BBC's Stephen Sackur Dismantles Pakistani Opposition's Entire Narrative

Feverish spinning by pro-Opposition media spinmeisters suggests that BBC's Hard Talk host Stephen Sackur has done serious damage to the Pakistani Opposition's narrative about the Army and democracy in the country. By his aggressive questioning of Ishaq Dar, former Finance Minister and  former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's close associate, Sackur has not only dismantled the Opposition parties' narrative but also clearly established that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a convicted criminal and a hypocrite. 

Opposition Narrative:

Ex finance minister Ishaq Dar presented the Opposition narrative focusing on Pakistani "military's interference" in domestic politics, "rigged" 2018 elections and "selected"  Prime Minister Imran Khan. BBC Hard Talk host Stephen Sackur challenged this narrative and questioned the credibility of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Ishaq Dar.  Here are a few snippets of the conversation: 

Sackur: It is quite clear that he (Nawaz Sharif) is a convicted criminal...he (Nawaz Sharif) was given 10 years' sentence which was later reduced to 7 years... Nawaz Sharif is in London on medical grounds as are are demanding an early election and an end to Imran Khan's government...what credibility do you have with the people of Pakistan? 

 Dar: What credibility does Imran Khan was a rigged election (in 2018)....a stolen election...Pakistan Human Rights commission said so" 

Sackur: EU (election) monitors reported some concerns about not just one party but several different parties..but they said the result was credible....Imran Khan's victory was credible. 

Dar: Let us be very clear; Mr Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister or otherwise is not anti-military. He blames certain individuals. If he talks of certain interventions which were against the oath and against the constitution of Pakistan, what is wrong with that?

Sackur: Nawaz Sharif worked hand in glove with military dictator General Zia ul Haq and now complains about the military interfering in politics. What kind of hypocrisy is that?

 Dar: No no, not the entire institution but individuals. 

Sackur: So, you are condemning Gen. Bajwa?

Pro-Opposition Media Spin:

Some in the pro-Opposition media are suggesting that the fault lies in Ishaq Dar rather than the Opposition's narrative about Pakistan Army and democracy in the country. Others are questioning Mr. Sackur's assertion that European European monitor found 2018 Pakistan elections were "credible". 

Mr. Dar did an interview with Naya Daur where he asserted that the BBC Hard Talk host was "unprepared and misinformed" and that he, Dar, saw "pressure on interviewer". 

Stephen Sackur vs Hameed Haroon: 

Attacking the "establishment", a euphemism for Pakistani military, is a favorite pastime of some in Pakistani media, particularly Pakistan's leading media groups Dawn and Jang. These two groups led the pack in undermining confidence in Pakistan's 2018 elections. 

Hameed Haroon, Chief Executive of Pakistan's Dawn Media Group, claimed in in a Hard Talk interview with Stephen Sackur that the Pakistani military and intelligence services were "orchestrating" July 25, 2018 general elections in favor of a particular political party. Here's an except of Hameed Haroon's interview with BBC's Stephen Sackur as the host:

Sackur: You are defenders of journalistic integrity, independence and impartiality in Pakistan but you are not seen as entirely neutral and impartial because over the last couple of years you are increasingly giving platform to one particular political player Nawaz Sharif who's run into an awful lot of trouble due to allegations of corruption, the self-proclaimed impartial, independent, neutral media group covering Pakistani politics are now seen to be supporting and sympathetic to Nawaz Sharif and his daughter who it has has to be said are convicted criminals...

Haroon: There's an element of orchestration by military of a campaign against us...

Sackur: Where is your evidence of orchestration?

Haroon: If you look at the social media attacks on Dawn by the ISPR trolls....not just going after us but anybody who stands in their way.


