Posts Tagged ‘wishful journalism’

Media Speculation Wrong…Again

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Immediately following the president’s departure, media began speculating that the president would not return. Zardari’s brief trip to Dubai for medical treatment was immediately jumped on by the usual suspects who added another chapter to their never ending predictions of the president’s early departure, or immature and petty insults by the type of ‘freelance journalist’ who demands that people “stop making highfalutin statements from abroad that you love Pakistan”…from New York City, USA. Of course, lo and behold…

Zardari is back

As we expected when the president left, the new media circus was just a re-airing of the same “journalistic garbage” that has been heaped on the president since day one. No coup. No resignations. No revolution…no truth to so much of the reporting and commentary by the same old media hacks who choose to spend countless hours on rumour and speculation instead of doing honest journalism. It’s not just a shame, it’s a re-airing that’s quickly getting old.

Media and Zardari

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Asif ZardariWhen Asif Zardari was whisked away to Dubai last week, rumours of a coup began to swirl in the tail winds of the president’s helicopter. As usual, this was the same show by the same old media circus with countless ‘journalists’ filing reports based on drawing room gossip and overactive imaginations. As the truth began to seep through, the story turned out to be (also as usual) pretty bland. The president, who has long suffered from medial troubles, was going abroad to receive specialized treatment. The media stories then took on the new question of what exactly he was being treated for: Did he have a heart attack? A mini-stroke? Indigestion? Questions that seemed almost as interesting as how much sugar he prefers in his tea, or whether he likes light or medium starch in his shalwar kazmeez. In other words, nobody really cared. Discussing the ridiculousness of the whole thing at General Headquarters PMW (aka a local dhaaba), one person was overheard to remark that, whatever the president’s condition, those praying the hardest for his health and his safe return were not his party jiyalas or even his family, but the media.

This statement brought the expected silent glances followed by deep laughs and uncontrolled coughing from our chain smoking friends. But the more we discussed it, the less it seemed like a joke. After all, if Zardari goes, what will all these private cable channels talk about? Ansar Abbasi and Shaheen Sehbai will be completely out of material. Even the media’s fawning over Imran Khan only makes sense as long as he is the under dog foil to the mastermind of Asif Zardari.

Abbas Zaidi, author of Two and a Half Words and Other Stories, explained the phenomenon beautifully in a column for Daily Times earlier this week.

The point is: what will happen if Zardari quits politics and goes into retirement? What will happen to hundreds of journalists, thousands of politicians and their various flunkies, and millions of Pakistanis? Zardari has spawned an entire genre of yellow journalism. He has never sued, jailed, or harmed anyone for levelling the basest and meanest allegations at him. Thus, in a way, he has encouraged the journalistic industry, which lives off his ‘misdeeds’.

Once Zardari is out of office, he will be sorely missed, I can assure you. Where in the world will you find a president who is incessantly and viciously demonised, but never says a thing? One media house has been publishing one shameless lie after another, but Zardari has never said a thing. Our corps commanders hold a meeting and reject the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, but Zardari does not have them sacked for their insubordination. The Americans finish off Osama, but no general is sacked for complicity or incompetence (or both). There is not a single political prisoner in Pakistan today. But no one will give Zardari the benefit. People like Zaid Hamid openly invite the army to take over because Zardari is bad, but nothing happens to them. Can anyone cite just one example from Pakistan’s history where people got away with insulting the head of the state and the largest political party?

Zaidi sahib makes an especially noteworthy point there at the end – it may have been Musharraf who opened up the media flood gates as part of the efforts to hold onto power, but it has been Asif Zardari who has weathered such unprecedented attacks without threatening to pull the plug. Actually, the private channels themselves have done more censoring than the embattled president. It was All Pakistan Cable Operators Association that censored the broadcast of foreign channels. And even when Geo Super was running their anti-censorship campaign, it was Geo itself that was censoring the transmission, not the government.

As the oppositions ‘Go Zardari Go’ campaign is being gleefully projected from every corner of the media, we can’t help but imagine that these same journalists are carefully updating their CV for presentation to PTV. After all, the next guy in president’s house might not be as patient as this one and that might be the only channel left.

