Posts Tagged ‘personal attacks’

Memos and Appointments – Media Speculation Gets It Wrong

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Campaign Against Najam Sethi Gets More Ridiculous

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

What appeared to be a coordinated smear campaign targeting Najam Sethi last week continues, today with Ahmed Quraishi using a clip from Mubashir Luqman’s show of 26th September and continuing to fan the flames. But rather than discredit Najam Sethi, Ahmed Quraishi’s latest move does more to discredit the smear campaign itself.

Here’s what Ahmed Quraishi says about Najam Sethi’s accuser:

Mr. Abraham was considered to be close to the pro-US lobby in the Pakistani government. In DC, Mr. Abraham was close to Ambassador Husain Haqqani and key figures in the US State Department working to cultivate influence inside Pakistani media. He often acted as a mouthpiece for the pro-US lobby, promoting talking points that served US interests and those of the pro-US Pakistani government.

That quote was from a post on Ahmed Quraishi’s website titled, ‘Najam Sethi & Family Demonize Pakistan For US Passports’ – a claim that Cafe Pyala notes may open both Mubashir Luqman and now Ahmed Quraishi to defamation suits since other than the slanderous statements, no one has been able to produce a single piece of evidence suggesting it’s true.

Here’s the problem with Sami Abraham’s statement based on what Ahmed Quraishi says – Sami says that he knows the accusations against Najam Sethi are true because when he was in America he was part of a secret American conspiracy to buy Pakistani media. Now that he’s back in Pakistan, though, he’s apparently turned on his old conspirators and is now accusing Najam Sethi. In order to believe Sami Abraham, one has to be willing to accept the word of a man who says different things depending on who he’s talking to, which is not a great recipe for credibility.

But let’s take a look at some statements by Najam Sethi to see just what Mubashir Luqman and Ahmed Quraishi find so offensive. Here’s a quote from Sethi’s editorial in last week’s The Friday Times:

By next April, the Taliban will be ready for a major operation to decisively derail President Obama’s Afghanistan agenda when the US establishment will be focused on the presidential election. America will be in desperate straits. In order to thwart the Taliban’s summer agenda, therefore, America is most likely going to “do more” in its winter agenda before next summer. Short of American boots-on-ground in Waziristan, only Pakistani boots-on-ground will work. But if the Pakistani army is still unable or unwilling to oblige, then cruise missiles and high altitude bombing could be options.

Should that come to pass, however, the war in Afghanistan will spill over to a war in Pakistan. And that should be the last thing America or its Western allies would want.

We’re supposed to believe that this is demonizing Pakistan? If this is Najam Sethi’s plan to earn a US passport, I hope he doesn’t sell his house too quickly.

Now let’s take a look at the other person who keeps popping up in this smear campaign: Ahmed Quraishi.

It does seem a bit ironic that Ahmed Quraishi would find a problem with anyone who takes money to act as a mouthpiece for a foreign government since that’s what, by his own words, Ahmed Quraishi has built his career on. This is not an accusation, it’s what Quraishi himself is proud to say. According to his bio, “Recently, Mr. Quraishi has been commissioned for public policy outreach projects as a consultant, serving mostly government clients in the larger Middle East region, including Pakistan”.

What governments are these? Well, that’s not completely clear, though he does make quite a big deal about his connection to the rulers of his home country, Kuwait, where he “was born, raised and educated”. Actually, though, Mr Quraishi’s education is not quite clear, either. His longer bio says that “he briefly attended a business school but did not graduate in that discipline”, and says that as he was “not very interested in academia” he got involved in political commentary. Quraishi goes on to brag that he used his Pakistani heritage as a means of avoiding suspicion in Middle Eastern politics.

“He got away with most of it in a region infested with suspicious governments because, well, he was a Pakistani, which literally made it difficult for security officials to place him within Middle East’ confusing maze of political alliances and rivalries.”

Actually, Ahmed Quraishi has been playing something of a girgit (chameleon) for years. When his columns appear in Jang Group publications, his by line says he “works for Geo TV”, though his role at Geo TV is unclear. His short-lived TV show on Aag TV, (Thori Si Siyasat), was canceled over a year ago. But even before Ahmed Quraishi was given a show, he was against Geo TV, saying it, too, was a tool of American interests. It should be noted that Geo TV still has a contract with Voice of America.

What is all the more curious about Ahmed Quraishi’s alleged affiliation with Geo TV is that he himself claimed last year that he is “not a journalist anymore”. His claim to have abandoned journalism came soon after it was discovered that Ahmed Quraishi was a member of the ‘American Association of Political Consultants’.

