Bye Bye Shaheen Sehbai: Remembering His Greatest Hit

Shaheen SehbaiShaheen Sehbai has announced that he has quit his job at Jang Group saying, ‘Enough is enough!’ Immediately the veteran journalist received support from his colleagues.

If Ahmed Quraishi learned a lot from Shaheen Sehbai…well, what does that tell you about the status of this great journalist!

To show our own support for his decision to quit, we bring you ‘Shaheen Sehbai’s Greatest Hit’ to remind you what kind of ‘ethical standards in journalism’ he has shown.

There are so many good examples to choose from. Was it his expose on Reko Diq or maybe the time he got his boss sued for $100 million? Actually, I think it has to be the time Shaheen Sehbai filled his front page report with material he cut and pasted from a satire website.

Shaheen Sehbai plaigarizes satire website

Such a great journalist will surely be missed. However I’m sure that with this quality of journalism he will quickly find a new job.


White Elephants On Parade

circus elephants

Farrukh Saleem’s billion dollar gamble came up short last week, but rather than admit fault, he has simply doubled down. Only this time, he’s beginning to show his hand. After predicting that ‘the price of independent horses is bound to go through the roof’ following Senate elections that saw little evidence of horse trading, the columnist shifts from complaining about politicians being corrupt to complaining about them being ineffective – especially compared to that other power centre, GHQ.

At least Farrukh Saleem tries to be subtle, though. That much cannot be said for his colleague Shaheen Sehbai who rather ham-handedly calls for the military to take over…without actually taking over. Continue reading

Pakistan’s Latest Political Trial

Pakistan’s security establishment has a history of using politically motivated trials to get rid of inconvenient civilian governments. Most famously, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s 1977 coup was finalised when a military court sentenced Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to death following what international officials dismissed as a mock trial fought in a Kangaroo court. Troublingly, there are reasons to worry that Pakistan may be witnessing another political trial against a democratically elected civilian government.

This latest chapter began with American businessman Mansoor Ijaz’s claim that Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, acting on the direction of the country’s president, sought American support for replacing Pakistan’s military leadership in order to prevent a possible coup. Mr. Ijaz, whose bizarre claims have been strongly questioned by the international media, has found himself an unlikely celebrity in Pakistan where his years of accusing Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies of facilitating international terrorism have been largely ignored in favour of his allegations against democratically elected civilian officials.

Despite serious questions about the accuser’s credibility, a media circus erupted over the issue. The first casualty of Ijaz’s allegations was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, who was driven to resign despite an absence of formal evidence suggesting his involvement. At the time of this writing, Pakistan is still operating without a permanent Ambassador to the world’s most powerful nation.

In response to the media uproar, Prime Minister Gilani announced a parliamentary commission to investigate the issue, only to have the rug pulled out from under him by the judiciary when the Chief Justice accepted a petition by opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and announced that the Supreme Court would hold its own investigation, further ordering the country’s civilian and military officials to respond within 15 days.

Asad Jamal, a Lahore-based advocate of the high court, reviewed the Supreme Court’s justification for taking up the issue and found the decision completely outside the constitutional jurisdiction of the court.

The irony of Nawaz Sharif presenting the petition before the court was not lost on Pakistanis as Mr Sharif himself has been convicted by multiple courts on charges ranging from corruption to highjacking and terrorism. The cases were well known to be politically motivated, and many of the convictions were later overturned citing lack of evidence.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about Nawaz Sharif’s latest legal gambit is that not only has the former Prime Minister himself been the subject of judicial persecution, but he has even been accused of the same charges that he is now petitioning the court to investigate.

According to Shaheen Sehbai, an editor at The News (Pakistan’s largest English-language newspaper) reported in 1998 that Nawaz Sharif and his emissaries held secret meetings with U.S. government officials during which they asked the Americans for support in changing the military leadership who they suspected of plotting a coup. In return, Nawaz Sharif allegedly promised to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and task the ISI with supporting CIA operations to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. The following year, the government fell in a military coup and Nawaz Sharif found himself hauled before a court and quickly handed a life sentence. Sound familiar?

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has already placed Husain Haqqani on the nation’s Exit Control List (ECL), barring him from travel despite the fact that he vehemently denies the allegations leveled against him, returned to Pakistan of his own free will, and has yet to be formally charged with any wrongdoing. In contrast, the court has not taken any position on his accuser, Mansoor Ijaz, who has made nearly daily appearances in the Pakistani media repeating his allegations.

Though this latest episode in Pakistan’s political history is unfolding in deeply troubling ways, there are reasons to hold out hope. The judicial inquiry suffered its first setback when the man appointed by the court to head the commission, former Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency, Tariq Khosa, refused to take part.

