Posts Tagged ‘military’

Media’s Role In Khawaja Asif Controversy

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif is having a terrible time after coming under criticism for comments he made in response to statement made by Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif that Army will ‘preserve its own dignity’, a comment made in context of the treason trial of former COAS Gen Musharraf. Next day, Defence Minister gave his statement that ‘Parliament is a supreme organ of the state and it would preserve its dignity besides having a respect for all other institutions’. Army officers expressed their anger at the Defence Minister in a Core Commanders meeting.

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Attacks against the Defence Minister took to new heights, however, after TV stations began airing a speech by Khawaja Asif to the National Assembly criticising the 1999 coup against the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif.

Predictably, this sent hyper-nationalists into a hyperventilating frenzy.

So why did the Defence Minister make such a speech at this time? The answer may surprise you…he didn’t.

The speech that was broadcast was actually given in 2006…eight years ago! No one would recognise this fact, however, since the TV anchors withheld the information from their broadcasts, giving the false impression that the Defence Minister was upping the ante in tensions with the Army. Not so. Kamran Shafi explains the reality:

Let’s be fair and get the context right. Even about the much-hyped statement issued after the Corps Commanders’ conference on the same day that the EIGHT-year old speech was constantly being shown on some channels as if a mutiny was brewing. Indeed, this newspaper of record has responsibly quoted the press release. But leave it to some raucous TV channels and their anchors to pretend they had an “in’ to what else was said in the meeting. Such as the Corps Commanders expressing “displeasure” at the defence minister’s “statement” making the viewer believe that the EIGHT-year old speech was made on April 9, 2014.

Even if they meant that the Corps Commanders had shown “displeasure” at the statements attributed to Asif about the Commando’s trial, the ISPR release said no such thing. Additionally, the anchors should have also reported the truth: that Asif had not said one word against the army itself. But will they ever stop stirring the pot?

Army and politicians both play a critical role in our society. Both roles include responsibilities that bring much tension along with them. At times, those roles can come into conflict and disagreements will result. This is normal, and will sort itself out naturally if left alone. It is acceptable for media to report on tensions between the military and civilians, but it is irresponsible to whip up those tensions and add fuel to the fire.

Media’s role is to report the news, not to help settle old scores or judge patriotism. Gen Raheel and Khawaja Asif have each defended their institutions, as is natural, but there is no valid defence for the behaviour of media in this case.

Myth of independent media exposed

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Media and Democracy

On 18 May, Ansar Abbasi wrote a piece for The News that claimed “the military establishment have moved to thwart the will of parliament by feeding the media with distorted information”.

In fact, another journalist – Omar Waraich – noted in a piece for the American news magazine TIME that the military was holding closed-door briefings with select journalists to manage the way the Abbottabad raid was being discussed.

After three days of sedulous silence on the matter, the military and intelligence leadership on Thursday shared its perspective on the Abbottabad debacle with a select group of senior Pakistani journalists – no foreign news media were invited. The rare closed-door briefing was prompted by a desire to challenge an emerging global narrative that incriminated Pakistan’s security establishment in bin-Laden’s ability to elude capture, according to some of those present.

The day after his first piece claiming interference with reporters, The News carried another piece by Abbasi that claims that the military is telling media to “stop exaggerating the crisis” and fanning the flames of anti-Americanism. This request ran counter to Ansar Abbasi’s own political agenda, though, since he has termed America as the nation’s number one enemy. So Abbasi used his column to debate with the military by saying that despite military’s call for unity, “None of the Pakistani authorities discussed with Kerry how the so-called war on terror is in friction with the faith of the Muslims, including Pakistanis”.

Following this week’s attack on PNS Mehran, Ansar Abbasi has changed his tune on military influence of media. Now Ansar Abbasi is back to quoting unnamed “sources in the military establishment” who supposedly have concerns that the attack in Karachi is part of a conspiracy to de-nuclearise Pakistan.

