The three (anti-ISI) musketeers and their D’Artagnan – by Mahvish Afridi




One must commend Omar Waraich on his alleged sense of humour when he wrote: “When Pakistani Journalists Take On the ISI in The Time in order to present his friends and collegues as being under pressure from the ISI for their alleged “anti-ISI” therefore “anti-establishment” “stance”.

If Mr. Waraich was being sarcastic, it would be hard to arrive at that conclusion given that this post lacks the context, nuance, sophistication and wit that makes for decent sarcasm. However, all indications are that Mr. Waraich is serious and took these three gentlemen at their word and got behind to support them. Here is what he wrote in their support:



Najam Sethi

The ISI has contacted Sethi, Haider and other journalists whom it feels have unfairly represented the spy agency.” Sethi told TIME, “For what I’ve been saying since the bin Laden raid, I have incurred the wrath of the ISI. The agency has officially expressed its anger and annoyance and irritation.”


Ejaz Haider

Of course, in view of the general anti-ISI sentiments in Pakistan in the aftermath of Saleem Shahzad’s murder, several journalists found it convenient and opportunistic to write a mild, shallow criticism of the ISI/army, something which Omar Waraich celebrates as “a recent wave of unprecedented criticism of the military”.

A striking example is a bluntly worded and widely read column by Ejaz Haider, a defense specialist who writes for several newspapers. “The ISI, the agency that you head, is being accused of Saleem’s murder,” Haider wrote in the op-ed that was cast as an open letter to ISI chief Lieut. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha. “You must know that the ISI is widely reviled and dreaded at home. For an agency that was set up primarily for strategic intelligence, this is quite an achievement.”

Hamid Mir

“The agency has officially expressed its anger and annoyance and irritation.” A third journalist, Hamid Mir, a political-talk-show host, goes further. The ISI, Mir alleges, recently approached him to ask that he cease his endorsement of the current civilian government. “I have refused to extend my support to the armed forces’ interference in politics,” he says. “That’s why they’re against me.”

Three heroes:

For their comments about the military establishment, the three journalists could soon find themselves appearing before the Supreme Court. Sardar Muhammad Ghazi, a lawyer who served as deputy attorney general under the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf, has filed a 20-page petition calling on the court to stop them from disparaging the army and the ISI and to declare that such criticisms will not be tolerated and should lead to the shutdown of the offending television channel and newspaper. “These people are criticizing my armed forces,” Ghazi says indignantly. “They sit and castigate the army. I can’t tolerate it. There should be somebody who should come forward and say the media should be controlled.” In the petition, he accuses Sethi, Haider and Mir of being “out to promote the foreign agenda to destabilize and denuclearize Pakistan.”

In terms of literary parallels, this act of camaraderie and support reminds one of the timeless novel by Alexandre Dumas, where the Three Musketeers can be substituted for these three “independent” and “maverick” journalists and Omar Waraich can be their young idealistic protege as represented by D’Artagnan. All of them like to think of themselves as anti-establishment; thus the role of Cardinal Richelieu can be played by Generals Kayani and Pasha. The Three Musketeers and D’Artagnan of course profess their loyalty to the King and France. Here is where the plot analogy starts to unravel.

Given the rabid, virulent and personal hatred that, to some extent barring Hamid Mir, all these three journalists bear for President Zardari and the late Benazir Bhutto, the romantic comparison with the Three Musketeers starts to fade. Furthermore, given what these three musketeers have written, it becomes clear that in 17th century France, they would have been serving and plotting with the Cardinal and not being supportive of the king. Here is a sample of their “anti-establishment” (sarcasm intended) writings:

Hamid Mir: Secret audio conversation of Hamid Mir with a Punjabi Talib associate of Hakimullah Mehsud
Najam Sethi:  Najam Sethi and his services against an elected Prime Minister
Ejaz Haider: Silence Of The Liberal Lambs: A rebuttal to Ejaz Haider – By Dr. Taqi

Let us also remember that this is the same Najam Sethi who was suspiciously flying around in a military helicopter as early as 1976; something that did not escape the notice of his collegues of the 1970’s anti-establishment London Group.  This was also the same Najam Sethi who was abusive to the late Benazir Bhutto in semi-public gatherings in the mid-1990’s; his abusiveness towards her was only matched by his sycophancy to the Caretaker Government that emerged as a result of a civilian coup by Farooq Leghari.  Mr. Sethi then went on to play a significant part as a minister in that caretaker cabinent!  How convinient.

As for Ejaz, his racist, chauvinist and bigoted views on Baloch, Hazara and Pashtun issues are disturbing enough. On top of  that, what does one make of his forceful defense of one of ISI’s main assets, the leading Al Qaeda and Taliban affiliate, the Shia-killing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi?

This brings us to the time tested tactic when even patent friends of the ISI are forced to adopt a cosmetic anti-ISI line of mixing one ounce of truth in one tonne of lies in order to demonstrate their neutrality, or even better, feign an “anti-establishment” posture as Omar Waraich want us to believe.

In the aftermath of the Taliban-advocating, pro-military establishment USIP-JI report, one wonders how Omar Waraich can continue to think of his three musketeers as “anti-ISI”.  All three were part of the 53 panel of elite “foreign policy experts” and Ejaz has already come out in support of this academically and ethically challenged report with his typical strawmanning and other dishonest tactics. If these three are still “anti-ISI”, why doesn’t Omar also write something in its favour. There is still a lot of USIP-JI money (nearly $5 million USD) to go around. Nasim Zehra, Imtiaz Gul and even the aspiring Nadir Hassan have jumped in to write in defense of this report.

My advice to Mr. Warraich: Don’t wait too long because five million dollars can only go so far divided as it is between the military establishment’s civilian mouthpieces (Moeed Yusuf, Shuja Nawaz take a bow) and their elitist compadres. And don’t worry about the consequences and other boring details such as consistency of principles. If Ejaz Haider, Najam Sethi and Hamid Mir are anti-establishment as per you, and if Sherry Rehman can remain a liberal icon (whose liberal profile you have been quite keenly promoting in accompaniment with Ayesha Tammy Haq) for the twitter brigade  (in spite of her JI being seen as a Pro-Taliban and Pro-Military establishment advocacy group), you will always be the idealistic articulate ‘D’Artagnan to the musketeers of the Deep State.

Acknowledgement: To Pakistan Blogzine for allowing me to use parts of their posts for developing this one. M.A.)



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