As per noted Columnist Ms. Anjum Niaz of The News International [earlier Daily Dawn]
Pakistan's icon of press freedom, Zamir Niazi, whose book The Web of Censorship is a prescribed read for students at Ivy League universities, is today, flying solo against the poseurs in Pakistani press. Anticipating another labour of love, I shoot off an e-mail to him. "It's more a labour of anger and frustration!" he archly relies. "For the last three decades, I have fought for freedom of thought and expression. The press is really free to a great extent," reminding me that while the newspapers of today are "better printed and better produced," with more pay to its workers, "but look at the content...believe me, with a few honourable exceptions, the majority of reporters are on the payroll of one or another agency." A scholar of international acclaim, who has dedicated his life researching, analyzing and writing on Pakistani press, he now feels let down by his own ilk. "Most journalists/reporters/writers shun reading books or absorbing themselves in serious study," he laments. "You will not believe that even senior persons, including some editors, do not read their own newspapers." He has contempt for journalists who enjoy all kinds of "perks and privileges" and when their demands are denied, "they cry foul." As a crusader for this very class of people who wield the pen, Niazi, who wrote his famous book, The Press in Chains, is a bundle of angst who now wants the title changed to The Books in Chains - Libraries in Flames. What a sad reflection of our times. [Courtesy: Daily Dawn There's deception to every rule by By Anjum Niaz - Dawn Magazine (LINK IS DEAD)]
Now we come to the ever Pragmatic Journalism of the Group Editor of The News International i.e. Mr Shaheen Sehbai Shaheen Sehbai VS Hussain Haqqani & Jang Group of Newspapers. http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2009/10/shaheen-sehbai-vs-hussain-haqqani-jang.html
How many faces of Shaheen Sehbai are there?
Human memory is weak particularly the memory of these so-called journalists that they often ‘forget’ as to what they had earlier written. One such example is of Mr Shaheen Sehbai who claimed the friendship with Asif Ali Zardari at the time of death of Benazir Bhutto. Which Report of Shaheen Sehbai [The News] is to be believed? Read and lament..................
Late. Benazir Bhutto (21 June 1953 – 27 December 2007) 11th and 16th Prime Minister of Pakistan 2 December 1988 – 6 August 1990 & 19 October 1993 – 5 November 1996
Who Killed Bhuttos? http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2008/10/who-killed-bhuttos.html
Why I cried, at last by Shaheen Sehbai The News, December 29, 2007
It is male chauvinism or bloated egos, but men don’t cry, at least in public. But when my friendMasood Haider of Dawn, who had just arrived from New York, called me from Lahore after the newsof Benazir’s sudden death had broken, both of us just held the cell phones without saying a word andcried, sobbing aloud, tears flowing. I was in the office and told him to calm down and I got back towork, as the job had to be done first. Tears could wait.What we both were recalling were the numerous sessions we had together with Benazir Bhutto,whenever she was visiting New York or Washington during the last many years of her exile. Thesewere exclusive sessions and what we talked about was everything probably no one else would everdare to raise with her, friend or critic.
She knew about all the long critical articles and stories that I had written during her first and thesecond tenures in government and would argue with force that the data and equipment that I quotedwas leaked, distorted and misrepresented by the establishment, reaching my hands through agentswhom probably I did not know but trusted as good news sources.But she also knew that whenever she was out of power, it was the same media, the same writers andjournalists who stood by the persecuted and fought their case. In 1991 when Asif Ali Zardari was in Jam Sadiq Ali’s dreaded jail, shortly after Benazir had been removed as Prime Minister, she recalledthat journalists from Islamabad were the first to go and meet him, in jail, despite Jam’s fierceresistance. I was part of those six journalists, others including Nusrat Javeed, late Azhar Sohail and Shakeel Sheikh, and had been invited by Jam Sadiq to tour Sindh at his expense but write what wesaw. That we did and almost every article shredded the late tyrant’s claims of peace and tranquillity inSindh. That jail visit was where we all began a long lasting friendship with Asif Zardari.
