Posts Tagged ‘Jang Group’

Ansar Abbasi Needs New Sources

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Ansar Abbasi Out LBW - Learn Before Writing!

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Ansar Abbasi has been listening to those voices that are his ‘sources’, and they appear to be giving him some pretty bad intelligence. Take his article in today’s The News, “A get-CJ Iftikhar operation on the cards?” in which Ansar hears from his nameless ‘sources’ that all the political parties are plotting to overthrow the Chief Justice. Only problem, the political parties are singing a different tune.

According to Ansar Abbasi,

Feeling insecure from a fiercely independent judiciary because of their tainted past, President Asif Ali Zardari and a group of his advisers, including a few federal ministers, all of whom have their personal grudge against the judiciary, have chalked out this strategy to muster much-required support of political and legal fraternity to target the top judge. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is also said to be on-board.

Sure to win the support of all its coalition partners, including the ANP, the MQM and the JUI-F, all of them not too happy with the independent judiciary because of its decisions affecting them and their leaders, the PPP is also confident to take the PML-N on-board.

Unfortunately, Ansar Abbasi’s ‘sources’ forgot to tell the accused plotters of their nefarious schemes. Not knowing that he is behind a secret plot to overthrow the Chief Justice, PM Gilani has been out praising the judiciary.

Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, addressing course participants at the National Defence University (NDU) on Tuesday, said the government was implementing the decisions of the Supreme Court.

“We respect the Supreme Court and have always worked for the restoration of the judiciary. I released the [detained] judges on the very first day of assuming office,” said the prime minister, adding, “We want independence of the judiciary, a free media and a vibrant civil society”.

In fact, this is nothing new. Just a few weeks ago it was reported that the PM had called the Chief Justice to assure him that the government was respecting him and his decisions and would work to ensure that parliament and the judiciary were working together.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani telephoned Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Saturday, informing him that the PPP-led government respects the judiciary and to assure the CJ of the government’s full cooperation in all matters, a private TV channel reported on Saturday.

“I telephoned the chief justice and informed him that the government respects the judiciary,” Gilani said while addressing a ceremony at the Lahore Expo Centre.

The prime minister said he assured the CJ that the government would take decisions on the reopening of the Swiss cases in accordance with the law and constitution.

Gilani said both parliament and the judiciary were passing through a process of evolution, adding that a clash among the institutions would not favour the country’s development and the democratic process.

He said he had no hesitation in working with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and its chief Nawaz Sharif in the greater interest of the nation.

Of course, this should really not be a surprise. Despite the voices in his head that are Ansar Abbasi’s ‘sources’, everyone who he asked said the same.

Information Minister Qamaruzzaman Kaira, however, when approached categorically denied this and asked how the PPP government, which gave its blood during the judicial movement and restored the judges through an executive order, could even think of targeting any of the judges.

‘Neither there is any such thinking nor it will happen,’ he said, adding that the PPP, the government or the Presidency have nothing against any judge. The information minister said the government respects the judges and the courts and is obeying their orders and directions. He said there is no issue of President Asif Ali Zardari as the 18th Amendment was passed by parliament.

PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal, however, emphatically said that his party, which has paid a heavy price for the restoration of the independent judiciary, would not let any attempt aimed at attacking it succeed.

Farooq Sattar (MQM) also told Abbasi that the rumour was rubbish.

Senior MQM leader Farooq Sattar, when approached told The News that no one from the government or Presidency has contacted his party for any such move against the chief justice.

ANP spokesman Zahid Khan also said the rumour is nonsense.

ANP spokesman Zahid Khan told The News that neither he was aware of any such development nor his party leadership was contacted by the government or the Presidency with such a proposal.

Even JUI-F spokesman Maulana Ajmad said the rumour is false.

JUI-F spokesman Maulana Ajmad when contacted said he is not aware of any such move and is hearing it from The News for the first time.

Actually, Ansar Abbasi even goes so far as to admit that he checked out more of the claims of his sources and could find no evidence.

The sources said Zardari’s confidants are also contemplating filing a formal reference before the Supreme Judicial Council against the chief justice.

About the grounds of such a reference, nothing could be ascertained by this correspondent except that the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Qazi Anwar, revealed to The News something is said to have already been received by President Zardari against the chief justice.

All of this raises the question – if Ansar Abbasi’s ‘sources’ tell him some rumours and all of his investigating shows that they are not true – why does he still write an article declaring it to be true?

Please, Ansar Abbasi, ‘Learn Before Writing’!

Who is Thomas Houlahan?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Last week The News published a column titled, “US asked to stand by forces of law in Pakistan” that calls on the US to oppose the present government. Aside from the obvious problem of publishing an obvious opinion piece as “news,” the article raises several questions about whether The News is acting as a political propaganda machine.

The article is based primarily on another article written in an American newspaper called, The Hill. This appears to be a political newspaper for the US Congress. The article, published originally on 28 May, was written by one Mr Thomas Houlahan who says he is,

a former member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. He served as an election monitor during the 2008 elections in Pakistan

After looking into Mr Houlahan a little bit, though, it seems that perhaps there is more to this story than is being reported.

