Government rejoinder to Sehbai’s news analysis
ISLAMABAD: The Government of Pakistan issued a rejoinder to the News Analysis written by Shaheen Sehbai and published in The News on March 23.
The rejoinder issued by the Press Information Department said: “Apropos Shaheen Sehbai’s “What Zardari did not say and did not see” published in The News of March 23, 2011, it is sad that the Group Editor of your esteemed daily has once again chosen to ridicule a democratically elected President of Pakistan and to trivialise his honouring of a historic obligation placed on him by the Constitution of Pakistan.
“In his signature ‘beltway bully’ style, writing from a far off land and ensconced in his shell of hatred, Sehbai has targeted President Asif Ali Zardari’s address to the joint sitting of the Parliament on March 22, which in itself is a historic and unprecedented occasion. Sehbai accuses the president of not saying or seeing what the writer sees as his own version of absolute truths. However, in his hurry to rubbish it completely, Sehbai himself has grossly ignored some very important facts about the president’s address.
“A fact totally lost on Mr Sehbai is that this is the first time ever in the history of Pakistan that a democratically elected president has delivered his fourth consecutive address to the Parliament. As is the fact that in the past, dictators refused to carry out this constitutional duty, in clear violation of parliamentary laws, thereby negating the supreme position and authority that the Constitution places in the elected house of representatives. Such is the importance of this particular presidential obligation that even the opposition political parties have paid it their due recognition as a key indicator of the strengthening of democracy in the country.
“Yet, democratic processes and their continuation seem to be the least of Mr Sehbai’s journalistic concerns, so much so that he refuses to acknowledge the fundamental changes in governance that have taken place with the stroke of President Zardari’s own pen. He accuses the same president of running a one-man show – a president who himself called upon the Parliament in 2009 to correct the historic imbalance created by the notorious 17th Amendment in the balance of power between the offices of the president and the prime minister. This is the same president who empowered the Parliament to deliver the 18th Amendment in 2010 for restoration of the democratic Constitution of Pakistan. And this is the same president who signed this historic law that has transferred unprecedented powers from the office of the president to the office of the prime minister.
“And yet while President Zardari paid glowing tributes to the Parliament in his address yesterday for achieving such historic constitutional milestones as the 18th and 19th amendments through national consensus, he is accused by Mr Sehbai of having failed to have depth and vision for his country. Is this not factual oversight on the writer’s part?
“Mr Sehbai uses derogatory and defamatory language while attacking the president and accusing him of turning Pakistan into a “pariah state, despised internationally, distrusted by global economic and financial institutions.”
The writer would serve well to open his own eyes and see – and report, if he is an objective journalist – that pariah states are not granted Friends of Democratic Pakistan forums, IPI and TAPI gas pipeline projects, EU trade concessions, multi-billion dollar US and UK development assistance packages, and regular visits by heads of state of countries like China and Turkey, and heads of global governance institutions like the United Nations.
“Should he decide to practice impartiality for a change and put aside personal grudges, Mr Sehbai would open his own eyes and acknowledge the unprecedented legislation for protection and empowerment of women and labour that the president has signed off into Parliamentary Acts, again with national consensus.
“All in all, his ‘analysis’ is based on not fact-based argumentation, but a vitriolic verbosity that smacks of personal bias against the president. In doing so, and most unfortunately, Mr Sehbai even resorts to using his own media group’s case – which is before Pakistan’s honourable and independent courts – to accuse the president of “buying or bullying” the media.
“The use of such derogatory and defamatory language and baseless accusations against a head of state – whose democratic government has provided unprecedented freedom to the media and whose democratic government considers media as its democratic partner – is uncalled for and must immediately be noted with complete seriousness by your esteemed newspaper,” the rejoinder concluded.
Shaheen Sehbai’s response: Facts speak for themselves and whatever the government may claim, the readers and people of Pakistan can judge for themselves whether the claims are matched by conduct, performance and results on the ground. The personal attacks and allegations of bias and grudges should be ignored, as the official spokesmen have nothing else to say to defend the record of President Zardari.
The claim of giving the media “unprecedented freedom” must, however, be contested with full force as the media has fought and earned this freedom, inch by inch and day by day, and what Mr Zardari’s government has done to crush the independent media is an open book for everyone to read. It is scandalous for the spokesman to claim, like many other similar claims, that these freedoms are a gift from the government.
Instead of assigning his Pakistan and US-based cronies to target the messenger, President Zardari should focus on his own conduct and performance which will help him far more than buying false praise and planting cooked up accolades in the media. No further comment is necessary.
Source: The News