She remembered and discussed those days with praise and gratitude.Benazir thus was not an arrogant person as many portray her to be. She was inexperienced and a littlenaïve in her early years of power but with trials and tribulations of horrendous magnitude she maturedinto a polished politician, a diplomat par excellence and a pragmatic leader. Her years of exile taughther more about politics and how to handle people than her years in power.She developed a direct rapport with anyone and everyone and used the internet to the maximum. Her E-mail politics, as hercritics used to joke, did wonders for her. She was in direct touch with all and she got feedbackinstantly, helping her make quick and right decisions. That style of politics kept her ahead of her opponents and kept the cadres engaged, giving them a feeling of intimacy and a feeling of access tothe top leadership.
My first hand experience of that E-mail politics was when she was planning to visit Jeddah to condolewith Mian Nawaz Sharif as his father the late Abbaji had expired in exile. Asif Ali Zardari had alsomade it to Dubai and they were planning to meet Nawaz for the first time outside their country. SinceI was on her E-mail grid and frequently exchanged notes, I asked her what she was expecting toachieve at the Jeddah meeting with Mian Nawaz Sharif as it should be a major political event and notjust a condolence meeting. In reply she asked what I thought should come out of Jeddah.
I gave her my view as an objective observer. The meeting must produce some document which giveshope to the people that the two major political parties of Pakistan are now ready to sit together anddiscuss their past, present and future relations, I suggested. On her insistence I sent her a one-pagebrief of what they should discuss and announce publicly. I called it the Charter of Democracy. Itshould, I suggested, candidly admit the past mistakes committed by both the sides and lay down thecourse of political action making solemn pledges and commitments that never again would the twoparties undermine each other to favour any third non-political institution.
Benazir was so excited she responded instantly saying I have just got this paper and I am flying after afew hours and I will take this paper to Mian Sahib. What we saw then was an announcement about theCharter as both Mian Nawaz Sharif and Benazir made it into a cornerstone for their future politics, awatershed of sorts. They set up a committee which gave real shape to the basic idea which remainedthe reference point of both the leaders, despite their variances in approach, for dealing with themilitary regime.
That was Benazir Bhutto, the mature politician who would listen to others and share with them herconfidence and trust, the grown up Benazir, so to say.
One remarkable aspect of her life in exile was that never ever, even in the wild wild world of thepaparazzi, the media men and camera guys chasing world celebrities, any personal scandal about herwas discovered, though she travelled almost continuously between world capitals. She was alwaysconscious of her image back home, wearing the proper head dress when appearing before the camerasand always showing respect for other religions and sects.
She was not always happy with Masood and myself as we would sometimes say things she would notlike. In July this year when she was hobnobbing with General Pervez Musharraf some friends met inWashington and reached a consensus that her secret backdoor channels with the military woulddamage her politically. Somehow I took that on myself to inform her in detail that this was a mistake.Editor Najam Sethi was also part of that discussion and he immediately dissociated with the consensusview. The diplomat Benazir just did not respond to the communication and we did not bother.
When her meetings with Musharraf started yielding results, positive for her but criticised by almostthe entire civil society, a feeling started developing that probably she had a point in showingpragmatism as she did not have enough guns and commandos to fight her way to power and winagainst an entire army.
But probably she miscalculated either the commitment of the other side in her secret talks or theresistance within the institution to her teaming up with General Musharraf. She achieved a lot but shemisread the open and hidden opposition, wherever it was. They were out to get her and GeneralMusharraf either did not bother, did not know or did not care. She paid the price for her pragmatism.
We lost a great leader, a popular politician and also a person with whom an intelligent, candid andfrank discussion could be held, without fear of any repercussions. No one is left in the politicalspectrum to match her level of sophistication, international exposure, popular support and still open toreceive and act on good advice.