In a 2007 article, Mr Houlahan writes that Pakistan cannot have a democracy but rather required Pervez Musharraf and Army to rule.

Many commentators seem to believe that the only reason Pakistan has not developed into a smoothly running democracy is that the Pakistani army is constantly involving itself in politics.

I think those commentators have gotten it pretty much backward. It is clear to me that the Pakistani army ends up involved in politics because Pakistan lacks some of the key prerequisites for the smooth functioning of a democracy.

He went on to say that Musharraf was ‘clearly entitled to run’ and that, by sacking the judges, he saved Pakistan:

The recent state of emergency stemmed from an attempt by the Supreme Court to expand its power.

There was already tension with the judiciary over what the government felt was excessive use of its right to take up issues on its own initiative, known as “suo-motu jurisdiction.” Issues like road traffic, prices, environmental problems, and appointment and transfers of senior officials were increasingly becoming court matters. In addition, government and civil service officials were being called to court with increasing regularity and dressed down by judges.

Musharraf felt that the judiciary’s activity rose to the level of interference with the conduct of government.

It has also been reported that two Supreme Court justices warned Musharraf that the court was preparing to rule him ineligible for election as president.

Such a ruling would have gone against not only any reasonable interpretation of the constitution, but an April 13, 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court on the very same issues.

It may not look good for a serving army general to run for president of a country, but under the constitution of Pakistan, Musharraf was clearly entitled to run.

Musharraf’s declaration of emergency may have served his own interests, but it may have also forestalled what would have been a dictionary-definition constitutional crisis.

In fact, while issuing praise for Pervez Musharraf and military rule, Mr Houlahan has some very bitter words to say about Pakistan’s political parties.

The PPP is essentially the fiefdom of Benazir Bhutto, its self-described “chairperson for life.” Before her, it was the fiefdom of her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was executed after having been convicted of authorizing the murder of a political opponent.

The PML(N) is the fiefdom of Nawaz Sharif. In fact, the parenthetical “N” in the organization’s name stands for Nawaz.

Because these parties stress loyalty to the leader over honesty and competence, all four administrations of Bhutto and Sharif ended early due to corruption and mismanagement on a massive scale.

So it seems that Mr Houlahan is far from an independent analyst, but actually has very strong political prejudices. This was also evident to Farrukh Khan Pitafi who received an email from Mr Thomas Houlahan in 2008 that supported Musharraf’s decision to sack Supreme Court judges.

On March 11, I received an e-mail from a Thomas Houlahan who, apart from mentioning that he was the Director of the Military Assessment Program, Center for Security and Science, Washington DC, also drew my attention to his report on the judicial crisis in Pakistan.While my detailed assessment of his report (along with the download link and the tricky quotes from the author) will be shortly available on my website (www.pitafi.com), I must submit that upon reading its 47 pages I was seriously dismayed. Despite the fact that the author displayed considerable knowledge of the Pakistani history, he was quite consciously distorting facts and making some glaring omissions that suited his thesis perfectly. They say an analyst should never start researching with preconceived notions in mind. In this case, however, the analyst had entered the fray with a clear view to vindicating President Musharraf’s stance on the judiciary.

In 2008, the same Mr Thomas Houlahan was on PTV talking with Ahmed Quraishi and saying that the justices removed by Pervez Musharraf should not be reinstated. See the video below:

Thomas Houlahan and Ahmed Quraishi

Thomas Houlahan and Ahmed Quraishi

Actually, Mr Thomas Houlahan is a regular guest of Ahmed Quraishi and has appeared on his shows more than once.

Mr Thomas Houlahan also works for the American Think Tank “Center for Security and Science” which is directed by Mr Stephen R Bowers who is a professor of government at Liberty University – a school that claims to be “the largest and fastest growing Christian Evangelical university in the world.” This school’s website says that:

Everything we do is designed to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge and skills essential to impact tomorrow’s world.

As for his claim of being an election observer in 2008, there are some reports from his colleagues that paint an interesting picture of Mr Houlahan:

Just as invitees were jelling in Islamabad, an American appeared unannounced on the scene as “group leader.” Short, fat, bald and given to un-ironic remarks like “listen, I’m from New Hampshire, we invented democracy,” Thomas Houlahan presented himself as almost a parody of the obnoxious American abroad. He’d show up at group meetings dressed in college sweats with his gut hanging out while loudly pronouncing on the Pakistani constitution.“Ya know Fox, CNN, the networks….I’m their go-to guy on Pakistan, there’s nothing I don’t know about what happens here.” Describing himself as a ‘distinguished constitutional scholar,’ he claimed to represent a Washington think-tank, the Center for Science and Security. That he was also ex-US military deeply concerned about the Dutch delegates, representing a peace group. He liked to name-drop, notably General Rashid Qureshi, Musharraf’s senior aide and a man much hated by Pakistanis. When we made a courtesy call on the president, Houlahan took with him his copy of Musharraf’s autobiography while nodding sagely at the strongman’s every remark. I told my colleagues of suspicions I’d picked up from diplomats that CMD was close to Mohammed Ali Durrani, a former information minister and a tight palace ally.