This is politics, not journalism

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

One point that we have tried to make till date is that journalism should be led by the facts and not the wishful thinking or political agenda of any group or individual. Particularly notable has been the number of false predictions that make up what passes for reporting. If a fortune teller had the same poor record as some of our brand name journalists, they would be unable to find another sucker to pay them. But for some unexplained reason, some journalists are permitted to make false predictions time and again and yet they continue without consequence or shame. Najam Sethi in The News Sunday most eloquently explains the ongoing problem.

Naham SethiSome well-known journalists have been predicting the end of the Zardari regime for over a year now by regularly giving D-Day deadlines. But President Asif Ali Zardari continues to defy their hollow predictions, prompting Javed Hashmi to wisecrack that a PhD in politics may be required to fathom his brand of politics. Considering how very consistently wrong they have proven to be, one may be forgiven for wondering whether it is lack of intelligence or scarcity of credible sources that lies at the root of their helplessness and rage. Or is it plain wishful thinking and personal vendettas that are masquerading as serious front-page political analyses?

There is even less justification for them to run down fellow journalists who don’t subscribe to their predictions, unless it is that green eyed monster called jealousy. To say that Zardari will not be booted out by such or such a date for various reasons is not to say that he shouldn’t be booted out, but to assess the scientific likelihood of that happening without attributing any value judgment of a good or bad outcome to it. But those editors, reporters and columnists who have been predicting Zardari’s end want it to happen so desperately that they are ready to sacrifice their credibility at the altar of their mission. This is politics, not journalism.

Much the same thing happened during General Pervez Musharraf’s last year in office. Sections of the media and civil society were so desperate to kick him out – albeit for the right reasons – that they were passionately intolerant of those among them who were inclined to shake their heads cold-bloodedly and say it wasn’t going to happen so soon. The lawyers’ movement in its heyday also demonstrated similar tendencies in the same sections of society between those who ardently wished the movement to be a revolutionary transformation to turn everything upside down and those who analysed it as a significant but non-revolutionary political transition to greater democracy. Surely, passion shouldn’t prevail over reason, or prejudice over logic; nor should one’s credibility be flogged at the altar of patriotism (these days it is synonymous with anti-Americanism), that classic last refuge of scoundrels.

Media Predictions Proved Wrong Yet Again

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Hussain HaqqaniLast year we ran a short series on ‘Wishful Journalism’ that included an piece about media predictions that Husain Haqqani’s removal was imminent. These predictions were eventually proven incorrect, and the Ambassador was given an extension of one year. As that one-year extension approached its end this month, the predictions were once again revived and several media outlets quoting mysterious and unnamed sources announced that Husain Haqqani would be removed from his post by May. Once again, the predictions proved incorrect.

Pakistan Today published the prediction last Thursday, and The Nation also ran the story three days later.

Pakistan Observer included the prediction in an article yesterday, ironically the same day that Business Recorder included a report confirming that Haqqani would continue as Ambassador.

Foreign Office on Monday clarified that Ambassador Hussain Haqqani will continue with his post at Washington.

In response to media reports regarding the replacement of Haqqani with another senior politician, the Foreign Office spokesperson termed these as “untrue”.

A section of press quoting sources had published that the government had decided to replace Hussain Haqqani with a politician who was also a former foreign minister.

However, the Foreign Office categorically said that Haqqani would continue with his responsibilities as ambassador in Washington.

It should be noted that the reports in Pakistan Today, The Nation, and Pakistan Observer were all based on anonymous ‘sources’. Why did none of these newspapers take the simple step of picking up the phone and calling the FO to confirm what their sources told them? It should also be asked if these newspapers will continue to use the sources that have misled them.

Another point to be raised is that the report predicting Haqqani’s removal included a restatement of the disproven visa conspiracy. As has been explained numerous times, the issuance of a large number of visas in one day was not done for “likes of [Raymond] Davis”, but for an official delegation from the US including Hilary Clinton’s staff and security. According to evidence provided at the Embassy press conference in February, these individuals were only in the country for 2-3 days.