We lost a friend and when I returned home at 3 am after a hard day’s work, this shocking reality sunkin that the friend was being air lifted in a casket and her grave was ready to receive her. Benazir in agrave, the thought suddenly jolted me, brought waves of tears and I shed them all in silence, and alone. Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan and Chairman PPP at Benazir Bhutto's Funeral with his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari [Photo Courtesy APP/ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22420073/]
Same Shaheen Sehbai had said this after the murder of Benazir Bhutto
Sindh is angry and Punjab is not helping By Shaheen Sehbai Sunday, January 06, 2008
KARACHI: Deeply aggrieved, full of anger and passionately in mourning, Sindhis are baffled and confused at the strange reaction in Punjab, specially the ruling elite which has adopted an aggressively parochial attitude, not just against the PPP but against entire Sindh, after the death of Benazir Bhutto. The accusations that large numbers of Punjabis have been forced to flee Sindh and become refugees in their province may help the PML-Q leaders rebuild their shattered election campaign but it is certainly not helping national unity and the cause of the federation of Pakistan.
A quick tour of the heart broken hinterland of Sindh, starting from Karachi to Jamshoro, Sehwan Sharif, Dadu, Larkana, Naudero, Garhi Khuda Bux, Sukkur, Khairpur, Nowshero Feroze, Moro, Hala, Hyderabad and back to Karachi by road, revealed many facets of the Bhutto murder fallout which cannot be imagined while sitting in cozy drawing rooms before TV sets.
It was quite baffling to note that while we were driving towards Larkana on the Jamshoro-Sehwan route, not one burnt vehicle was seen anywhere from near Karachi until we entered the constituency of Benazir Bhutto in Larkana, over 250 miles away, where we saw a skeleton of a bus. Neither could we see any burnt banks or buildings on this route.
But strikingly on our way back from Sukkur to Hyderabad, the damage was evident but not as widespread as was being reported or projected to be. Some 100 trucks, buses and very small number of cars were still presenting the scene of a battlefield, especially in Moro and some other portions of the National Highway. A few banks on the main road were also visibly damaged.
But the interesting explanation we got by talking to residents and locals was that most of the damage all along the National Highway was in areas and constituencies which were not PPP strongholds and were either represented by Muslim Leagues or other breakaway PPP factions like the Jatois and others. Many gas and petrol stations were still totally undamaged while just in front of them, on the road, cars and buses had been burnt. The protestors were either not interested in burning some property or were cleverly selective in picking their targets.
At one point in front of a huge CNG station, which was intact, several vehicles were burnt but right across the road was a Rangers headquarter and no one seemed to have noticed the violence or done anything to stop it. When we crossed it the Rangers were being guarded by a police picket and van, odd as it may seem.
So when the majority PPP dominated areas were relatively quiet, how would the violence in non-PPP areas be explained. The PPP leadership, rank and file have a ready made explanation that the reaction was orchestrated to blame Sindh and PPP and it was exaggerated to suit the establishment to counter the wave of sympathy for the PPP. It looks somewhat obvious that such an explanation would be given by the PPP but the sudden regression of the pro-establishment section of the Punjab leadership into a parochial mode has lent a lot of credence to the Sindhis’ complaints.
Talking to the deeply disturbed and extremely nervous PPP leadership in Larkana, Naudero and Garhi Khuda Bux, the clear impression that emerges is not good news for the federation. Mr Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto made extra efforts in their early appearances before the media to send the message across that the PPP still wanted the federation, as it did when Benazir Bhutto was alive. But this message has been distorted by Punjab.
The creation of a refugee centre in the heart of Lahore was almost hitting the federation below the belt. Some of the Punjabi small businessmen, roadside gas station owners and hotel stops whom we met on our journey were highly critical of this Punjab move. One of them near Hala said he was always a PML voter but would now vote for the PPP as Punjabi leadership, especially close to the establishment, was unfair. He was safe and doing his business without any fear though he admitted that for four days after the Bhutto murder, he did not come out of the house or open his business. His hotel and shops had not been touched by anyone during the riots.