Two days out from the poll, we ousted a very agitated Houlahan in a coup. Munir apologized to the rest of us, claiming he had no idea what this guy was like. Then we tore up the CMD observer procedures and made our own, following EU guidelines. The group would have no official leader. But that didn’t stop Houlahan from spouting his pro-government line to the local press as our ‘leader.’ The rest of us were compelled to make our own media statements stressing our strict neutrality, dissociating ourselves from him and from CMD’s affiliations. Then we headed to the provinces to observe voting.

Obviously this all points to a political operation and not some independent analysis by Mr Houlahan. So why did The News take his words and republish them without doing any independent research? It took me only a few moments using Google to find all of this information. Surely with all their resources, the people at Jang could find even more.

It seems that nobody at The News bothered to check out this Mr Thomas Houlahan or investigate why he would be writing such things. Instead, they saw an opportunity to make a political hit. But that’s not reporting. That’s a political campaign.

Of course, all of this raises again the ridiculousness of a conspiracy theory being peddled by Ansar Abbasi and The News a few weeks ago. If you remember, at the the time Ansar Abbasi was trying to tell that the US media is being controlled by some secret forces in Pakistan’s Embassy in Washington. So again, I ask, was this article by Mr Thomas Houlahan a plant by the Embassy? Or does The News only believe conspiracies about stories that it doesn’t like? Why is one article a plant, and another worthy of front page publication?

Of course, when a newspaper will publish obviously fake stories without doing even a minute’s basic fact-checking, what do you expect?

The News sinks to a new low with report on Zardari's nationality

Monday, June 14th, 2010

The News has sunk to a new low in yellow journalism today by publishing an article that titled, ‘Website declares Zardari US citizen.’ Rather than conduct any actual research, The News appears to have simply repeated a rumour. Based on the content of the article, one has to wonder if the author, Azim M Mian, even looked at the website in question.

For the record, below is a screenshot of the profile of Asif Ali Zardari on the website in question, “Notable Names Database,” taken on 14 June 2010.

Screnshot from NNDB.com website

Screnshot from NNDB.com website

It very clearly says that Asif Ali Zardari nationality is Pakistan. Even if it said something else when Azim M Mian first saw the website, why would he believe it without investigating? Also it raises the question of who sent this website link to the reporter and what was their motive?

The individual who sent Mr Azim the link could have been a political operative who submitted a change to the website (anyone can email in a change to someone’s profile) and then sent the link to the reporter thinking that he is so foolish that he will accept it as fact without doing any actual investigating. Mr Azim should reveal who his source was so that it can be known.

But compare what the website actually says to how Azim M Mian reported the information in The News. He wrote:

A well-known US website, which contains the record of 36,000 prominent figures of the world, has declared President Asif Ali Zardari a US citizen, and said that he suffers from depression and is a diabetes patient.

First, one must ask why the reporter calls this a ‘well known US website.’ What is his reason for saying it is well known? The ‘Notable Names Database’is not a ‘well known US website’ like Facebook or Wikipedia, so if the reporter is going to claim that it is well-known, he should be able to provide some evidence to back it up. I checked how this website compares to actual well-known websites and look at what I found:

NNDB.com compared to Facebook and WikipediaObviously, this is not a ‘well-known’ website by the usual definition. So why did Azim M Mian write this?

Second, the article does not say that Zardari “suffers from depression and is a diabetes patient.” Both of these are misleading to the point of being outright lies. What the website claims is that Zardari has ‘Risk Factors’ for depression and diabetes. But even this claim is supported by absolutely no evidence.

This brings me to the reliability of the website on which Azim M Mian bases his entire report. He says, “The website says it collects such information about famous personalities through general sources, besides its own intelligence and other sources that are not known to the common man.”

The reporter’s claim is ridiculous. The profile of Asif Ali Zardari includes a bibliography of sources that include three sources of information. One is Wikipedia, the other is a website called “Public Information Research Namebase” which is only a blank page with a few links to other news stories. The third is the “Notable Names Database” itself! Looking at the website, it is laughable to know that someone to be so foolish as to believe that this website has “sources that are not known to the common man.” Does Azim M Mian believe anything that is written on the Internet?

Actually, there is no evidence for anything posted on this website’s profile of Asif Ali Zardari, and the reporter appears to have done absolutely no actual investigating of his own. Rather, it appears that this was a blatant attempt to use the media to smear a political office holder with complete disregard for the truth.

Azim M Mian goes on completely recklessly to imply that the Zardari could have taken an oath to “keeping US oath and interests supreme to all other loyalties and oaths.” Not only does the reporter fail to do any actual research to confirm a very public piece of information as a person’s nationality, but he then goes on to make libelous insinuations that the person is possibly not loyal to his country. This is a new low for The News, which should be ashamed.

This is a shameful example of failure on the part of both a reporter and the editorial staff who never should have let such a poor example of yellow journalism as this see the light of day. It does not matter that it is Zardari or someone else who is the target of such irresponsible and incompetent acts. The News and Mr Azim M Mian owe a public apology to their readers and to Asif Ali Zardari for such a failure. In the meantime, they may want to speak to a lawyer about their exposure to a legal case for libel. Truly shameful.

