evidence that Minister Rehman Malik is an activist of Jamaat-e-Islami Sa’ee. Actually, this seems to be an obvious mistake as the article contains a statement from Senator Malik. However, no body has corrected or clarified to ensure that readers do not mistake Rehman Malik for a Jamaat-e-Islami Sa’ee activist.

While this might seem like a slight and even humorous error, it is important that such items are quickly corrected so as to ensure that readers are not accidentally misled.

The News Report on Constitution Contains Factual Error

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Ahmad Noorani, journalist or political operative?A front page report in The News today by Ahmad Noorani contains a factual error about how constitutional amendments are treated in other countries.

The article claims that:

In different countries with developed political systems, including US and India, apex courts have struck down constitutional amendments.

This is not true. No constitutional amendment has ever been struck down by a US court. Actually, that would not be possible as in US law the written constitution is considered the supreme law of the land.

Judicial Oversight Misrepresented in The News

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

The News (Jang Group)In an article for The News yesterday, judicial oversight is severely misrepresented as judicial supremacy. Sabir Shah says that,

Courtesy their power of judicial review, courts in countries like the US, India, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada and Sweden etc literally enjoy unchallengeable supremacy over their respective legislative houses, a research conducted by The News shows.

Mr Shah’s research is incomplete and his conclusion is incorrect. Shah cites the famous Marbury versus Madison case of 1803, but fails to report that this case was decided exactly as it was in order for the Supreme Court to avoid challenging the US Constitution.

In fact, the US Supreme Court found that Mr Marbury had a right to his commission as Justice of the Peace, but that the Supreme Court did not have the right to force the Secretary of State to deliver the commission. The Supreme Court was asked to issue a ‘Writ of Mandamus’ or a command to the Secretary of State to deliver the commission to Mr Marbury, but the Supreme Court found that it did not have the constitutional authority to do so.

The authority given to the Supreme Court by the act establishing the judicial system of the United States to issue writs of mandamus to public officers appears not to be warranted by the Constitution.

The Supreme Court stated specifically that the Constitution is the highest law and that the Supreme Court cannot disobey what is written in the Constitution. So the law that was supposed to give the Supreme Court the ability to issue such commands was struck down.

If courts are to regard the Constitution, and the Constitution is superior to any ordinary act of the legislature, the Constitution, and not such ordinary act, must govern the case to which they both apply.

Sabir Shah even provides the evidence against his spurious claims. As he reports, Article III of the US Constitution says:

The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority. In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.”

In the US, the legislative body of Congress can write in a law a few sentences telling that no court can review a particular law. And what is the result? The courts respect this because it is written in the Constitution that the legislature has the right to do so.

This is simply more of what Americans are calling the“journalistic garbage” that is coming from our media.

This is not the first time that The News has published incorrect information about judicial review and how courts treat their constitutions in other countries. It should be the last.