A PPP student wing leader in Larkana was specifically moved by the huge ads in newspapers from the PML which isolated Sindhis and spoke of large-scale migration from Sindh. “What do they want now that they have killed so many of our leaders? Do they want to push us into the sea. This is all rubbish and meant to fan hatred against Sindh for political gains,” he reacted.
The PPP leadership is having a bad time in the sense that they have been pushed to the wall and now fears they have to take on the establishment which they fear would be a disaster for the country.
Senior leaders candidly admit that the death of Benazir Bhutto has landed the party into a crisis but unity in the ranks and swift transition of power from Benazir to Asif Zardari has helped the party leaders and cadres focus on the real issue of winning the elections, helped by the sympathy wave.
One leader said it was challenging for Mr Zardari to get into the shoes of Ms Bhutto but since she had passed on the leadership to him in her will, the party had accepted the decision and quickly converted the street protests and violence into a determined electoral mission to win the elections.
But February 18 was the cut off date for all practical purposes and it was impossible for any PPP leader, including Mr Zardari, to show any soft corner for President Pervez Musharraf or the establishment before the elections.
“We have to decide that if Feb 18 turns out to be a fraud with us and the nation, what we have to do and this is not an easy decision but this decision cannot be put off any more,” said one leader. “And this time President Musharraf will have to accept all our demands without any precondition or bargaining because we have already paid the highest price that could be asked in any bargain.”
Senior PPP leaders do not believe that the establishment would go for the elections even on Feb 18, if the PPP wave continues, which it will. “They are not prepared to hand over power through the ballot box and unless they are in a position to either manipulate the result and contain the PPP or strike a deal on their terms, they would not agree to a poll,” one leader said. “But the PPP is not in a position to offer anything now. If Mr Musharraf wants a deal with the PPP, he will first have to hold a free and fair election without asking for anything in return. This risk he has to take, or otherwise take much bigger risks.”
This PPP sentiment is reflected at all levels of the leadership which is now gearing up to accept the coming challenges. Whatever doubts and suspicions people may have about Mr Zardari, he has now been catapulted into a position where he has very little room for maneouvre or go against the general party sentiment. People want revenge and he has to lead the party into getting one.
“The PPP candidates have been decided by Benazir so those cannot be changed. The PPP leadership all over the country is in place so no particular Zardari men can be inducted. The election is just around and no one can risk intra-party infighting. The mourning has been successfully converted into a fury to take revenge at the ballot boxes so the party has been saved from disarray,” according to a senior leader.
This transition from protests and fury on the streets to revenge through democracy has been remarkably smooth. As we drove hundreds of miles in PPP and non-PPP territory, life had come to almost normal and only the remnants of the burnt out trucks, especially NLC containers and car-carriers, reminded us of the angry reaction. The first hurdle has successfully been crossed by the PPP, headed by Mr Zardari to control the people and turn them into highly motivated and committed workers.
And after two years same Shaheen Sehbai is saying this. One may ask as to which version of Shaheen Sehbai is to be taken seriously?
All power players focus on constitutional knock-out By Shaheen Sehbai Friday, October 23, 2009 Kerry-Lugar law’s Muridke clause alienates Army from; NRO-hit presidency; Zardari falls back on Nawaz; ready to give up 17th Amendment powers
KARACHI: An intense, behind the scenes, strategic and decisive review of the current political situation has begun among major power players, both political and non-political, to quickly decide how to stabilise the situation, seriously threatened by impending questions about the fate of those who benefited from the infamous NRO and are now in top positions of the country.
After detailed background interviews and sessions with most of the stakeholders, it is now becoming clear that unless the present system is cleansed and the major irritants are removed, the desperately needed political stability and the required moral and political support for the on-going civil war-like situation would not be available. This may, and probably already is, seriously hampering the military-cum-security operations against the hit-and-run or hit-and-die terrorists roaming all over the country.