UPDATE: There is a website that says the White House in the US for sale! I wonder if Azim M Mian is going to try to buy it. Perhaps The News will publish an article about how Barack Obama is selling the White House. Because, of course, if it is on the Internet, The News thinks it must be true!

Geo's "Shattered Glass" Moment?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Janet Cooke is a name that is probably not as familiar among the general public as it is among professional journalists. Ms Cooke was an American reporter for The Washington Post newspaper who won a Pulitzer Prize for a story she wrote about a small child addicted to heroin. The article was obviously considered excellent to win such a prestigious award. It was also fiction.

Janet Cooke had conned one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world. The Washington Post‘s immediate reaction was to go on the defensive. How could it be that their star reporter was lying? Still, though, the newspaper investigated the claims and discovered that they were true. The newspaper publicly apologized and returned the award.

Geo is having a similar moment today. Perhaps their star reporter Hamid Mir is innocent, but there have been serious charges made and evidence is piling up. Like The Washington Post, Geo appears to be very defensive. At least outwardly, there is little sign that the news agency is investigating what are very serious charges. This is understandable, to a degree – Hamid Mir is not someone who just walked in off the street. He is a veteran reporter that has many accomplishments.

But Hamid Mir is also a person. And people make mistakes sometimes. Everyone does. In fact, it’s not unusual for respected news organizations to have these problems from time to time. Like Janet Cooke at The Washington Post, there was Jayson Blair at The New York Times also and there was Stephen Glass at The New Republic also. A movie was even made about the story of Stephen Glass:

All of these reporters were well liked. They were nice, intelligent people who got caught up in a web of mistakes that grew from out-of-control egos combined with the fact that they were working for some of the most respected news organizations in the world. They became Media Baboos in their own minds. They believed that whatever they said was true simply because they said it.

Jang and its various news agencies demand transparency and accountability from the government. This is a proper function of media in a democracy, and Jang has many excellent reporters who do their job very well. But in order to be a legitimate and respected check on government, a successful news organization must provide the same transparency and accountability itself. This is why it is so important for Jang’s news agencies to be seen as acting in pursuit of the truth, whatever that may be.

So far, Hamid Mir’s response to the allegations has been rather silly. First he told The Guardian that it was a conspiracy by a blog controlled by the Ambassador Husain Haqqani. Perhaps he later found out that the blog in question – Let Us Build Pakistan – has posted materials critical of Haqqani, as well as many other PPP officials, from time to time. He has not mentioned this claim since.

Actually, this is not the first time that Hamid Mir has attacked the blog as being part of some big conspiracy. As we have defended them in the past, Hamid Mir did not provide any facts or evidence at that time either. It seems that these bloggers are simply an easy target for Hamid Mir when he gets upset. I don’t know why he has such a vendatta against them.

This accusation against the blog highlights an important part of Hamid Mir’s problem. In order to find out that they had published some articles critical of Husain Haqqani, all I had to do was use Google. If bloggers can use Google to check and verify facts, surely someone like Hamid Mir should be able to do the same.

This is a deep problem that we have in the media – reporters who do not seem to feel that they are responsible for checking their facts. Many of our most famous journalists seem to believe that simply wishing for something to be true is enough. Jang is not the only organization with some journalists affected by this problem – far from it – but they have been under the microscope since the Hamid Mir case has come to light. This actually gives Jang a great opportunity to take a leadership role and speak out against the problem, setting an example for other news agencies.

The other major part of the response has been for some of Hamid Mir’s colleagues to cast some wide accusations about a conspiracy to silence Jang for criticizing the government. But many news organizations besides Jang are critical of the government. Journalists look at the government with a critical eye every day in Dawn, Daily Times, The Nation and on all the TV shows. This is part of their job. Some reporters do it very well, and are able to critically analyse any government without having a political agenda guide their work.

It is interesting to note that the reporters who are so loudly crying out about a conspiracy to silence them, are really only the very small number of reporters who seem to have such a hard time checking their facts and providing evidence for their claims. Everyone else – the reporters who do their work and write excellent articles for their agencies – seem to know that they have nothing to fear from an investigation into the Hamid Mir tapes.

Jang Group is in an unfortunate situation, and I feel quite a bit of sympathy for all of their publishers, editors, and reporters who do good, honest work. Accusations against a member of their staff hurt. But we do not have Media Baboos in this country. Jang Group is bigger than Hamid Mir. If he did nothing wrong, it will come out and everyone will move on. On the other hand, if it turns out that Hamid Mir made some mistakes – if he was caught up in a moment and got carried away – Jang will be doing the best for itself and the media industry as a whole if it shows that it did a full and complete investigation.

Paranoia Growing at Jang Group

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Reading The News today, one would be forgiven for thinking that Jang was an oppressed minority rather than the wealthy corporation that it is. What is, perhaps, more interesting, however, is that the news organization has begun to write paranoid stories about super secret conspiracies against some of its employees. As usual, though, Jang knows just who the conspirators are.