And Husain Haqqani himself is not without significant supporters in Pakistan’s legal community. After reviewing the merits of the case, Asma Jahangir — one of Pakistan’s leading human rights advocates and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association — offered to defend Haqqani before the court. As compensation, she is asking only 4,000 Rupees — about $45.

Still, many in Pakistan and abroad are watching the proceedings anxiously. If Pakistan holds democratic elections as planned in 2013, it will be a historic moment for the country when the next government forms. Not once has Pakistan seen a transition between consecutive democratically elected governments. More often, we have seen the democratic process derailed by a misguided judiciary. Let’s hope history is not repeating itself.

Redefining Strategic Depth

Redefining Strategic Depth

As President Obama takes a tour to India, lots of opportunistic commentators are making the comment that this is proof that the USA is a friend to India and, therefore, a false ally for Pakistan. The proof in the pudding for these people is that Obama made some remarks about how extremists are still in Pakistan. But this idea that the US cannot be friendly with both India and Pakistan is based on a misdirected mindset that defines Pakistan’s geo-strategic importance only in negatives. We must change this.

The rivalry with neighboring India is deeply rooted in mistrust based on previous acts of aggression, but our defining ourselves in the world community – particularly with the US – as an ‘anti-India’ is based in cold war politics that are no longer relevant. When India decided to take a ‘non-aligned’ stance with regard to the US-Soviet Cold War, there was an opening for Pakistan to become the regional ally of the US side.

But this was a weak entrance to forming a lasting partnership with the superpower. Certainly we provided some security to the Americans during the Cold War era, but India was never really on the verge of being a Soviet satellite. We provided an important avenue for the Americans to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan using jihadi proxies, but even this only brought short-term benefits. By the time the Cold War ended, these reasons for being a close ally of the Americans had expired.

After 9/11, we were able to revive some of this same geo-strategic rationale to renew aid from the US – now as a partner in the fight against Taliban instead of Soviets. But this is still a negative. This is why you see many hard line commentators saying that we have to abandon our reliance on US aid and turn to other regional partners like China because eventually the Americans will have to leave Afghanistan (either winning or losing) and then where will we be?

We should be working to make agreements with all nations – especially those like China with whom we share borders. But we should also be working to establish closer partnerships with superpowers like the US and EU based on positives, not negatives. This nation is not only good for serving as a security checkpoint – we need to look beyond military and security agreements and concentrate more effort on trade and natural resources.

There has been some controversy recently over a contract for foreign companies to work the copper and gold mines of Reko Diq. A controversial article by Shaheen Sehbai (Jang Group) has suggested that there is some conspiracy to defraud the nation of its potential wealth by ‘giving away’ the natural resources.

Shaheen Sehbai says that we should be more like Venezuela when negotiating mining contracts to make sure we maximize our benefits. But this shows just how little Sehbai knows. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s nationalization schemes have actually hurt the long term prospects of their economy.

Export Development Canada, which provides trade finance and risk management services for exporters and investors, said, “The business climate is turbulent and the Chavez administration has been openly hostile toward private capital and foreign direct investment.”

EDC said the Venezuelan’s leader’s “willingness to expropriate businesses and breach contracts is a significant worry for both domestic and foreign-owned businesses.” It said, “Private business is under constant threat, and other sectors impacted by expropriation are petrochemicals, oil services, cement, telecommunications, steel, media and food,” EDC added.

Moody’s ratings agency said, “Venezuela is a wealthy country compared to its peers. But despite this comparative advantage Venezuela remains the only major Latin American country still in recession in 2010, a reflection of haphazard policymaking that has depressed investment and growth.”

The type of economic policy that Shaheen Sehbai is promoting can be considered like alcohol – In the very short term, it makes you feel good, but in the long term it destroys your health.

We should be looking not at Venezuela but at the economy of Indonesia which is another Muslim country with a large mining sector in copper and gold. By following the opposite model of Venezuela and demonstrating that it is a safe place for investment, Indonesia has been able to increase foreign investment by 32 percent.

The BKPM on Sunday announced investment figures from foreign and domestic investors. Foreign and domestic investment came to Rp 149.8 trillion this year through September.

Among notable recipients of foreign funding were the real estate, industrial estate and office- building sector, with $800 million. It was followed by mining ($700 million; 88 projects); transportation, storage and telecommunications ($600 million); foodstuffs ($400 million); and plantations ($300 million).

Shaheen Sehbai and others who are opposing the foreign investment in Reko Diq are doing more than simply promoting backwards economic policies – they are failing to take advantage of an important opportunity to redefine Pakistan’s role in the world as a positive instead of a negative.