Alarm bells have started ringing in Pakistan’s security establishment with the latest terrorist attack at the PNS Mehran in Karachi, with many fearing that as part of any so-called “Great game”, a sponsored “terrorist attack” could be launched on any of the country’s nuclear sites to pave the way for a UN (read US) takeover of our nuke sites.

As the nation looks to understand events affecting the national security, answers are contradictory and confusing. Unsure of the facts, people continue turning to conspiracy theories to understand what is happening around them. A truly independent media would help eliminate conspiracy theories and confusion by providing the people with facts rationally and objectively through investigative research and diligent reporting. Though we like to say we have a free and independent media, what we are seeing more and more is the media used as a pawn by different interests to promote their own individual agendas. The result: conspiracy theories and confusion flourish.

Whether it is Ansar Abbasi fanning the flames of anti-Americanism or “sources in the military establishment” directing journalists on how to write their reports, the independent media is exposed as a mere illusion. And the agenda not being promoted is that of the national interest.

Ridding Ourselves Of Shireen Mazari's Mistakes

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

The Nation (logo)In an opinion column published in today’s The Nation, “Ridding ourselves of the US“, Shireen Mazari makes several incorrect claims about incidents and statistics in the war against militants. While Shireen Mazari is certainly entitled to her own opinion about the war, she is not entitled to her own facts.

Shireen Mazari claims that drone attacks have killed more civilians than militants. According to Shireen Mazari’s column,

…we are unable to deal with our terrorism threat internally because we are following US diktat and using a military-centric policy which is simply creating more space for militants within the country. The drone attacks, killing more civilians than militants, are one glaring case in point.

Mazari provides no research to back up her claim, so it is not known why she says this. But Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann’s drones database at the New America Foundation (NAF) shows that more militants have been killed by drone attacks than civilians. Furthermore, the NAF research is transparent as to its sources and analysis:

The research on these pages, which we have created in a good faith effort to be as transparent as possible with our sources and analysis and will be updated regularly, draws only on accounts from reliable media organizations with deep reporting capabilities in Pakistan, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, accounts by major news services and networks—the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, CNN, and the BBC—and reports in the leading English-language newspapers in Pakistan—the Daily Times, Dawn, and the News—as well as those from Geo TV, the largest independent Pakistani television network.

Here are the estimated death counts:

Estimated Total Deaths from U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010

Deaths (low) Deaths (high)
2010* 409 685
2009 413 709
2008 263 296
2004-2007 86 109
Total 1,171 1,799

*Through October 4, 2010

Estimated Militant Deaths from U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan 2004 – 2010

Deaths (low) Deaths (high)
2010* 383 625
2009 293 405
2008 106 134
2004-2007 78 100
Total 860 1,264

*Through October 4, 2010

Estimated Militant Leader Deaths from US Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2010

2010* 10
2009 10
2008 11
2004-2007 3
Total 32

*Through October 4, 2010. Included in estimated militants and estimated totals, above.

Later, in the same paragraph, Mazari claims that “there are the NATO incursions into our territory and targeting of even our military personnel”. While there was the well-reported NATO incursion into our territory, the claim of “targeting” is misleading.

An investigation of the incident has found that Pakistani soldiers fired warning shots at the helicopters, which returned fire. The US and NATO have apologized for the incident and pledged to work more closely with the Pakistani military and government to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Shireen Mazari’s account could lead readers to believe that the US was intentionally and aggressively attacking Pakistani soldiers, which would be an act of war. This doesn’t make any sense. If the US military wanted to go to war with Pakistan, why would it provide so much support and supplies to the Pakistani military? And why would the US apologize and pledge to work more closely in coordination with the Pakistani military?

Mazari goes on to repeat the discredited conspiracy theory that the US is planning to steal our nuclear arsenal. Her evidence is a statement by an American conservative historian Arthur Herman. But Arthur Herman is not a member of the US government or military and would have no access to such sensitive information. He is simply describing a hypothetical ‘worst-case scenario’ based on no evidence.