To be sure, this blog does not condone any violence or destruction of property at demonstrations against Jang and Geo offices in Karachi. If the people have a problem with Jang, they certainly have the right to air their greivances – but this should be done only in a peaceful and constructive manner.

That said, Jang’s reaction in an editorial in today’s The News is a bit over-the-top. The hyperventilating writers call the protests “the face of facism,” not realizing that a protest by the people against a large corporation that engages in political propaganda is the opposite of facism. Then, Jang goes on to blame the present government for the protests, despite not providing one bit of evidence for such a claim.

 Its vandalism, its violence on those guarding our offices and the harassment of our workers, all are the latest feathers in the crown of the present ‘democratic’ government which has made no bones about its intention to target this group, and through it the whole of free and independent media. 

Jang, of course, sees itself as the ‘freedom fighter’ who is ‘speaking truth to power’ (this despite the fact that top Jang journalists such as Ansar Abbasi, Shaheen Sehbai, and Hamid Mir have consistently had a distinct problem with ‘truth’) and the present government as the face of all that is evil.

We are aware of the price of truth spoken in the face of power, particularly when power is reeking of corruption, incompetence and illegitimacy from top to toe.

Just yesterday, Ansar Abbasi wrote an article that made some claims about decisions made at a secret meeting at the Presidency (how would Ansar Abbasi of all people know anything that was discussed at Presidency?), and then made his own pronouncement that the government is in contempt of court!

This is not “speaking truth to power,” as Jang might want to believe, but simply making up storied and issuing pretend court decisions. It’s just silly.

But the paranoia does not stop there. Today’s The News features an unattributed article that claims that government is preparing fake tapes of Jang reporters. The article does not provide any sources, only saying that “highly reliable sources” have told him that

Surprisingly, however, in a departure from the past practice the smear campaign shall not be carried out by the Interior Ministry, but actually is being overseen by a group of intelligence functionaries considered very close to the bosses of the Law Ministry.

In order to believe this, you have to believe that the government is carrying out a super-top-secret plan to create fake tapes, and that they are telling the people who are targeted. It simply makes no sense.

Reading the list of supposed targets, though, I couldn’t help but chuckle.

The hit list comprises (so far): Hamid Mir (Host, Capital Talk), Shaheen Sehbai (Group Editor, The News), Ansar Abbassi (Editor Investigations, The News) Mohammad Malick (Resident Editor, The News Islamabad-Rawalpindi), Kamran Khan (Host, Aaj Kamran Khan Kay Saath) and Dr Shahid Masood (Host, Meray Mutabiq).

Ah, yes. Six of the most inflated egos in journalism today. Also six of the people who are, quite frankly, some of the worst journalists around. Certainly each of these would love to believe that the entire government was focused on him. While they are preening their pretty haircuts, they fantasize about being the heroes of the modern world fighting against the ‘fascists’ that were elected by the people.

If we could run power plants on the egos of some of our journalists, we would not have any energy crisis for centuries. Sadly, one of the many side-effects of an inflated ego is a growing sense of paranoia. The egoist believes that everyone is out to get him, even though the truth is most people don’t even care about him. There seems to be a growing sense of paranoia within Jang. Let’s hope they are able to find a little bit of humilty before their paranoia consumes them completely.

The Secret Lives of Pakistan's Journalists

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

The Hamid Mir conspiracy case has raised an important issue that deserves some real discussion. The issue is the secret associations that exist within the brotherhood of journalists in Pakistan.

Certainly all people have opinions about important issues, and journalists – by the nature of their work – talk to people involved in all sorts of political activity both good and bad. But Pakistan has a set of groups within the journalist community that have either intentionally or unwittingly been part of political activity.

Ayesha Siddiqa made this point a few days ago, and today Nadeem Paracha continues the examination of the problem on Dawn Blog in a must-read post:

(more…)

Geo's Hamid Mir: Conspiracy Theorist Charged with Conspiracy

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
Geo TV's Hamid Mir Accused of Conspiracy

Geo TV's Hamid Mir Accused of Conspiracy

I have been holding off on this story for a while just because I wanted to see if it actually developed into anything. Sometimes these things pop up, but then quickly disappear if there’s nothing to them. Actually, I will not take any opinion about the validity of the charges, but I think that since the issue involves a major media organization and the story has begun to be reported in the international press, it is worthwhile to examine the facts.

The story involves Hamid Mir who works for Geo TV. He is accused of instigating the murder of Khalid Khawaja, and ex-ISI official, by Taliban kidnappers.

What is the story?

In order to get beyond the suspicions and rumours that seem to be surrounding much of this story, let’s look at how this incident was reported by the UK newspaper Guardian. I have removed paragraphs about reactions to the incident to put together a basic storyline. We will look at Hamid Mir and other reactions to the story directly also.

The tape purports to be a recording of a phone conversation between the journalist, Hamid Mir, and a Taliban spokesman about the fate of Khalid Khawaja, a former intelligence agent being held by the Taliban.