Although the apparent problem is the uncertainty about what would happen to the NRO in parliament and even if passed by a simple majority, what may happen if the Supreme Court strikes down the controversial law ab initio, the issue which is driving everyone crazy is the wide gulf that has emerged between the top civilian and military leadership on how to handle America and the war on terror, denials and clarifications notwithstanding.
A well-informed insider said things had gone so bad that the military leaders had refused to meet President Asif Ali Zardari recently but it was Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who persuaded the Pindi people to at least convey their views in a face-to-face sitting so a patch up, if possible, may be attempted. That effort too did not work.
Unfortunately, or probably in the interest of the system as the other side may argue, the political wings of our military establishment (read agencies), which had almost become redundant and were dormant for some months, have now come back into action with full force.
According to a recent BBC analysis: “The military launched a massive public relations exercise, briefing sympathetic talk-show hosts and journalists, who were encouraged to whip up public opinion against the (Kerry-Lugar) Bill. General Kayani also secretly met the opposition politician Shahbaz Sharif, the Punjab CM, who the Army had ostracised until now.”
Though such behind-the-scene interference has always been a major factor in political changes in the country, it is never legitimate or desirable. The Army is unhappy and angry because Zardari has given away too many concessions to the Americans and the GHQ realises that if the Kerry-Lugar Bill was to be implemented as desired by Washington, Pakistani cities could soon turn into battlegrounds between the Army and the Lashkar Tayyaba, the Jaish Mohammed and Taliban forces combined.
So far the GHQ has kept the Lashkar Tayyaba quiet by not acceding to the US demands of attacking or even touching Muridke, arguing that once this sleeping elephant wakes up, it could turn around and trample our own forces. After all, the LeT was raised and trained by our military establishment to fight the Indians in Kashmir and they are good at it. Turning their guns inwards, with TTP suicide bombers roaming everywhere, would turn Pakistan into a burning inferno, ready to collapse. Thus the Kerry-Lugar Bill is considered to be a recipe for instant disaster.
These arguments apart, the fact, however, is that the politicians are again failing to handle their own affairs in a deft manner and may again have provided the opportunity or the space for such behind-the-scene military intervention. One such occasion was provided on March 15 when the long march threatened the system.
Leading political parties are weighing their options. Consultations, often late in the night between key leaders, are at a peak to find some formula which may save the political parties from the embarrassment of voting for a black law but at the same time saving the system from failing once again.
The bottom line is how to change the image of the presidency, how to bring back its credibility and how to make it an institution which could be trusted and respected, by the people and its armed forces alike. President Asif Zardari, who had the God-given opportunity to rise to the occasion, has failed miserably by acting in a cavalier manner, by destroying his own credibility and by foisting upon the nation a coterie of cronies who may have been good providers of goods and services to him in jail but are not fit by any standard to run the affairs of the country.
This personalised style of governance has confused all political leaders and parties. They do not know whether to support Zardari on the NRO or to take a principled stand against him. The position of PPP allies is extremely difficult. The ANP and the JUI are inclined to stay neutral at best, although publicly they have opposed the NRO repeatedly. Abstention may also not help Zardari.
The MQM is on a crossroads as the party has recently announced a major makeover of its public face, trying to go into Punjab and other parts of Pakistan and transform into a country-wide party. But it is stuck with the PPP in Sindh and going against the NRO would cause a serious breach in these relations since it would again be seen as an anti-Sindh move, aimed at supporting the Punjabi political and military establishment.
The MQM think tanks do not want to get into a situation in which the apparently stable province could fall back into the dreaded urban-rural conflict once again, with the Taliban waiting on the outskirts of Karachi to strike at the city as soon as they get the chance.
So far, MQM strategists say, the Taliban have refrained from attacking Karachi because firstly the level of public vigilance in the city is far greater and intense because of the omni-present MQM cadres on the streets, and secondly because the Pathans in Karachi seriously believe that their economic and financial interests would be severely hit if Taliban terrorism disrupts the city.
