By: Agha Haider Raza
The current bombings in Pakistan are definitely a cause for concern. It is unfortunate that after a successful military operation in Swat and surrounding areas, these shameful militants still take pride in the loss of human lives. Then again, it is difficult to expect them to respect the value of life once they become suicidal and so keen on killing others. The Kerry-Lugar Bill is another operation that has exposed the lack of respect journalists have for others as well. From fake stories, to conspiracies and downright lies, Pakistan’s media has seen and done it all. The legal battle ensuing from the lies has only proved the malice and bad intentions with which journalists like Ahmed Quraishi pen their writings.
The Nation accused Ambassador Haqqani of threatening “blackmail” by revealing “reams of documents” that would embarrass Pakistan and expose “national secrets” if he were forced out of office. Ahmed Quraishi’s article in The Nation also accused Ambassador Haqqani of being the reason why the United States does not understand the displeasure of Pakistan over the Kerry-Lugar Bill (as if a Karachi-born International Relations Professor now serving as Pakistan’s ambassador controls the cumulative thinking of the entire US government). Quoting a US military officer, The Nation states that US policymakers have been misinformed and “Haqqani has not set them straight or allowed others to do so”. Clearly, this is not the case since Ambassador Haqqani was by the side of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi over the past few days in Washington DC, voicing Pakistan’s concerns to US Senators and Representatives and Vice President Joe Biden. He was also on CNN, with Fareed Zakaria, explaining the Pakistani position. I believe the retired US military officer in question (if he exists) is deeply misinformed of the situation. And what is Ahmed Quraishi, the great America hater, doing talking to serving or retired US military officers when he won’t talk to anyone in the Zardari government?
In “Haqqani spares US publication and sues Pakistani one!” The Nation has desperately tried to paint another nasty dark portrait of Ambassador Haqqani. Like a cheap prank in school, The Nation has not only started spreading rumors, but inspired by Ahmed Quraishi, the paper is now twisting and taking words out of context. The Nation is playing the role of a victim by articulating how because of Ambassador Haqqani’s relationship with the US media, The Nation is being targeted. The only reason why Ambassador Haqqani has served a notice to The Nation is because of the lies and distorted information the newspaper has printed.
For those who have not been following the story let me summarize it for you. The Foreign Policy Magazine did not publish the article “Pakistan ambassador says he hasn’t been fired”. Rather, Josh Rogin wrote the piece on a blog called The Cable that is associated with Foreign Policy. The Nation further writes that Ambassador Haqqani gave an interview to the Foreign Policy magazine implying that the threat of releasing Pakistan national secrets was delivered by the Ambassador himself. This is not true. But what’s ironic is that within the same paragraph, the newspaper clearly states that “sources” have claimed Ambassador would reveal secrets. Ms. Editor, there is a difference between statements of sources and those of Mr. Haqqani.
The newspaper has clearly taken everything that was written by Mr. Rogin as being direct quotes from Ambassador Haqqani and at the same time has quoted selectively from The Cable blog piece so that the meaning changes and depicts Mr. Haqqani in a poor light. Due to this poor style of journalism, Mr. Haqqani has decided to sue The Nation. It is highly unfortunate that without substantial evidence or proof, persons who label themselves as nationalists are targeting a sitting Ambassador to the United States. At a time where Pakistan’s own survival is under threat at the hands of militants, it is depressing to witness that journalists have enough free time to vilify diplomats but not shed light on the actions and horrific activities of those threatening our continued existence.
As most conspiracy leaning journalists in Pakistan do, credit is not given where it is due. Rather than applauding the efforts of the Ambassador in securing the release of the F-16 jets, The Nation very proudly argues that it is part of the official duties of the Ambassador to follow through with bilateral deals and Mr. Haqqani has done nothing extraordinary. Throughout the 1990’s Pakistan and her Ambassadors constantly lobbied the US government to allow the shipment and release of the 28 F-16’s that had been already been paid for. Pakistan has had 10 Ambassadors to the US between 1990 and the present, but only Ambassador Haqqani was able to have the fighter jets ready for delivery –something the Pakistan Air Force Chief acknowledged on television at the F 16 rollout ceremony.
Furthermore, The Nation has done a brilliant amount of research to find anything Mr. Haqqani might have said that would hit a nerve with the public. All they could come up with was a meager two sentences in an apparent quotation of an interviewer, claiming that the Ambassador had criticized the Pakistan Army during the period of General Musharraf’s military rule. Unfortunately, for The Nation, PBS (from where they took the quote) has a web site where transcripts of all interviews can be found. In the same interview, when asked about the relationship between the civilian government and the Pakistan Army, Mr. Haqqani answered, “The Pakistani military realizes that while it has a very important and significant role in Pakistan security, it would be a much better organization if it was a professional military rather than a politicized and ideological military”. This is a philosophy that is shared by the current Chief of Army Staff General Kayani, who understands the need of the Army returning to the barracks and staying away from politics. Ms Editor, there is a difference between opposing army coups and opposing the army.
The Nation nowadays more and more resembles the likes of a gossip magazine rather than an objective newspaper. On October 13th, The Nation published, “the government has decided to replace Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani and an announcement is expected within next 48 hours”. Although my schoolteachers always claimed I have no sense of timing, I think it is safe to assume that more than 48 hours have passed since the paper posted that fallacy. Is it not fair to ask for an apology from The Nation for misleading their readers by distributing such rumors?
As most of my writing entails, this piece is not about giving a bad name to The Nation or the writers who contribute to the newspaper. However, in this case, the author Ahmed Quraishi has obviously shied away from the truth. He has used the criticism which developed from the introduction of the Kerry-Lugar Bill and directed it at defaming Ambassador Haqqani. I have followed all of Quraishi’s articles that he has written after the passing of the Kerry-Lugar Bill. Not one article provides an alternate option. Not one article provides any positive criticism.
Legitimate journalists strive to make their country better for future generations. Sadly, our journalists continue to harp on old animosity and resentment. It is unfortunate how such journalists are more than happy to grab on to any opportunity that comes their way in order to misinform the public so that they may pursue their own agenda. We need to bring an end to this! With Ambassador Haqqani’s defamation charges, hopefully this will be a rude awakening for those journalists who have toyed with the public mind. We must not allow these journalists to take advantage of a media that struggled so hard for 60 years to achieve the independence it has today.