It took Stephen Sackur, a BBC journalist, to challenge the Pakistani Opposition's anti-military narrative twice in the last two years. First, Sackur did it with Hameed Haroon, the CEO of Pakistan's Dawn Media Group. More recently, Sackur did it again with Opposition politician Ishaq Dar.  Feverish spinning by pro-Opposition media spinmeisters suggests that  Sackur has done serious damage to the Pakistani Opposition's narrative about the Army and democracy in the country. By his aggressive questioning of Ishaq Dar, former Finance Minister and  former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's close associate, Sackur has not only dismantled the Opposition parties' narrative but also clearly established former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a convicted criminal and a hypocrite. 

Here are short video clips of BBC's Stephen Sackur's Hardtalk interviewing Ishaq Dar and Hameed Haroon:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistan Among Top 3 Sources of Money Laundering

Pakistan 2018 Elections Predictions

Free Speech: Myth vs Reality

Panama Leaks in Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif vs "Khalai Makhlooq"

"Genocide" Headline Skewed All East Pakistan Media Coverage in 1971

Strikingly Similar Narratives of Donald Trump and Nawaz Sharif

Ex CIA Official on Pakistan's ISI

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel


Riaz Haq said…
Bennett-Jones, Owen. The Bhutto Dynasty (pp. 102-104). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition. Excerpt:

One of the families affected was the little-known Sharif family, who were persuaded by the loss of their steel foundry that, to continue doing business, they would have to get into politics. Zulfikar thereby unwittingly laid the basis of a dynasty that would go on to challenge his own. Faced by this resistance, Zulfikar was left flailing around as he told his finance minister to threaten to hang businessmen who did not bring back foreign exchange. But as Mubashir Hassan pointed out, the government had left ‘no way for the industrialists to cooperate with us... "we neither got their money nor their cooperation".

Some nationalisations did reduce the power of families that controlled industrial assets, although, as the Sharifs showed, many went on to thrive. But any gains have to be judged alongside the economic problems that arose. Political, rather than economic, factors came to influence decisions on where plants were opened. Loss-making firms were not declared bankrupt for fear of the political impact of job losses. And the numbers employed in the state-owned companies skyrocketed as politicians handed out jobs as gifts to constituents. No Pakistani leader since Zulfikar has tried to emulate his nationalisation programme.

Riaz Haq said…
Legal Trail of Hudabiya Case

The members of ‘House of Sharifs’, facing inquiries by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and trials before the Accountability Court for alleged corruption, abuse of public funds, money laundering and tax evasion, have been claiming of being billionaires since the 1940s. Their main defense is that the assets owned by them, at home and abroad, have been earned through the family business. They claim that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) could not find a single proof of any kind of corruption, embezzlement or financial favours by abuse of public office. Ousted/disqualified Nawaz Sharif bitterly and repeatedly mentions that his conviction is on iqama and not Panama.

The reality is that in 1981 when Nawaz Sharif was picked by a military dictator as the Finance Minister of Punjab, the family owned only one re-rolling mill. In the next few years, the business empire of the family expanded “miraculously”: Ittefaq Sugar Mills (1982), Brothers Steel (1983), Farooq Barkat (Pvt) Ltd (1985), Brothers Textile Mills (1986), Brothers Sugar Mills Ltd (1986), Ittefaq Textile (1987), Ramzan Buksh Textiles (1987) and Khalid Siraj Textile Mills (1988). In all these years, Nawaz Sharif was close to General Ziaul Haq, served as the Punjab Finance Minister/Member Punjab Advisory Board (1981-1984) and Chief Minister, Punjab (1985 to 1990). It was during 1981 to 1989 that the ‘House of Sharifs’ received generous loans from banks for “extraordinary expansion”. But strangely, even after all this extraordinary expansion in business, wealth tax returns filed by all members of the ‘House of Sharifs’ till 1990 showed net wealth of less than Rs. 50 million!

In 1992, the Information Wing of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) released an account of alleged corruption of Nawaz’s rule in a booklet, The Plunder of Pakistan. A spokesperson of the then ‘Ittefaq Group’ said in a counter-statement that the group “has obtained loans worth Rs. 4.420 billion only from the commercial banks contrary to Salman Taseer’s claim of Rs. 12 billion.” According to the spokesperson of Ittefaq Group, they had only 14 companies with assets of Rs. 6 billion.