Media has proven exceptionally bad at predicting the future. Thankfully, this is an unnecessary role. Actually the people would be much better served if the media stuck to its proper role of reporting the present and doing so based on facts that have been verified and not anonymous rumours.

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

Monday, December 6th, 2010

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

According to Shaheen Sehbai today:

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

This is essentially the same as what Sehbai wrote before:

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

Here is what the secret US diplomatic cable actually says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Ayaz Amir's warning

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

It’s not unusual to find journalists defending the media. Often there are articles by journalists and TV anchors lamenting the sad state of our media circus, but still defending its right to continue without correction. And one certainly does not have to look very hard to find a politician willing to chastise the media, perhaps even secretly wishing he was the ultimate judge of media content. But it’s rare to find someone who has sat on both sides of the chess table and can see this situation from both points of view. When you find this person, you should probably listen to what he has to say.

Such a person we have in Ayaz Amir, a career journalist who finds himself now in the National Assembly on the PML-N ticket. Writing for The News yesterday, Ayaz Amir makes a persuasive claim that much of today’s media attacks are essentially the work of ‘ivory tower’ intellectuals who are attacking for the sake of the attack, and not for any constructive purpose.

If the political class did not get earlier it should do so now. The target of the campaign set in motion last year was not just Asif Zardari. It was the political system as a whole, all in the name of fighting corruption, the slogan with which every road leading to hell has been paved in Pakistan since 1947.

Zardari was just a metaphor and a symbol. The wheels of intrigue, with a band of media jehadis in the lead, would not have stopped with him. They would have gone on to Nawaz Sharif, ending eventually in that dream of most retired senior mandarins, an ‘interim’ government on the Bangladesh model.

This is an interesting claim, and one that ought to be taken seriously. The blog “New Pakistan” found an older article by Shaheen Sehbai that suggests a “one down, two to go” plan.

The main responsibility of this state of affairs rests with the PPP and its leader Asif Ali Zardari, who has astounded his critics, and supporters, by adopting an almost irresponsible attitude, for reasons not yet known publicly, though there is a lot of talk and buzz that he was having some serious intra-family problems, specially with his own children in Dubai.

Mr Musharraf has to be blamed a lot for this continuing uncertainty as he did not have the grace to admit that he was now a problem and the sooner he got out of the way, the easier it may be for the country’s political system to settle down.

He has uselessly wasted his time and energy to hang on to a broken branch, which may snap at any moment but in the process he has dragged the system down and consumed whatever positive momentum the new government had to tackle major issues.

But given his state of mind, no one should have expected him to show grace and should have been booted out earlier. According to all the signals emanating from his old constituency, there would not have been a single soul worried about his departure had it been done properly and quickly. Even now, no tears would be shed if a surgical operation gets him going out of the country, or in a safe house within.

A greater responsibility also rests with Mian Nawaz Sharif, who has been consistent in his positions but has failed to take political decisions in line with that position to let the system move on.

He fears that if he breaks the coalition, the system will go down. This is absolutely not the case and no one in any power corridor can think, or is thinking, of disrupting this set-up and bringing in anything wild like the Bangladesh option or a replica of the 1999 Musharraf coup.

Ayaz Amir does note that it is very possible that this is all simply the result of self-righteous media representatives cynically exploiting the news to make fame for themselves without considering the consequences.

There is a self-righteous streak in our middle class, especially the non-voting middle class, which makes it adopt over-pure positions, which far from doing any good end up rolling out the red carpet for military saviours.

But even this is rather strange, if you think about it.

Politicians can be the world’s biggest scoundrels but it would be a dreary and bleak world if they were the only scoundrels around. Every profession has its rogues, every calling its blackguards. No one will accuse generals and judges, or lawyers for that matter, of being saints. No one in his right mind will describe journalists as knights of any round table. Why raise the bar to the skies when it comes to politicians?