In the tape Mir describes Khawaja as a CIA collaborator, questions his Islamic credentials, and accuses him of playing a treacherous role in the 2007 Red Mosque siege in which more than 100 people, including the chief cleric, were killed. When the abductor asks the journalist whether Khawaja should be released, he urges him to further interrogate him.

Last month Khawaja’s bullet-pocked body was found on a roadside in Waziristan with a warning note to other “American spies”.

The Taliban added to the controversy by issuing a statement that denied the tape was real but, confusingly, threatened the state telephone company for having taped the conversation.

On 24 April the Taliban issued a video showing a strained-looking Khawaja admitting to having worked for the CIA and betrayed the Red Mosque clerics.

A week later, after his execution, Mir wrote a detailed account of Khawaja’s life. He recycled the allegations against the former ISI agent, attributing them to militant sources.

Hamid Mir Responds

Hamid Mir publicly responded to the charges against him in a column for The News, the newspaper owned by Jang Group which also owns Geo TV on which his show appears. Calling the story a “grand plot against media.”

On his Facebook page, Hamid Mir threatened legal action against Daily Times and some blogs for publishing the story.

‘We are taking legal action against Daily Times(owned by Salman Taseer) and some US based blogs supervised by Mr.Hussain Haqqani for hatching a conspiracy against Hamid Mir by using a fabricated tape.’

The blog Let Us Build Pakistan, an independent blog of PPP supporters, has been tracking the story closely, since May 14 when they published the recording of Hamid Mir.

Daily Times has also responded to the legal threats from Hamid Mir today in its editorial:

In DT’s editorial “Shocking revelations” (May 17, 2010), we argued: “There should be a thorough investigation into the matter by the security agencies. It should first be ascertained whether it was actually Hamid Mir or an impersonator on the audiotape.” We did not pass judgment on the genuineness or otherwise of the audiotape, but left room for the possibility that it was a forgery, as Mir has subsequently claimed amidst his loud protestations of innocence. In an inadvertent admission, however, he says the audiotape is an amalgam of bits and pieces of other conversations (innocent journalistic exchanges, according to him). Even if this is conceded, there is sufficient in the ‘bits and pieces’ to arouse alarm. Surely Mr Mir should welcome the opportunity to clear his name if the tape is indeed a forgery. On the other hand, if it turns out to be genuine, Mir has a lot to answer for and the law should take its course. The country is in the middle of a life-or-death struggle against the homegrown jihadis who have declared war on the state. Journalists, who are engaged in an increasingly precarious and dangerous profession in conflict areas, may be required for professional reasons to keep lines of communication open with the ‘enemy’. However, this does not give anyone, journalist or not, room to transcend the law of the land or the ethics of his profession. If the tape is genuine and Mir did say the things about Khalid Khwaja that are on the tape, a prima facie case is made out for his arraignment on charges that could include being an accessory before the fact to the murder that followed, as well as in possible violation of the Army Act (applicable to civilians in times of war). The statement released by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan denying the contents of the tape and trying to clear our intrepid anchor’s name has done more to muddy Hamid Mir’s case than anyone else could have.

Other Journalists Weigh In

Ayesha Sidiqqa is a regular contributor to Dawn, and has a Ph.D. in War Studies from King’s College, University of London. She has written two books on Pakistan’s military. On her blog, Dr. Sidiqqa writes,

Is the man conversing with, whats alleged as a member of the Punjabi Taliban, Hamid Mir? The simple answer is yes. The man in the tape is Hamid Mir beyond doubt. The voice and style of conversation is his. I have had conversations with him on several occasions and he breaks stories in this very style. The conversation should not surprise people as Hamid Mir has old links with the Islamiscts and the intelligence agencies. In the world of the armed forces information is difficult to access. Relatively better access to information comes at a price which Hamid Mir and many other journalists in the world, particularly Pakistan pay happily. There is not a single journalist, especially on the electronic media who comments on national security and is not fed by the military. I remember one very popular journalist who even writes for foreign press. He is considered an authority on military affairs. The poor chap cannot tell the front of a submarine from its back. Planting people in the media and intelligentsia is an old trick. The only matter of concern really is that how and why is the audio recording made available on the net? The real story is the disclosure rather than the conversation.

UPDATE: Journalist and former BBC correspondent Shahid Malik writes in an email today:

Award winning journalist and documentary maker Asad Qureshi life is under severe danger of being cut short by his captives in Waziristan. Hamid Mir claiming that the famous tape recording is fake and fabricated is naked lie, for no ones voice can be faked perfectly, as it is like your finger print and the voice on the tape certainly does belong to Hamid Mir. TTP member has supposedly come forward in support of him claiming it to be fake also.
As Hamid Mir is the only known clue to who have abducted Asad Qureshi as he is in touch with them, he should be questioned ASAP to recover Asad from his captors. The media trial and or taing sides can go on, but a stake is a innocent life and that also of the one of our best reporter/ director and documentary maker. Please to check the credentials of Asad Qureshi at www.imdb.com and also look at his award winning documentary on the 2005 earth quake and Wazirisan called ‘Wana Olives’ and many others.
UPDATE II: Shahid Malik email may be fake

From the comments:

An extract reportedly from an email has been attributed to journalist and former BBC correspondent, Shahid Malik. I write this to clarify that the credit for its authorship is not mine.