It is a matter of record that Nawaz Sharif, in his speeches after the release of Panama Papers admitted that after losing industrial units in East Pakistan and the nationalisation of Ittefaq Foundry by Bhutto, the family was left with nothing. He claimed that after nationalisation his father tried his luck in the United Arab Emirates where a steel re-rolling mill was set up. Mian Muhammad Sharif returned home within a year or two after the start of operations of this mill. Obviously, in such a short time, he could not have earned millions after losing everything to what was termed as a “cruel act” by Bhutto!

It is an incontrovertible fact that lady luck smiled on the Sharifs after General Ziaul Haq returned them Ittefaq Foundry without any payment and appointed Nawaz Sharif as the Finance Minister of Punjab in 1981 and then Member of the Punjab Advisory Board. Later, he became the Chief Minister of Punjab in 1985, served as the Caretaker Chief Minister and got re-elected for the post in 1988. In 1990, Nawaz Sharif became the Prime Minister of Pakistan—a position he held three times (November 1, 1990 to July 18, 1993; February 17, 1997 to October 12, 1999; and June 5, 2013 to July 28, 2017).

Riaz Haq said…
"Despite these issues, many consider the 1973 constitution to have been Zulfikar’s greatest achievement and credit it with holding West Pakistan together as a single country. It was, by any standards, extraordinary that Zulfikar managed to push it through with no one in the National Assembly voting against it. Mubashir Hassan described how the final hold-out – a cleric – was persuaded to vote in favour with a payoff: ‘The amount was settled and Bhutto described the scene to me how when the fellow came to President’s House to collect the money, Bhutto threw a packet of notes on the floor and ordered him to pick it up. There the man was, moving over the carpet on all fours, picking a bundle from here and a bundle from there. Bhutto was mightily amused.’83 By using all his political skills – bribery included – Zulfikar had made a significant contribution to Pakistan’s national story. ‘The country owes him everything,’ said Hafeez Pirzada, the man who worked on the constitution for Zulfikar, ‘even its continuance as a sovereign country. He was not the founder, but the saviour of the country.’84 It’s a fair point – 1971 was as big a disaster as could be imagined, and Zulfikar dealt with it in a way that it is hard to imagine any other civilian or military leader in the country’s history having been able to do"

Bennett-Jones, Owen. The Bhutto Dynasty (pp. 107-108). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Riaz Haq said…
Malcolm Turnbull says News Corp the most powerful Australian political actor

Giving evidence by video link, Mr Turnbull said the Murdoch media business had evolved into a powerful political force that, unlike political parties, was unaccountable to the Australian public.

“This is the fundamental problem that we’re facing: the most powerful political actor in Australia is not the Liberal Party or the National Party or the Labor Party. It is News Corp. And it’s utterly unaccountable,” Mr Turnbull said. “It’s controlled by an American family and their interests are no longer, if they ever were, coextensive with our own.”

Mr Turnbull, a Liberal, has joined former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd as a strident critic of News Corp and has backed his push for a royal commission into the influence of the Murdoch empire on the Australian media and political landscape. The media diversity inquiry, which is examining issues of media concentration in Australia, was established by the Senate after more than 500,000 people signed a petition by Mr Rudd voicing those concerns.

In his evidence to the inquiry in February, Mr Rudd said News Corp used systematic character assassinations to cultivate a culture of fear among politicians and engaged in campaign journalism against issues such as action on climate change.

At the same public hearing, News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller dismissed Mr Rudd and Mr Turnbull’s criticisms as “a convenient diversion from their own failings” during his evidence. News Corp executive Campbell Reid gave evidence the company was “professional, accountable media” that operated in the Australian landscape “with an extraordinary degree of both government, and indeed regulatory, oversight and legal oversight if we get things wrong”.

“Our editing process – for all professional media – is high stakes because we can be charged with contempt of court, our journalists can be threatened with jail, we can be taken to the Press Council, and we can be held up to scrutiny by other organisations, which is completely different to the misinformation industry that is perpetuated by and is a driver of, frankly, profit online,” Mr Campbell told the inquiry in February.