Actually, the article that Mazari is referring to is an opinion column in an American newspaper New York Post which has been criticised by the Columbia Journalism Review who said, “The New York Post is no longer merely a journalistic problem. It is a social problem.” According to a survey conducted by Pace University in 2004, the New York Post was rated the least-credible news outlet in New York. The Wikipedia entry on New York Post includes a long list of controversies surrounding the newspaper.

Shireen Mazari then goes on to repeat another discredited conspiracy theory saying that Visas are being granted “with no proper scrutiny and with all normal procedures being abandoned”. Mazari provides no evidence for this claim, which would be a quite serious breach of protocol. Notably, Shireen Mazari does not accuse anyone by name of committing this act, possibly because she knows that it would be defamatory for her to do so. Instead, she merely states that it is being done which could possibly result in readers mistakenly believing that she has some evidence to back her claim.

Shireen Mazari has every right to believe that the US is the root of all of the country’s problems, but she must make this claim with facts and not inventions and conspiracy theories. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but facts are facts. Making statements to support a particular political agenda even when the facts are the opposite is not journalism, it is merely propaganda. Please, Shireen Mazari, stick to the facts.

Shireen Mazari Gets Failing Grade

So Much For Myth of US and Army-Backed Caretaker Government

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Since the day one of the present government, certain media personalities have been predicting a coup of some form or another. Whether because of personal grudges, political opposition, or simply an attempt to be controversial there have been countless stories or examples of Wishful Journalism saying that the government will soon fall to a US-backed military caretaker government.

If anyone actually believed this myth, though, it’s over now.

Now US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke has stated quite clearly that the Americans will only support a democratically elected government in Pakistan.

Mr Holbrooke, who is in Pakistan visiting flood-affected areas, told reporters: “We will only support a civilian, democratically elected government.

In contradiction to many media reports, the American spokesman praised the government for its response to the floods.

Holbrooke was also very generous in showering praises on he Pakistani government in its response to the flood crisis, saying: “I think the Pakistan government has done a fantastic job so far – and we are here to help in any way we can.”

Asked if the US would continue to support the military, the US envoy repeated that they will only support the military if it is part of the present government.

The US envoy also added that the US was happy to work with the Pakistani army as long as it “is a part of this government.”

You will remember that Wishful Journalists like Shaheen Sehbai have been predicting for years that there will be a US-backed military caretaker government. This same story has had many names in the past two years: ‘Minus One Formula’, ‘Bangladesh Model’, ‘French Revolution’ and now finally a new name…nonsense.

Perhaps now the media fortune tellers can put away their crystal balls and do some actual reporting.

Are So-Called Defense Experts Really Connected?

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Interesting article received from a dear reader by email. It raises the question of why some journalists who are considered defense experts were not invited to a recent press briefing by the military. As always, please write in your tips and articles to pakistanmediawatch@gmail.com!

Not invited

A few weeks ago, Army Chief Gen. Kiyani invited editors and columnists to a press briefing. Interestingly, Ahmed Quraishi, Shireen Mazari, Shaheen Sehbai, and Shahid Masood were not invited. Was this an intentional snub by the military brass to send a clear signal that these people do not speak for the military? Or was it just that these journalists are so irrelevant that the Army did not think to invite them?

Usually, if a reporter is truly close to the establishment, they are not only invited, they are given special access like a closed door briefing before the official briefing so that they can get background statements from the officials. These four not only got no invitation to a closed door briefing, they were not even invited to the regular press briefing!

Ahmed Quraishi, Shireen Mazari, Shaheen Sehbai, and Shahid Masood are well known for claiming to be unofficial experts on the Pakistani establishment – especially the military. They are always saying that they have spoken to high up sources, even when what they say turns out to be wrong. But it seems from this latest snub that they are not as connected as they claim to be.

Ahmed Quraishi and Shireen Mazari in particular tend to represent ‘old think’ on security issues. They support a military coup and for the military to cut iself off from allied powers and are opposed to the present democracy and the way that Gen. Kiyani is working with the government.