Profile page for Ahmed Quraishi on website of American Association of Political Consultants

Profile page for Ahmed Quraishi on website of American Association of Political Consultants

Though he claims he has never had one American client, which we are in no place to dispute, it does raise the question why he joined an American political consulting group that costs $250 USD (Rs. 21,855) per year for a single membership if he had no American clients.

Neither was this Ahmed Quraishi’s first dabbling in using media for political propaganda. In 2008, Ahmed Quraishi wrote that America was responsible for riots in Tibet. His by line then claimed that “He heads the Pakistan Task Force at FurmaanRealpolitik, an independent Pakistani think tank based in Islamabad”.

But Furmaan Realpolitik was not really a ‘think tank’, it was a PR business whose services included “Intelligence, Research & Analysis” and “Surveillance & Confidential Investigations”, and whose products “can be tailored to business, political and military requirements”. And what exactly were their products? According to their website, they sold, “Immaculate Deception Creations Tailored to Your Senses.” Subtle.

More recently, Ahmed Quraishi claims that he is a “Senior Research Fellow” with “Project for Pakistan in 21st Century and PakNationalists, which he recently claimed is a nationalist political lobbying group complete with volunteers and interns, but no known source of funding. He’s also on the Board of Advisors for PKKH, an “alternative policy institute and news service” associated with Hamid Gul, and Opinion-Maker.org, as well as assorted fake news sites like Views Times that published a column attacking Najam Sethi last week.

Though it’s not known who is funding Ahmed Quraishi’s current crop of “think tanks”, he seems to have Najam Sethi firmly in his sights, not only claiming that he is ‘demonizing Pakistan’ in order to get a US passport, but taking his accusations even further on his Facebook page and claiming that “Najam Sethi & Co. are claiming their share of the $40 MILLION that US govt has set aside to buy Pakistani media”. As usual, Ahmed Quraishi provides no evidence of this shocking claim, leaving us to wonder again if he is prepared to face a very expensive defamation lawsuit indeed.

Who’s afraid of Najam Sethi?

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Spats between politicians are a regular occurrence – Altaf and Nawaz’s verbal back and forths are the stuff of legend. This can be somewhat expected between politicians as they are competing for votes and attention from many of the same constituencies. Though journalists are also competitive, this is usually carried out on the merits of reporting and commentary and not in petty insults and accusations. Usually, though not always. In the past week, actually, we have seen a growing number of attacks aimed at one particular journalist, Najam Sethi. But rather than being part of a personal feud, it appears that these attacks may be part of a coordinated campaign.

On Monday, Mubashir Luqman discussed the supposed American threat of attack on his show Khari Baat. At the end of the programme, though, surrounded by his invited guests Maleeha Lodhi and Hamid Gul, Luqman lashes out at Najam Sethi (forward to 8:51).

This seemed to be a strange turn for the conversation to take, but what was even more strange was when Luqman went out of his way to attack Najam Sethi on PTV’s Morning Show.

As you can see, Noor becomes visibly uncomfortable with Luqman’s unprompted attack on Najam Sethi. Some might think that Luqman’s strange behaviour was the result of a personal feud between the two men, but then our attention was pointed to another article attacking Mr Sethi which appeared on a website ‘Views Times‘.

Like Mubashir Luqman’s attacks, the article accuses Mr Sethi as a tool of American policy. Only, this piece goes even further and makes the bizarre claim that Najam Sethi is advising the American government.

The Americans were left with no choice–they halted the 800 million in aid to the Pakistani military. They were banking on the advice given to them by Mr. Njam Sethi and gang.

Though he is an internationally renowned and award-winning journalist, it’s rather far fetched to claim the American government was taking policy dictation from Najam Sethi.

In stark contrast to Najam Sethi’s career, his attackers are mostly non-entities from an exposed propaganda ring. The website, Views Times is one of several fake news sites associated with propagandists like Ahmed Quraishi and Major Raja Mujtaba.

Actually, a Google search for a random line in the piece on Views Times found 49 results – all fake news sites like ‘Times of Bombay’ and ‘Times of Kabul’ and ‘Karachi Telegraph’. Oh, and the incredibly well funded PKKH, a project of Ahmed Quraishi, Shireen Mazari, and Hamid Gul.

Like too many of our fellow journalists, Najam Sethi has already suffered for giving voice to views that were unpopular in some quarters. He was ‘preventatively detained’ by Gen Zia, and later imprisoned by the government of Nawaz Sharif for exposing corruption. Of course he was accused then with the all-too-familiar charge of ‘treason’.

For his unwillingness to cower in the face of intimidation, Najam Sethi has received the Journalism Under Threat award from Amnesty International and the International Press Freedom award from Committee to Protect Journalists.

Whoever is behind this campaign to attack Najam Sethi, the question that must be asked is whether Pakistan’s media is truly ‘free’ so long as journalists are smeared, threatened, or worse when they report views that some do not like.