Mr Turnbull echoed many of Mr Rudd’s concerns, saying he had experienced “bullying and standover tactics” from News Corp when he served in the Parliament.

Riaz Haq said…
In 1791 it was articulated in the First Amendment to the US Bill of Rights. In 1795, Edmund Burke stood up in the British House of Commons and asserted that the press had become what he called “the fourth estate of the Realm”.

If the media are to play their part in any democratic revival, however, financial and material security will be only a part of what is required.

One factor that has contributed to the present crisis in democracy is polarisation, the opening up of deep divisions between the main political parties of mature democracies. This has been magnified by media partisanship.

There is a lot of research evidence for this. One of the most significant is a 2017 study that showed the link in the United States between people’s television viewing habits and their political affiliations.

A further factor in the crisis has been the emergence of the “fake news” phenomenon. In the resultant swirling mass of information, misinformation and disinformation that constitutes the digital communications universe, people have returned to traditional mass media in the hope that they can trust what they see and hear there.

Read more: Trust in quality news outlets strong during coronavirus pandemic

The Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual global study of public attitudes of trust towards a variety of institutions, including the media, showed that since 2015, public trust in the traditional media as a source of news had increased, and their trust in social media as a source of news had decreased.

Populism and scapegoating
A third factor in the crisis, exacerbated by the first two, is the rise of populism. Its defining characteristics are distrust of elites, negative stereotyping, the creation of a hated “other”, and scapegoating. The hated “other” has usually been defined in terms of race, colour, ethnicity, nationality, religion or some combination of them.

Powerful elements of the news media, most notably Fox News in the United States, Sky News in Australia and the Murdoch tabloids in Britain, have exploited and promoted populist sentiment.

This sentiment is reckoned to have played a significant part in the election of Trump.

It is also considered to have played a part in the outcome of the Brexit referendum.

It follows that if these are contributing factors to the crisis in democracy, then the media has a part in any democratic revival.

To do so, it needs to take four major steps. One is to focus resources on what is called public interest journalism: the reporting of parliament, the executive government, courts, and powerful institutions in which the public places its trust, such as major corporations and political parties. This work needs to include a substantial investigative component.

A second is to recommit to the professional ethical requirements of accuracy, fairness, truth-telling, impartiality, and respect for persons.

The third is to take political partisanship out of news coverage. Media outlets are absolutely entitled to be partisan in their opinions, but when it taints the news coverage, the public trust is betrayed.

The fourth is to recalibrate the relationship between professional mass media and social media.

That recalibration involves taking a far more critical approach to social media content than has commonly been the case until now.

While it is true the early practices of simply regurgitating stuff from social media have largely been abandoned, social media still exerts a disproportionate influence on news values. Just because something goes viral on social media doesn’t make it news unless it concerns a matter of substance.
Riaz Haq said…
مہینوں طوفان اٹھا رکھا تھا فوج نے 2018 کے الیکشن میں دھاندلی کروا دی. لندن بیٹھے میاں صاحب عرف چے گویرا ثانی فوج کی سیاست میں مداخلت کے خلاف جنگ لڑ رہے تھے، جیسے ہی NA 249 میں دھاندلی کا سامنا ہوا نواز لیگ نے بیلٹ پیپرز فوج کی تحویل میں دینے کا مطالبہ کر دیا. اللہ یقیناً الحق ہے


#NawazSharif’s #PMLN promotes civilian supremacy but demands that NA249 ballots be given by #Pakistan’s Chief Elections Commissioner to #PakistanArmy’s custody

The Pakis­tan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Sunday continued their war of words over the outcome of recently-held by-election on a National Assembly seat (NA-249) in Karachi as the latter submitted an application to the chief election commissioner (CEC) asking him to place election material, including ballot papers, under the supervision of the Army or Rangers.