For all their complaining about corruption, the media is not so innocent itself. The blog Let Us Build Pakistan published a report on tax defaulters from the media recently, why this did not get so much attention, I wonder? What other bodies are buried in the yards of our sacred cows on TV and in the newspapers?

Of course, this is not to suggest that corruption should not be exposed, only to question why the double standard for the political class and not the journalists? What if we got rid of all the journalists who ever wrote something that did not come true, or did not pay their taxes, or took a drink of some alcohol or flirted with some woman? Who would be left?

There are bombings nearly every day it seems, and yet The News, just for one example, is filled with stories about where someone got their degree, and what the HEC is thinking about the matter. Is this a good use of media? Or is it avoiding the real news? Ayaz Amir is a journalist and a politician also. He can see from both sides of the chess table and provide a unique perspective on the media-political situation. It would be worth our time to pay attention.

Shaheen Sehabi Explains What It Means To "Have No Shame"

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Amir Mateen’s attempt a script writing seems to have disappointed ‘The Godfather’ of wild storylines, Amir’s mentor Shaheen Sehbai. In today’s The News, Sehbai shows Mateen how to really write an attack column. Sehbai’s column targets his favourite topic, of course, Asif Ali Zardari.

Before we begin, we must mention that The News has published this bit of writing in the National News section, not the Opinion page. Perhaps the editors were confused by the lack of a ‘Libel’ section in the newspaper – something they should definitely consider including. It would make it so much easier on their dear readers.

shameSehbai starts his column in a prison, which he seems to have detailed knowledge about. We meet the ‘Evil Genius’ Zardari that Amir Mateen introduced us to, but now he is not just an Evil Genius, but he is running a massive prison gang filled with goons that would make Scarface blush with envy.

Sehbai doesn’t tell us who exactly these people are, or how he has learned any of this information, of course. Rather he just tells us that “a number of mafia-type jobbers, some trouble shooters, a couple of well-dressed attack dogs and a bunch of gun-wielders” are now running the show and that “every other sane voice, adviser or friend” has been suppressed. So, we are to believe that the people elected a national government filled with mafia-type killers.

Do not wait for Sehbai to be filling in the cast later. This is one of his most common plot devices – the ‘Mystery Man.’ Shaheen Sehbai knows that he will quickly be sued for libel if he even hints at a name for one of his these colorful characters who you never actually meet, so he gives no one a name. But here is a question for Mr. Sehbai: If you truly believe what you write – that there are mafia-type killers in the government – why don’t you file some report? Why don’t you, at a minimum, name some names? Surely you will be protected by the courts who will see you are only doing a duty. Unless, of course, you are making it all up.

Sehbai goes on to claim that Zardari lost his powers “despite the best delaying tactics that he could deploy.” Apparently the best delaying tactics he could deploy were to voluntarily push the parliament to pass the 18th Amendment and then signing it. Seems like a strange way to delay a bill, if you ask me. Of course, many of the “failures” that Shaheen Sehbai mentions “may not be entirely visible.” This is more exciting than saying, ‘it didn’t happen.’ Or perhaps this is just more of Shaheen Sehbai’s ‘Wishful Journalism.’

Next, Shaheen Sehbai begins to cry that Zardari and his government “make wild accusations and tall claims and trash the opponents without any decency.” This is really too much! Shaheen Sehbai is accusing someone of ‘making wild accusations’ and ‘tall claims’ and ‘trashing opponents without any decency!’ Oh, I just might fall out of my chair. That is truly hilarious.

Who is the victim of these attacks by Zardari and his friends? According to Sehbai it is “a democracy and freedom-loving media.” Yes, you have read this correctly. It’s okay. I will wait for you to finish laughing.

Shaheen Sehbai spends the rest of his article writing things like this:

[Zardari’s] close associates, who talk freely against him when sitting in private drawing rooms, say he will stick to the Presidency to keep his immunity if the courts force him to quit either the PPP office or the Presidency.

How does Shaheen Sehbai know what Zardari’s close associates say in private drawing rooms? Are we to believe that the close friends of the President of Pakistan are stabbing him in the back to give some gossip to…Shaheen Sehbai? Shaheen Sehbai can’t even get himself invited to a military press briefing, but we are supposed to believe that he has insider knowledge from the President’s close friends. It is too much to believe.

