Ansar Abbasi let lawyers be lawyers and you remain a journalist

Pakistan Media Watch in their critical response to Ansar Abbasi’s opinions have raised certain pertinent points which we at LUBP have been raising for a long time. Pakistan Media Watch believes and we concur that by running his opinions on The News, Jang and then pushing them through his appearances on various TV channels, “Ansar Abbasi runs the serious risk of having an improper influence on the outcome of a legal question that goes far beyond any person’s personal feelings about the president”. Can there be a suo moto notice on the impact of what is written in the newspapers on the outcome of a major case?

Ansar Abbasi ( cannot seem to stop play acting as a Supreme Court Advocate. One can imagine him walking around his house in a black robe and wig taking suo moto notice of kabobs. Today, though, he has taken up his mighty pen to duel with Kamal Azfar, who is a real Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court.

Actually, the Court is very well staffed with Advocates who can argue for the government also and argue against the government’s positions also. It does not need Mr Ansar Abbasi to make any case before it. After reading his column today (The News, June 8, 2010), it is rather obvious why this is the

Abbasi tries to find some contradiction in the statements of Kamal Azfar and the Asif Ali Zardari. What he finds, though, is only proof that he should leave the law to real lawyers and go back to doing his
own job which is journalism.

Ansar Abbasi’s claim is that by saying that the Swiss case “was closed on merit after the Swiss prosecutor general examined and analysed the evidence on record,” Kamal Azfar has contradicted the president ( First, let’s look at Kamal’s statement.

A Reuters article from 26 August 2008 backs up Kamal Azfar’s statement: (

“Swiss judicial authorities said on Tuesday they had closed a money-laundering case against Pakistani presidential candidate Asif Ali Zardari and released $60 million frozen in Swiss accounts over the
past decade.

“Daniel Zappelli, Geneva’s chief prosecutor, said that he had no evidence to bring Zardari, 55, the widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, to trial.”

Ansar Abbasi says that Kamal Azfar’s statement is contradicted by previous statements by Asif Ali Zardari. For these, he points to a February 2008 petition filed before the Sindh High Court.

“Contrary to Kamal Azfar’s claim, Asif Ali Zardari’s February 2008 petition filed before the SHC had stated that after the issuance of the NRO, the government of Pakistan continued to pursue the corruption cases against him both in Switzerland and in Britain.”

Abbasi’s problem, here, seems to be one of reading comprehension. The petition filed before the SHC does not refer to open cases in Switzerland, but to the insistence of elements in Pakistan to continue
pursuing cases that had been closed by the Swiss.

This appears to be the same problem with the current insistence by some that the government open cases in Switzerland again, despite the fact that the Swiss continue to insist that they will not open them.

Therefore, the contradiction is not between Kamal Azfar and Asif Ali Zardari, but between Ansar Abbasi and the reality of the legal situation being debated.

The other question that seems to be asked at least once a week is why Ansar Abbasi’s opinions are published as news and not opinions, which they most certainly are. Whether the government is correct in its arguments is a decision for the courts and the parliament.

This is important for more reasons that basic journalistic ethics, though. In complex legal cases like the one discussed in this column, the people look to media for some explanation of the facts. By reading about what each side presents, each person can form his or her own opinion on the matter. By confusing the difference between fact and opinion, Ansar Abbasi runs the serious risk of having an improper influence on the outcome of a legal question that goes far beyond any person’s personal feelings about the president.

Certainly everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the matter, but please let’s leave the legal debate to the Advocates before the court. Ansar Abbasi should be doing his job of reporting, not trying to do someone else’ job as Advocate. And The News should publish opinions clearly labeled as such so that readers are not misled into thinking that Ansar Abbasi’s opinions are actual facts.



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