So the Pukhtoons are in no mood to secretly provide sanctuaries to suicide bombers and could openly confront them if need be. On this issue, they and the MQM are on the same page, with strong political support from the ANP and the Jamaat-e-Islami. Several meetings between the MQM and Pathan leadership on this issue have already raised the level of mutual trust and coordination for joint action.
Yet for the MQM to openly support the NRO would be a retrogressive political decision. Conversely, if the MQM came out publicly against the NRO and offered to present all its beneficiaries to take their cases to the courts, the party will gain moral high ground and the party will get a facelift throughout the country, which could otherwise take years to accomplish.
For the PPP itself, the NRO is a major divisive issue. Except for the few top beneficiaries, the general PPP cadres had nothing to do with it and privately are deadly opposed to voting for such a black law. But they have other interests associated with staying in power and they would not like to rock the boat, if the NRO threatens to derail the current PPP stint in power.
The feeling in some PPP circles is that if the NRO strikes at Zardari and his cronies, rural Sindh, where the PPP has grass root support for the Bhuttos, would not react as fiercely as many predict it would. This may be so because Zardari and his Sindhi friends, who were never part of the Benazir circle, have generated enough ill will and animosity in the last 18 months. Some have been forced to recall the funny story of the coffin thief of a village and his son. It is better not to repeat that story.
The prime minister appears to be in two minds and would publicly like to support the president but he had himself refused to take any benefit from the NRO and had his own cases judged by the regular Musharraf courts under old laws. That one correct political decision may help him immensely when the NRO may keep haunting others.
But he is also lobbying secretly for the principled political parties, both allies and opponents, to take a stand against the NRO so that the system could be cleansed and stabilised. How much support he can muster within the PPP is a moot question but if he takes a public position, many would come forward to support him. His government would in no case fall because the PML-N has offered to sustain it.
The intense discussions behind closed doors are focusing on finding some way out before the NRO explodes into the political scene and starts rocking the boat. Political wings of agencies are secretly lobbying members of parliament to vote out the law, which may force the president to think about giving up his powers or to resign.
Various compromise formulas are also doing the rounds, some code named minus-5 and others minus-12. The five and 12 are the personal friends and helpers of Zardari during his jail time, who have now been posted on sensitive state positions.
The stand taken by the Fata members is one such example of immense relevance. Although, they have taken up an anti-government position on a different issue, they want to sit in the opposition and would not like to side with the pro-NRO lobby. If that happens, it would be a major blow to the Zardari camp. The role of the secret agencies thus would come out in the open.
An overriding desire and effort in all the camps, including the non-political establishment, is not to rock the entire system. Everyone agrees in private that if President Zardari and his group of few unwanted aides were sidelined, the system will stabilise so that the focus can be shifted to the war against terrorists. But resilience and the fighting spirit of Zardari is being tested by the day.
According to one source located within the presidency, tension in the presidential camp is mounting and a battle headquarter is being set up to mobilise forces, appease allies, win over opponents and get the NRO passed by parliament, even bulldozed if necessary. But all the excitement suddenly dies down when the question of the Supreme Court striking down the NRO comes up. Everyone is suddenly dumbfounded.
The latest initiative by President Zardari to meet PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif to sort out their issues is viewed in the presidency as their last ditch political offensive to get Nawaz Sharif on his side. The argument that will be pitched to him will be that the military establishment is again out to derail the political process and in this fight the politicians should stay on the same side.
Although, Nawaz is strongly of the same views, it is highly unlikely that he will take sides with Zardari unless some huge, really huge, concessions are made and immediately, without waiting for any minute, hour or day.
Informed presidential sources say President Zardari is now ready to give up all his powers under the 17th Amendment, including the powers to appoint the Army chief but whether it is too late and too little for Nawaz to accept this bait is not yet clear. What is clear is that Nawaz has been bitten twice or thrice by the same snake hole and he may not like to poke his finger in that hole again.