Sehbai makes more of his famous predictions, this time about Zardari’s secret plans to place his sister as head of PPP. Sehbai’s evidence for this is that:

…the PPP post is called that of a co-chairperson, when it actually should be co-chairman.

Really? THAT is your evidence of a conspiracy? Perhaps Shaheen Sehbai is a sexist, but that does not make a conspiracy.

After this, things take a turn for the truly bizarre as Shaheen Sehabi then calls on the entire nation to unite against Zardari in order to prevent…”another spell of military rule.” It is almost as if Shaheen Sehbai believes that if he follows one crazy statement with another that is even crazier, that maybe people will forget that the first thing he said is crazy.

Obviously, people can have their own opinions about the 18th Amendment and whether there need to be some more changes made. But does anyone really believe that Zardari is going to usher in military rule? Rather it seems that uniting to overthrow Zardari would usher in the military. I don’t pretend to see the future, but Sehbai’s logic is truly puzzling.

Sehbai next goes on to suggest that the Prime Minister to dismiss all the ministers and government officials and replace them with…well, Sehbai doesn’t say. He just says “credible and respected people” should be appointed. Perhaps Shaheen Sehbai could provide a list?

Most hilarious, though, is what Shaheen Sehbai says about the Supreme Court.

It is unfortunate that through a smart game of politicking the focus on implementation of NRO judgments has been shifted to the tussle between the SC and parliament. This tussle is a long drawn test match but the SC has to complete the T20 match it started on the NRO first.

Does Sehbai really want to call the NRO judgments a ‘T20′ match? T20 may be popular, but it is obviously just flashy entertainment and all show, not a real ‘test’ of the two sides. We have had enough show trials in this country. The NRO judgments should be given more thought and consideration that a T20 match.

And this is the problem with Shaheen Sehbai’s column. It is as if he wrote it while watching a match on television, and hurried to write down whatever nonsense popped into his head. His column is filled with the typical assortment of mystery sources, wishful journalism, crazy predictions, and poor logic. He writes a long and drawn-out attack with a poison pen, and he complains that his victim is hurting his own very sensitive feelings. Once again, Jang Group publishes all of this as news. THAT, dear readers, is the real shame.

Wishful Journalism (part 3): The Firing of Hussain Haqqani

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

President Zardari may be the most popular person for the “Wishful Journalists” to try to pray out of office, but he is not the only one. In part 2 of the Wishful Journalism series, we looked at the case of Rehman Malik. Today, we consider Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani, and the journalists who have been wishing for his removal for almost two years.

Sajjad Malik recently wrote in Daily Times, “Rumours rife about Haqqani’s removal”:

Rumours about the removal of Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani are once again making rounds in the Foreign Office, with several top diplomats pulling strings to step into his shoes.

Senior diplomatic sources said the rumours about possible removal of Haqqani had gained momentum amid reports that the US may not oppose his replacement because of his widespread unpopularity among khakis.

Malik’s article goes on to not name anyone who actually says Haqqani is being removed. But this is an old line. Last November, Anjum Niaz wrote that the Army was going to “pull the plug on our leaders” in which she predicted the end of the Zardari government and the imminent firing of Haqqani from his post. Obviously, this never happened.

Anjum Niaz went on to suggest that Haqqani could not return to Pakistan because he would be in danger if he returned to his homeland.

“The [Pakistani] military clearly has decided that it would like to have him removed,” says The Boston Globe, citing a congressional aide not authorised to speak to the media. “If he returned home, friends say, his safety could be threatened,” reports the Globe. “Haqqani hasn’t returned to Islamabad for eight months.”

Actually, Haqqani was just in Pakistan where he met with the President and Gen. Kayani to discuss national security matters.

The president said the US drone attacks on Pakistani territory undermined national consensus on the war against terrorism.

Zardari expressed these views during a meeting with US National Security Adviser General James Jones – accompanied by US Ambassador to Islamabad Anne W Patterson and other US officials – who called on him at the Presidency.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani were also present at the meeting.