While each of them probably has some contacts from the military, it could be that their contacts may not be current military leaders. Also, it could be that their sources are actually retired military or ex-military who supported the Musharraf and Zia dictatorships and are filling their heads with false information rather than accurate information in attempt to disrupt the actual policies of the current military establishment.

If this is the case, it makes sense for them not to receive invitations to press briefings by the military brass. The military leadership would recognize them as working for elements that are opposing the actual plans and policies of Gen. Kiyani and his staff so they would refuse them any invitations.

None of these media personalities will reveal who their sources are, so we do not know if this is the case. It could be that sometimes their sources do not exist at all, but are simply invented in order to give their articles and talk shows some air of authority that is missing. But it seems very apparent that if they cannot even get an invitation to a public press briefing, they probably do not have sources that are very high up.

Was this a calculated snub? Is it because Ahmed Quraishi, Shireen Mazari, Shaheen Sehbai, and Shahid Masood do not represent the Army? Are Ahmed Quraishi, Shireen Mazari, Shaheen Sehbai, and Shahid Masood reflecting an old mindset from the past that the present establishment wants to distance itself from? Or does the military brass think that Ahmed Quraishi, Shireen Mazari, Shaheen Sehbai, and Shahid Masood are just too irrelevant to bother inviting them?

Whatever the answers are, one thing is made clear by the snub – Ahmed Quraishi, Shireen Mazari, Shaheen Sehbai, and Shahid Masood obviously do not speak for the military.

Why did Pakistani media boycott Brigadier Hussain Abbas’ funeral?

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Omar Khattab, blogging at Let Us Build Pakistan, asks a good question: Why did Pakistani media boycott Brigadier Hussain Abbas’ funeral? This is an interesting observation and one that makes a point that is often overlooked when we consider bias in our media. There is so much poor reporting, obvious propaganda, and fantastic conspiracy theories in the media that we might overlook the fact that what isn’t reported is as important as what is.

Last week Brigadier Hussain Abbas was killed by the Taliban in the Waziristan area. The newspapers wrote as usual about the “martyrdom” of an army officer at the hands of the “militants” and not the Taliban. But the electronic media was even more curt. The news anchors vaguely spoke about the martyrdom of Brigadier Hussain Abbas, which was very unusual given that death of a high-level officer is discussed ad nauseum in the media as a part of the ideological-nationalist myth about the role of the Army in Pakistan’s “nation building”.

Last Saturday Brigadier Hussain Abbas’ dead body was brought to his native village near Gujranwala for burial. The media as usual descended on the area interviewing people and relatives of the brigadier. Some journalists even forced his little kids to speak about their father and made them cry by asking sensitive qurestions (“Will you miss your father?”) which was an extremely heartless thing to do. But then this is common in Pakistan.

What was interesting to know that not a single channel showed the actual burial and/or the funeral prayer of the brigadier, which was unprecedented because the media always shows these two events only to prove the Islamic side of martyrdom. But Brigadier Hussain Abbas was not given this honor. And the reason is not hard to find: He was a Shia Muslim.

Since the Talibanic journalists, backed by Saudi and Al-Qaeda money and facilitated by the ISI, took over Pakistan post 9/11 (though they were in the field before 9/11, but not in command), the Shia suffering in Pakistan has been ignored. Everyone knows that the Taliban consider Shias kafir/inidel and routinely carry out acts of Shia carnage. But the media has never condemned the Taliban. This carnage is backed by the Deobandi-Wahabi fatwas that those who kill the Shias will go to paradise straightaway. Corrupted by petrodollars of the Wahabi Saudis and the drug money of the Al-Qaeda, the Pakistani Urdu media has turned complicit in the Shia persecution. Although the Saudi royal family and the Al-Qaeda are enemies, they are one when it comes to the hatred of the Shias. Both are Wahabi.

