By Abdul Nishapuri
‘Sultani Gawah’ is an Urdu word meaning ‘crown witness of the prosecution’. Those who understand the nature of power politics in Pakistan know where exactly crown (power) lies in Pakistan. Not very long ago, in 2002, Shaheen Sehbai was forced to leave the country because of his anti-ISI and anti-Pakistan Army columns. However, after a few years in exile (in which he wrote scores of articles defaming not only Pakistan Army but also declaring Pakistan as a terrorist state), he was allowed to return to the country in 2005. However, this time his role was a bit different. He was a “Sultani Gawah” of the establishment against the political class of Pakistan. This “Sultani Gawah” has nevertheless more than one masters, within and outside Pakistan.
In his words (The News, 26 November 2009): “Zardari’s political colleagues are easy for him to handle because many of them are in the same boat of looted wealth and plundered resources.” Source
Here is a brief historical overview which will help understand Shaheen Sehbai’s current manoeuvres and manipulations.
Sehbai exposes ISI’s connections with terrorists 2002
Mr Shaheen Sehbai (veteran journalist; currently resident editor of The News), escaped from Pakistan in 2002 to save himself from the so-called wrath of the establishment (Pakistan Army / ISI), after the controversy surrounding his story about the murder of Daniel Pearl. It was apparently simply to obtain the Green Card for himself, and his family in the United States. The Sehbai family dream came true when they finally got the USA passports.
On February 16, 2002, Sehbai let a story run that “exposed” Pakistan Army’s ties with terrorist bombings in India (a story that also ran in The Washington Post and The International Herald Tribune). The government immediately stopped its advertisements in The News International, and asked The News to take action against those involved in the creation and publishing of the false story defaming the country and Pakistan Army.
Sehbai fired by Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman 2002
Because of the Daniel Pearl situation at the time, the Pakistani government was anxious to crush any rumors of connections to terrorism, and made a great deal of effort to reform its image. After the February 16th, 2002 article, The News CEO, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman asked Sehbai to resign because of his violation of the newspaper policy.
International smear campaign against Pakistan 2002-2005
In the USA, Mr Sehbai then started to run a web based news service, i.e., South Asia Tribune, funded through dubious sources (most probably by Mossad and CIA), in which he reported many cases of government and military corruption in Pakistan.
In 2005 he announced that he was closing The South Asian Tribune after three years of service. It is understood that he negotiated a deal with the establishment (Pakistan Army) and agreed to be a sultani gawah (crown witness for the prosecution) to promote establishment’s interests in Pakistan.
During his self-imposed exile in the USA, he used to raise hue and cry against the military establishment that he and his family members’ life was in danger, but the so-called danger apparently vanished after the whole family getting the Green Cards.
Sultani Gawah 2005 – present
He then returned to Pakistan and that too under the same Musharraf regime, and joined ARY TV channel, then GEO, and then the News, where he is presently working. However, the secret deal struck between Sehbai and the ISI revolved around his role as a Sultani Gawah, an agents of the establishment against the political class in Pakistan.
Upon Zardari coming to power, he suddenly became active, and started writing almost a daily column in order to be noticed by Zardari. He was hoping to be appointed High Commissioner to Canada as he was competing with Haqqani. When this could not materialize, he became more bitter and along with other tools of the establishment (the pro-Taliban lobby including but not limited to Dr Shahid Masood, Ansar Abbasi etc) started yelping against the democratic government of Pakistan.
Invitation for a martial law 2008
Not only this Mr. Sehbai also tried to drag Pakistan Amry and wrote a letter to the Chief of Army Staff General Kayani urging him to intervene before the installation of political set up. The situation would be quite different if Mr. Sehbai was made ambassador to Canada, he would be praising Govt but alas the greedy dog could not get and now woofing madly.
Why is Sehbai unhappy with President Zardari?
Here is the list of various demands by Shaheen Sehbai and his cronies presented to President Zardari:
1. Removal of a criminal case against Shaheen Sehbai which was registered against Sehbai in 2001. The person who filed the complaint with the Rawalpindi police on 21 August is Khalid Hijazi, who is the former husband of a cousin of Sehbai. The complaint alleges that Sehbai carried out an “armed robbery” in his home on 22 February 2001. Sehbai was told by President Zardari that he must face these charges in a court of law.
2. Sehbai tried to approach Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar for ’settlement’ of this case but his request was turned down.
3. Shaheen Sehbai’s team members (Ansar Abbasi and Shahid Masood in particular) are vehement supporters of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They are upset with President Zardari because of his decision to fight terrorist of Taliban and Al Qaeda.
4. On February 16, 2002, Sehbai let a story run that “exposed” government Pakistani ties with terrorist bombings in India (a story that also ran in The Washington Post and The International Herald Tribune by the work of the reporter, not Sehbai). The government immediately stopped its advertisements in The News, and put inordinate pressure on the company to fire those involved in the creation and publishing of the story.
5. Mr. Sehbai returned to America and started a web based newspaper, The South Asian Tribune, in which he produced many false stories against Pakistan. Obviously he became bitter towards Musharraf because of Musharraf’s tough stance on war on terror and also because Musharraf had decided to weaken ties between ISI and Jihadis/Talibans. In 2005, Sehbai, announced that he was closing The South Asian Tribune after three years of service.