The paragraph in question caught my attention only today (November 10, 2010); hence a belated correction.

Ansar Abbasi and Tariq Butt at it again

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

The following report comes from the blog Let Us Build Pakistan. LUBP is an independent blog by supporters of PPP. Pakistan Media Watch is not partisan (we have defended individuals from different political parties, and will continue to) but only seeks to correct inaccurate and misleading information in the media. We are re-posting this analysis by Ali Munsif because it is very fair and raises several important questions about news reporting.

Our self righteous media’s erstwhile investigative reporters, Ansar Abbasi and Tariq Butt are at it again. In their yet another  report cum analysis titled “Confusion prevails over fact-finding committee report- Rehman Malik, Babar Awan to record statements now” with the sub-heading “What is the PPP Core Committee up to?” dated May 5, 2010 (http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=28639) both gentlemen have yet again targeted Rehman Malik and Babar Awan.

It seems that the investigations of our media and focus has been towards the post-shooting / bombing scenario, the movement of vehicles, hosing down of the crime scene and most importantly the role of Rehman Malik and Babar Awan rather than who fired from the left, was there another shooter at the back and how did the bomber get to Liaqat Bagh.

I have a few questions for our erstwhile friends i.e. Ansar Abbasi and Tariq Butt:

  1. Would BB have been alive even if the vehicle which “ran off with sinister motives” (as being portrayed by them) was there and she would have reached the hospital in time? Ms. Naheed Khan has said previously in public that when BB fell in her lap, she was already dead with blood gushing out with a fracture to her skull.
  2. Ms. Naheed Khan and Safdar Abbasi were for sure the closest to BB. The Liaqat Bagh public meeting was entirely arranged by Naheed Khan and her team with all liaising of the security arrangements done by them. Have they been questioned that why people on the ground did not come up and take responsibility of the change of route and opening of gates that allowed people to come to BB’s vehicle? Remember Naheed Khan used to control a number of things and the Liaqat Bagh meeting was entirely her territory.
  3. Why didn’t Naheed Khan, Safdar Abbasi and Makhdoom Amin Fahim make themselves available for fact finding? Off course Babar Awan and Rehman Malik are already the bad people of the PPP as they have been targeted from day one, however, others who could have provided some important clues about the last few minutes of BB didn’t present themselves to the committee.
  4. Sherry Rehman is being quoted that she will present herself to the committee if called. I have seen videos and pictures of the Liaquat Bagh meeting. I could see Farzana Raja, Zamarrud Khan, Nayyar Bukhari, Mehreen Anver Raja etc on the stage near BB, but I somehow missed Sherry Rehman. Was she there even? Usually one could see her to be visible closest to BB or where the camera would be.

It seems that the focus is deliberately being shifted to the aftermath of BB’s death than what lead to her being assassinated. She was a target for radicals and was someone would have dealt with the extremists on her aggressive terms.

Post her assassination, there was a change of guard at the PPP. It is all but natural for a new leader to bring his team, which is what President Zardari has done. The team that was closest to BB i.e. Naheed Khan and Safdar Abbasi were shown the door. Off course, PPP is a big political party where internal differences have always been a major factor. Ansar Abbasi, Tariq Butt, Shahid Masood etc are playing a dirty role by instigating statements or rather putting words in mouths of people who are no more in favor and try to create divisions in the party.

It is my suggestion that focus of investigation should be on the threats to BB and what the impact of her assassination would be on Pakistan and the region. PPP has not been a very organized party in the past. When BB returned to Pakistan on 18th October, 2007, despite of a plan of not having the entire leadership on the truck due to the terrorist threat, the entire party leadership preferred to be on the truck. The terrorists could have easily wiped the entire party leadership in one go. The “lack of professionalism” as indicated by the UN Commission report is a very valid point which the PPP should focus on.

As far as our analysts are concerned, I request them to be more objective in their reporting; stop being analysts and for once validate your sources. However, if because of their ideological or political inclinations (e.g. links with the Hizbut-Tahrir or PML-N), these two authors are content with the exchange of their objectivity with biased opinion, then perhaps not much can be done about them or their analyses (often misrepresented as news reports).

Where is Amir Mateen?

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Where is Amir Mateen? When he first returned to The News we were told that he would be doing profiles of the political parties. He then proceeded to publish three very long and somewhat entertaining, if not informative, profiles of PML-Q, PML-N, and PPP. Since then, however, he has gone missing!

This is truly a disturbing situation. Where could Amir Mateen have got to? We are waiting anxiously for his cutting profiles of JI, PTI, ANP, MQM, etc. Because certainly Jang Group did not hire Mateen only to write some slander gossips “profiles” of these three political parties and not the others? Imran Khan is going to have very hurt feelings!

All kidding aside, there must be some reason that Amir Mateen has suddenly disappeared from the pages of The News. Was his writing so over-the-top that even the editors at The News felt that it was making their publication look bad? Or was this always just some excuse to write outrageous “profiles” of the three largest parties so that they could cause controversy?