Opening Pakistan to more foreign investment is not ‘giving away’ the nation’s wealth. Certainly contracts should be determined in a way that is open and transparent and without corruption. But we are not selling the resources of gold and copper, we are working with international partners who can provide the expertise and resources to be able to transform these resources from dirt to jobs to economic growth. And just as policies of isolation feed on each other and can quickly cut off a country from others, policies of openness help change the perception of a country from ‘failing’ to ‘miracle’.

The Reko Diq mine is one example only. We are situated in a place that makes us strategic for regional security, but also for more positive reasons like natural resources and trade routes. It’s time to stop defining ourselves with negatives that bring short-term agreements and start showing the world the many positive ways that we can be partners in long-term ways. Once we make this shift, our strategic depth will be economic and it will be global. And only then we will truly be secure.

Nawaz Sharif Setting The Example

Nawaz Sharif has been setting a great example lately. Despite the ridiculous assertions of people like Shaheen Sehabi for whom only hateful attacks are welcome, Nawaz Sharif has been productive and constructive as the leader of opposition, and appears to have taken to heart the lessons of the past, growing beyond the petty politics of mutual destruction, using instead his power as opposition leader to influence the government and the voters while respecting the democratic process and the people’s chosen leaders. After all, today’s chosen leaders are tomorrow’s opposition…and vice versa.

Here’s what Shaheen Sehbai thinks about that.

He as a large Opposition has failed to keep democracy on the right track. He has condoned so much of corruption, mismanagement, deceit and the loot and plunder that every soul in the country is now asking for a change. No one wants to derail democracy but if the country is at this stage today, while Zardari is to be blamed, Mian Nawaz Sharif is an equal partner in crime because he has allowed all this in the name of preserving democracy. What has he done to keep democracy on the right track and check the government?

Give me a break. First of all, I will be interested to see if Nawaz files a legal claim against Mr Sehbai for accusing him of condoning corruption, looting, plundering, etc. Why does Shaheen Sehbai think that he has the right to go around slandering respected people without any evidence at all?

Secondly, allow me to answer Shaheen Sehbai’s very simple question of ‘What has Nawaz Sharif done to keep democracy on the right track and check the government?’ To being my answer, I will ask Shaheen Sehbai to start paying attention to the actual words of the PML-N chief himself. On Thursday, Nawaz Sharif told reporters,

“We should stress on reforming the government and if it cannot be reformed then we should talk of a change but through constitutional means instead of calling for a martial law (to get rid of a failed government),”

Nawaz is absolutely correct. This is a democracy, and all of this talk about a ‘French Revolution’ (which is only the latest brand name for the same old position that the same people have been hawking for years, by the the way) is the exact opposite of what the country needs.

Altaf bhai perhaps got a little carried away with his nonsense talk about martial law, but rather than jump on the band wagon, Nawaz Sharif simply said, “there is no possibility of it.” This was the mature, responsible, and correct attitude for a respected politician. He has even been standing up for the rights of minorities, much to the displeasure of some clerics.

Sharif said in Lahore on Saturday that Ahmadis were as important citizens of Pakistan as people from other religions and called them an asset. He made the statement to express solidarity with the Ahmadiyya community following last month’s two synchronised attacks on their places of worship in Lahore which claimed more than 80 lives with many more injured. In a statement issued here on Sunday, leaders of the Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia – an umbrella organisation of more than 12,000 Deobandi madrassas – called Ahmadis “traitors”. WMA leaders Maulana Salimullah Khan and Qari Hafeez Jahalindri urged Sharif to retract his statement and advised him not to “defy religion for petty political gains.”

I think this was especially important to come from Nawaz Sharif. PML-N has long had ties to some conservative religious groups, and it is important that the mullahs understand that PML-N will respect the rights of all Pakistanis, not only the ones that Salimullah Khan or Qari Hafeez declare to be pure enough. Hopefully it also demonstrates that Nawaz has grown up since the days of his misguided Shariat Bill.

Nawaz Sharif went on to say this week that if a number of big corporations paid their taxes properly, we would not have need for aid packages like Kerry-Lugar. Well, I don’t know if I think we could do without some aid completely, but Nawaz has a good point. And let us not forget that some of the worst tax cheats have been found to be media companies also. Even Musharraf, in his plans to re-enter the politics has announced that he will do so by building a political party and competing for votes.

This is how a democracy works. Even the once mighty dictator has grown up and learned it, so why can’t Shaheen Sehbai, Ansar Abbasi and the other anti-democratic media haters? Let me tell you one thing: If Shaheen Sehbai and Salimullah Khan tell you that you’re doing something wrong, KEEP DOING IT.