6. Invitation to the Army Chief General Kayani to intervene in politics: In his highly controversial article in Daily The News on 2 September 2008, Shaheen Sehbai states that the very fact that Asif Zardari is about to become the head of the state of Pakistan proves how big a mess Musharraf made. He says thus it is the army’s duty to fix it as the political parties certainly are not capable of doing it. “Risking the charge that will instantly be thrown at me that I am inviting the Army to intervene again”, he offers a seven-step plan for General Kiyani.Extremely shameful articles by Shaheen Sehbai. He is asking for a new Martial Law. What a shame
7. In 2009, Sehbai approached Zardari to be appointed as a High Commissioner to Canada. Apparently, the military establishment declined to approve this nomination because of Sehbai’s previous hate speech and anti-Pakistan Army campaign in the international media.
Here is an excerpt of Shaheen Sehbai’s interview with the Times of India (dated 18 March 2002):
Exposing the Pakistani establishment’s links with terrorists can be a hazardous job. It cost Daniel Pearl his life, and Shaheen Sehbai, former editor of ‘The News’, a widely-read English daily in Pakistan his job. Fearing for his life, Sehbai is now in the US He speaks to Shobha John about the pressure on journalists from the powers-that-be in Pakistan:
Q. Is it true you had to quit because a news report angered the government?
A. On February 16, our Karachi reporter, Kamran Khan, filed a story quoting Omar Sheikh as saying that he was behind the attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, the Kashmir assembly attack and other terrorist acts in India. Shortly after I am, I got a call on my cellphone from Ashfaq Gondal, the principal information officer of the government, telling me that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had intercepted the story and I should stop its publication.
I told him I was not prepared to do so. He then called my newspaper group owner/editor-in-chief, Mir Shakil ur Rehman in London and asked him to stop the story. Rehman stopped it in the Jang, the sister newspaper in Urdu but could not do so in The News as I was unavailable.
The next day, all editions of The News carried the story. It was also carried by The Washington Post and The International Herald Tribune the same day, as Kamran also reports for The Post. On February 18, all government advertising for the entire group was stopped.
On February 22, Rehman rushed to Karachi and called a meeting at 10 p m. He told me the government was ‘very angry’ at the story. He said he had been told to sack four journalists, including myself, if the ads were to be restored. He asked me to proceed to Islamabad to pacify the officials. Sham informed us that he had contacted the officials and was told by Anwar Mahmood, the information secretary that ‘the matter was now beyond his capacity and we will have to see the ISI high-ups to resolve it’. I was told to go and see the ISI chief in Islamabad and also to call Anwar Mahmood on Eid and improve my ‘public relations’ with him.
I left the meeting with the firm resolve that I would neither call nor meet anyone, even at gunpoint. Sham, however, left for Islamabad to meet the officials. His meetings were unsuccessful. From my sources, I learned that the ISI and the government were not prepared to lift the ban unless I gave them specific assurances. If I refused, there may be trouble for me as the owner was already under pressure to fire me and the other three journalists.
On February 27, I took a flight out of Karachi to New York. On February 28, I received a memo from my owner accusing me of policy violations. In reply, on March 1, I sent in my resignation.
Q. Is the ISI still keeping a close watch on journalists after Daniel Pearl’s killing?
A. The ISI has been a major player in domestic politics and continues to be so. That means it has to control the media and right now, it is actively involved in doing so. Pearl’s murder has given them more reasons to activate the national interest excuse.
Q. Is there a sense of desperation within the Pakistan government that it should not be linked in any way to events in India?
A. Yes. That’s why when our story quoted Omar Sheikh claiming such links, the government came down hard on us.
Q. Has there been any pressure on the staff of ‘The News’ to ‘conform’?
A. Yes. The News was under constant pressure to stop its aggressive reporting on the corruption of the present government. A few months back, Pakistan International Airlines stopped all ads to The News as we ran a couple of exposes. A major story on the government owned United Bank was blocked when we sought the official version. Intelligence agencies were deputed to tail our reporters in Islamabad.
Q. This is not the first time you and your family have been under pressure, is it?
A. I have been the target of physical attacks in the past too for stories against the government. The first was in August 1990 when I was arrested and detained for 36 hours and falsely charged for drinking, before a judge gave bail. The second time, in December 1991, three masked men broke into my house in Islamabad, ransacked it, pulled guns on my two sons, beat them up and told them, “Tell your father to write against the government again and see what happens”. In 1995, I was threatened once again and I had to take my entire family away. My newspaper then, Dawn, decided to post me to Washington as their correspondent. This time, I feared that I could be physically targeted again. So I decided to leave the country.
Q. What do you propose to do now?
A. I will be writing out of Washington for some time and will return to Pakistan around the October polls. My days in Pakistan were very exciting as I maintained a completely independent editorial policy and pursued it to the last day. In the memos written by the owner, he repeatedly complains that I was not consulting him on policies. I had no need to, as he watches his own commercial interests. Source
Oath of citizenship (United States)
The United States Oath of Allegiance (officially referred to as the “Oath of Allegiance,” 8 C.F.R. Part 337 (2008)) is an oath that must be taken by all immigrants who wish to become United States citizens. The first officially recorded Oaths of Allegiance were made on May 30th, 1778 at Valley Forge, during the Revolutionary War.
The current oath is as follows:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
In acknowledgement whereof I have hereunto affixed my signature.
Shaheen Sehbai 15 October 2004.