If it is the first, that the editors at The News have realized their error in publishing these columns, that is a positive sign for the health of our news media. Mistakes are made by everyone, and it is not unheard of for something to make its way into a newspaper that was poorly researched and badly written. If the editors of The News have realized their mistake, we applaud them for setting things right.

But if it is the second, if Amir Mateen was brought in only to write long, ranting slanders against the leaders of only certain political parties as a bit of political favor to those parties not mentioned, this is not only unacceptable from the point of view of journalistic ethics, it calls into question everything else that Jang publishes.

In order to clear the air, we hope that the editors of The News will end the mystery and explain…Where is Amir Mateen?

Ansar Abbasi Misleads Public On 18th Amendment

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

The following is a guest post submitted by dear reader Sibtain Naqvi who took some time out of studying for his exams to respond to misleading statements in The News. Please, if you would like to submit a post for publication, or if you see a particularly misleading article in the media, send us an email at pakistanmediawatch@gmail.com

Since the inception of the 18th Amendment, The News has been constantly attacking the newly minted legislation. Being a major publication, it is the paper’s duty to pinpoint the flaws of the legislation and enlighten the public of discrepancies they may find. However, the two main articles that have been published only look to manipulate the public’s perception of the legislation by creating bogus facts or twisting the clauses to misrepresent what has been passed.

In the first article published by The News “PM to stay a puppet”?, Ansar Abbasi suggests that Prime Minister Gilani will still remain a dummy premier, even though he would have amassed all the constitutional powers granted to him. Although the 18th Amendment is a long piece of legislation the important migration of powers from the President to the Prime Minister should not go unnoticed. The President no longer has the authority to dissolve the Parliament or appoint the head of the military. These two powers, previously belonging to President Zardari did not sit well with the “independent” media. From the second Mr. Zardari took his Presidential oath, media personalities constantly lambasted him for retaining such powers. After passing on this authority to the Prime Minister, Ansar Abbasi seems to be dumbfounded.

The author backs up his argument by stating “After the insertion of the 18th Amendment…the PPP-head he can remove the prime minister, get unseated any number of ministers or the members belonging to his party”. He further articulates “there is no more room left for any member to vote according to his or her conscience except at the risk of getting unseated”. Now, to a layperson, such bold statements would truly make our members of government look like lame ducks.

It is the basic art of writing that when one makes an assertion he backs it up with a source. In the 627 word article “PM to stay a puppet”, Ansar Abbasi has not once given a reference from the 18th Amendment. After all, he is making such sweeping statements that the party head can get his politicians removed, I am sure there would be a clause somewhere in the text of the 18th Amendment. Being an amateur journalist, I took the liberty of reading the Constitution of Pakistan and the new legislation.

Article 63A. Disqualification on grounds of defection etc, (1)“If a member of a Parliament Party composed of a single political party in a House

(a) resigns from membership of his political party or joins another Parliamentary Party,

(b) votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the Parliamentary Party to which he belongs, in relation to

i. election of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister; or
ii. a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or
iii. a Money Bill or a Constitution (Amendment) Bill
he may be declared in writing by the Party Head to have defected from the political party, and the Party Head may forward a copy of the declaration to the Presiding Officer.

The “a Constitution (Amendment) Bill” is the only addition to this article in the 18th Amendment. Therefore, in no way have the political Party Head’s received greater power under the new law. If Ansar Abbasi believes that this is the case, I would request him to show me the article or clause by which he made this assumption.

I was going to take the higher route and let this particular Mr. Ansar Abbasi make himself look like a fool, but when he wrote another article today “Convicts can grab top political posts” it was difficult for me to let this article slide. Being fair to the author, this time around he did manage to give a reference to a particular clause in the 18th Amendment from which he drew his assumption. In “Convicts can grab top political posts”, Ansar Abbasi states “The 18th Amendment inserted a new Article 63 (1) (j). This is not true as such clause was already present in the Constitution. Furthermore, clause (j) as quoted by the author is incorrect, it is actually clause (g) to which he should be referring to.

Ansar Abbasi is trying to make the case that due to the addition of the statement “unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release” to Article 63 (1) (g)(h)(i), all convicts will now automatically become office bearers. I would like to reiterate that in order to become any “public –official” one needs to win an election. The power of the vote lies with the people and if the electorate is content on handing a public office to a convict, than that is the democracy. Furthermore, an elected convict could still be challenged under “Article 62 (1) (d) he is of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic Injunctions” and Article 62 (1) (f) he is sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and amen, and there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law”. There are still laws protecting irrational characters from being elected to office. The electorate is a strong minded body and I would ask Ansar Abbasi not to under-estimate the power of the vote.

The purpose of my writing this article is to identify the incorrect and misleading manner by which our reporters have started to pen their assumptions. It is unprofessional and irresponsible for journalists such as Ansar Abbasi to mislead the public by misinforming them of the facts. I should have been studying for my exams instead of writing this article. But since what was written in the newspaper was so outrageous and deceiving, I am going to be getting an earful from my parents about procrastinating on my academics. Thanks a lot The News!