Ansar Abbasi’s “Truth” Problem

Cross-posted from Pakistan Media Watch

Just this week I posted about Jang Group’s problem with facts. Now, as if to prove my point, Ansar Abbasi writes an article filled with so many problems and errors that it’s hard to keep them all straight. The article in question appeared in Friday’s issue of The News titled, “SC’s resolve unnerves Presidency; US.”

Immediately from reading the title I began to laugh out loud. Why would the Supreme Court’s ‘resolve’ unnerve the USA? Only recently we were being told that the USA had abandoned Zardari, now the US is trying to protect him from the judiciary? Which is it?

Of course, it is no surprise that Ansar gets this confused. He also confuses quite a bit about the Americans. Let’s examine what he writes in his article:

Contrary to what the US media writes about the Pakistani rulers and the widely respected judiciary, the US takes pride in the independence of its judiciary that has not only refused to accept the question of immunity in the case of President Clinton but also did the same in the case of President Nixon.

It was primarily the US media that forced Nixon to resign without being tried or impeached. The US media also ignores the role of Washington and London in the introduction of the widely condemned NRO, which was promulgated to close down corruption cases against a select class of politicians, bureaucrats and past rulers including the incumbent president of Pakistan.

Where to begin? First, Nixon was not forced to resign by the American Supreme Court or the American media. Rather, he chose to resign when he understood that the parliament was going to impeach him. When Nixon knew that he did not have the political support to withstand a vote of impeachment in parliament, he resigned.

Mr. Nixon said he decided he must resign when he concluded that he no longer had “a strong enough political base in the Congress” to make it possible for him to complete his term of office.

Compare this to Clinton, who actually was impeached. But even though he was impeached, he was not removed from office. Again, too, this was a decision by the parliament, not the judiciary or the media.

The first vote was 228 to 206 in favour of impeaching President Clinton for perjury in front of a grand jury. Congressmen also passed another charge on obstruction of justice by 221 to 212.

However, he will not yet be removed from office.

So, we have shown that Ansar is wrong about the US impeachment of Nixon and Clinton. What else is he wrong about?

Interestingly, he is wrong about the NRO and the US. Mr. Abbasi says, “One wonders if the US media would allow the introduction of an NRO-like legislation in its own country.” Actually, the USA did just this after its civil war. The “Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction,” gave the President the “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

Mr. Abbasi, you must wonder no longer. I have done your research for you and answered your question. You may thank me at a later time.

Not only was Mr. Abbasi wrong about this, but in his own newspaper yesterday, Mr. Shafqat Mahmood remembered history a little bit differently than Ansar might want to admit: “The media welcomed the NRO…” Perhaps Ansar just had a bad memory that day.

Ansar goes on and on with a conspiracy theory about how the US media is being dictated to from Pakistan’s Embassy in Washington. This is ridiculous fantasy. Look at some of the many stories about Pakistan in the American media. Pakistan: A Mounting Problem for ObamaPakistan attorney general quits amid graft dispute.  Wasthis dictated by the Embassy also?

Even the Time article that Ansar takes great pains to point out quotes an unnamed PPP leader also quotes an unnamed source from the Supreme Court that supports the Chief Justice.

On the contrary, says a legal expert at the Supreme Court and Chaudhry associate speaking on condition of anonymity, the conflict is caused by the “government [wanting] a chief justice and court which is compliant, not independent.”

Mr. Abbasi does not tell his readers this, though, instead leading many unsuspecting people to believe that the Time article is biased when it is clearly not. Why the dishonesty and hypocrisy?

Now let’s look at Mr. Abbasi’s own newspaper, which on the same day published an article by Shafqat Mahmood that points out thatthe judiciary has become controversial because of its actions.

There is no better example of this than the perceptions regarding Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the judiciary. On March 9, 2007, Mr Chaudhry became a media and public hero. This happened because of the perception that Musharraf dismissed him illegally and then mistreated him and his family.

Thus began the lawyers’ and people’s campaign for an independent judiciary. This was not individual adulation, although it seemed so. The chief justice symbolised society’s protest against a wrong done. And the lawyers who were in the forefront of the struggle were champions of liberty and freedom.

Fast-forward to 2010. There are increasing voices in the media that the superior judiciary is transgressing its mandate and at times behaving like a political institution. By frequently visiting the bars, it seems to be cultivating lawyers and often senior advocates and bar officeholders speak on its behalf.

Serious transgressions by lawyers are also ignored. For a lawyer to slap a judge and for the superior judiciary to arrange a rapprochement is just not right. This man should have been behind bars.

But congratulatory sounds emanating from all levels of the judiciary indicate as if a great conclusion to the crisis has been arrived at. Earlier, too, the judiciary had ignored lawyers beating up policemen and media representatives.

This is not about the NRO or Asif Zardari. The media welcomed the NRO, and Asif Zardari does not pass the bar of morality as far as society is concerned. The problem is that the PPP’s charge of one-sided accountability is beginning to get resonance. And the language and attitude being shown in open court by the judges is creating a backlash.

Was The News under the influence of some vast conspiracy when they published this article? Obviously not this is silly. But notice that Mr. Shafqat Mahmood’s article appears on the opinion page, while Mr. Ansar Abbasi’s column appears as “news analysis.” Now who is showing some bias?

Mr. Abbasi has the cheek to criticize Time for quoting an unnamed PPP leader, but even in his same article Ansar Abbasi quotes an unnamed, “credible source in the Pakistan embassy in Washington.” Why the hypocrisy Mr. Abbasi?

Here is the point: There are articles in the international press – not only in the USA, but around the entire world, that are critical of the judiciary. There are also some that are praising the judiciary. This is also true at home. Why? Because different people have different opinions.

It is silly to suggest that there is some PPP ability to dictate to the international media. If this were the case, why can’t they even control the media at home? It is sad to see a journalist of Mr. Abbasi’s career level making such ridiculous claims.

Mr. Abbasi, I beg of you, please learn to check your facts. Learn to tell the truth. Learn to present an unbiased analysis. At a minimum, learn to put your opinion on the opinion page. You must learn tolearn. Otherwise, you will continue to write pieces that are “flawed, based on half-truths, highly biased and far from the facts.” And we all know how much you hate that!

Related articles: Negativity unlimited: Ansar Abbasi’s reaction to the Constitutional Package



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