The Urdu media’s boycott of the funeral of Brigadier Hussain Abbas was not an isolated incident. In 2008-9 the Taliban captured hundreds of Pakistan army soldiers in Swat. They separated Shia soldiers from Sunni soldiers. They gave every Sunni soldiers one thousand rupees each and asked them to go home. But they lined up every Shia soldier and slaughtered him. This is why, even today the place where the beheadings of the Shias were carried out is knows as “Khooni Chawk” or Bloody Square. At that time the media completely blacked out the beheadings. It was only a few Sunni soldiers who narrated this to people and it became known, but later they were asked to shut up by their superiors.

In complicity with Saudi Wahabis and the Al Qaeda-Taliban axis of Islamofascism, the Urdu media does not want the people of Pakistan, the majority of whom want to live in peace, that the Shias have anything “Islamic” in them. The Shias are portrayed as a deviant sect of Islam which should be wiped out of existence. (This is what has been happening in Saudi Arabia for decades.) You will never read in any newspaper or find out on a TV channel that the creator of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a Shia Muslim.

Pakistan’s conspiracy theories

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then … anyone who tells you it is a duck must be hiding something. So goes the logic of conspiracy theories which are gaining increasing currency in Pakistan because of the wave of gun and bomb attacks in its towns and cities.

As reported in the New York Times, India, Israel and the United States are frequently blamed for the violence, as is the U.S. security company formerly known as Blackwater.

The Pakistani Taliban, according to al Jazeera, appear to have capitalised on that by blaming Blackwater for two attacks that most shocked Pakistanis — one a suicide bombing on a market crowded with women and children in Peshawar which killed more than 100 people and the other an attack on the Islamic University in Islamabad. (more…)

Trying to Knock out Zardari and Army Simultaneously?

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

shaheen-sehbaiMaking Sense of Shaheen Sehbai’s Recent Diatribes

By Shaista Sindhu

The Chief of the Anti-Zardari campaign in the Jang Group (Jang, The News, Geo), Mr Shaheen Sehbai at one time ran a similar campaign against the Pakistan army and General Musharraf. These days he is working over time to give the impression that the Pakistani “establishment” are out to knock out Mr Zardari. Could it be that Sehbai is trying to knock out both objects of his hate – the army and Zardari – at the same time?
(more…)

Ahmed Rashid on the Purpose of Waziristan Offensive

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

In Ahmed Rashid’s latest piece “Waziristan or Bust,” the renowned Pakistani journalist and author of Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, grapples with the immense pressure Pakistan faces to succeed in its Waziristan offensive.

“The success of the offensive could be critical for the fate of Pakistan which is financially broke and politically paralysed,” he writes. He connects the financial crisis with the controversial Kerry-Lugar bill, “The army was furious that the government had agreed to US-imposed conditions, which only insisted that there be civilian control of the army, democracy be maintained and the fight against extremism continued. The army with its deep tentacles in the Pakistani media and among opposition politicians, whipped up a storm of public opinion against the deal.”

All this, he laments, was utterly ridiculous as the country was crying out for aid and assistance in the midst of the terror threats, poverty, and a generally harsh quality-of-life.

The fact remains that Pakistan has to pull itself away from the brink, and the measuring standard for just that will be this offensive. Its results will be telling, a trusted barometer for whether the Zardari administration can command the army and be supported by a public eager to end extremism.

Rashid notes President Zardari seems happy to talk peace and trade with India, aid in the stabilizing of Afghanistan and improve ties with Iran. He welcomes aid from the west so that his country can become stronger and secure. Yet, there is an intense backlash against his efforts, indeed, Rashid writes, “Zardari’s attempts to build up public support for these logical civil demands have been stymied because of public disillusionment with the civilian government.”

We can all agree stability can only happen when all sides come to the table, with an agreed upon set of priorities. A common plan to combat extremism whilst working out itnernal issues is the critical key to moving the country forward.

To Rashid and countless others, that looks like a tough hill to climb.