Anjum Niaz appears to have very unreliable sources, if they even exist.

As for the latest rumours of his imminent removal, these all appear to have started from the same source: an article in The Nation by Kaswar Klasra. Of course, this article also contains no sources, and appears to be based only on speculation and wishful thinking. What is missing from Klasra’s article, in fact, are statements from the Foreign Office or the Embassy. Any proper reporter worth his weight in salt would call the official offices to inquire about these rumours. I don’t know if Klasra took the time to call anyone, but he certainly did not report what answers he was given if he did.

I decided to check for myself to see if there is any truth to these rumours, so I called the Foreign Office and I called the Embassy in Washington. I was told by both offices that there was no plan to remove Mr. Haqqani, and that the rumours were just that — rumours.

But at this point, rumours of Haqqani being removed are a little bit ridiculous. After all, he has almost completed his entire appointment of two years, and has even served longer than other previous Ambassadors to the USA:

Ashraf Qazi served as Ambassador to the USA from 19 August 2002 to 6 August 2004. General (Retd) Jehangir Karamat served as Ambassador from 17 November 2004 to 3 June 2006. Maj. Gen (Retd) Mahmud Ali Durrani served from 5 June 2006 to 9 May 2008.

Hussain Haqqani began his term as Ambassador on 26 May 2008. He has been in this office for almost his entire two year appointment, despite the rather constant predictions of his removal.

Here, I will make some predictions of my own. Gen. Kayani is scheduled to retire in November. When he retires from his post, nobody will say that he was forced out. He will have served his appointment and that will be that. These same reporters,  even if Haqqani completes his appointment, will say that he is being forced out. There will likely be some unnamed ‘sources’ that say that he was not offered an extension because he is viewed unfavorably. But is there any evidence for this? Looking at history, as we did above, the answer is no.

It is not for this blog to take any position on Hussain Haqqani and whether he should be Ambassador, or if he should be offered an extension of his appointment. There are plenty of people who have their own opinions about his performance, and they are entitled to whatever opinion they want. But Haqqani has served as Ambassador for almost his entire term, and longer than previous Ambassadors. Please, leave the wishful thinking to drawing rooms and verandas and publish proper facts in the news.

Wishful Journalism (part 2): Rehman Malik Fired!

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

President Zardari is not the only government official in the sights of our Wishful Journalists. If one were to believe these pseudo-reporters, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has been preparing to leave his position for several months. Only problem is, he won’t leave no matter how hard these journalists wish for him to do so.

In November, Syed Saleem Shahzad, Pakistan Bureau Chief of Asia Times Online, wrote that Rehman Malik was at the top of a list of names that the military asked Zardari to remove from office following the publication of American journalist Seymour Hersh’s article about Pakistan’s nuclear aresenal.

The military establishment has seized the moment to hand over a list of names to Zardari of people it believes should be immediately replaced. At the top of the list is the ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, whom the army has always regarded as a foe for being too close to the American administration. Minister of the Interior Rahman Malik is second in line.

Neither Haqqani nor Malik were replaced. But that didn’t stop the Wishful Journalists. In January of this y ear, Ansar Abbasi wrote in The News that “Rehman Malik may be the first to face the axe” as a result of the NRO decision.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik is faced with an immediate threat of disqualification as member of the Parliament and the federal cabinet and is also liable to be put behind the bars if the Supreme Court judgment on NRO is implemented by the government.

As it turns out, of course, Rehman Malik may have been the first – but not to face the axe. Actually, Mr. Malik was acquitted of charges and remains Interior Minister.

According to the judgment, through the scrutiny of record it transpired that no cogent or convincing evidence had been brought on record by the prosecution against the applicant/ accused in support of the allegations levelled against him in the subject reference.

Once again, the pattern plays out the same way: a Wishful Journalist writes his wish; if it doesn’t come true, the Wishful Journalists wait a few months and wish again. It seems that too many of our prominent journalists spent their time writing out their wishes rather than simply reporting facts.