The application was submitted by Miftah Ismail, the PML-N candidate in the constituency, after the PPP “welcomed” the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to stay announcement of official results for a recount, and asked the PML-N not to accuse the party of winning the seat with the support of the “establishment”.

The leaders of the two parties, in their statements, however, continued to attack each other with the allegations of having a covert support of the “establishment”.

PPP candidate Qadir Mandokhail had won the NA-249 by-election in Karachi by a small margin after securing 16,156 votes, while Dr Ismail had secured second position with 15,473 votes, according to provisional results released on Friday. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and PML-N had cried foul and subsequently rejected the results.
Riaz Haq said…
#PMLN leaders now claim that they did nothing wrong and are blameless for #Pakistan’s #economic woes. I suggest to them that they watch
@MiftahIsmail explain @MIshaqDar50’s missteps in keeping PKR overvalued leading to low #exports & BoP crisis #PTI faced
Riaz Haq said…
#UK denies #NawazSharif's visa extension request.
In a video statement, Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Pakistan had already requested the UK authorities not to give refuge to people involved in #corruption in the country.

In a statement, Marriyum said the UK's Home Department had refused to extend Nawaz Sharif's stay in the country, adding that the PML-N leader can challenge the decision in the immigration tribunal.

She said that the former prime minister's lawyer's had filed an appeal for visa extension with the immigration tribunal, adding that the UK Home Department's decision would remain ineffective till the immigration tribunal reaches a verdict.

Answering a question, Marriyum said that “this does not in any way amount to a political asylum and is only a request for an extension in stay on medical grounds”.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC), however, had declared him a proclaimed offender on December 2 as the former premier failed to appear before the bench – originally formed to hear his appeals against his convictions – despite various notices.

According to a report published in London-based Financial Times newspaper in October last year, Pakistan also asked the British government to repatriate Nawaz Sharif through a letter that Adviser to the PM on Accountability Mirza Shehzad Akbar wrote to British Home Secretary Priti Patel.

In March, the Ministry of Interior recommended the Foreign Office to not renew the passport of Nawaz, saying that the former prime minister had failed to satisfy the government on why his passport should be renewed and therefore he cannot be given ‘further relief’ until he appears in court.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had sent a request to the Pakistan High Commission in the UK to renew the passport of the three-time premier which was later sent to the interior ministry for further processing.

The interior ministry, while rejecting the request, said that both the IHC and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) have declared Nawaz Sharif a proclaimed offender and therefore he cannot be given further relief until he appears in court.

"Nawaz Sharif could not satisfy why his passport should be renewed further. If he wants to return, he can apply for an emergency travel document (ETD). The Pakistan High Commission should respond to Nawaz's request in writing that his passport cannot be renewed," the letter further stated.

Riaz Haq said…
Excerpt of Our Man, Richard Holbrooke's biography by George Packer

Pakistan’s generals, not its politicians, defined the national interest. General Ashfaq Kayani, the chief of army staff, and General Shuja Pasha, head of the ISI, were Punjabis from the lower middle class. The military offered a path upward to hardworking Pakistanis like them, and it taught them to despise the civilian politicians as privileged, selfish, undisciplined. Kayani was a chain-smoking golfer with a strategic mind that remained stuck in the 1950s, when the existential threat to Pakistan came from India. He had studied at Fort Leavenworth and admired the U.S. armed forces. He had all the time in the world for his American counterpart, Admiral Mullen, who made twenty-seven trips to Pakistan as chairman of the Joint Chiefs and always dined alone with Kayani at his house in Rawalpindi, the cantonment city next to Islamabad, patiently trying to understand what Pakistan wanted from the United States. Kayani had less interest in seeing Holbrooke.

Packer, George. Our Man . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Riaz Haq said…
Excerpt of "Our Man", US diplomat Richard Holbrooke's biography by George Packer

As for Pakistan’s politicians, they would always promise things they couldn’t deliver because they didn’t have the popular standing at home. The public was divided on violent Islamists but nearly united in its strident anti-Americanism, which no amount of flood relief could change. But the promises kept coming along with the deceptions, because the generals and the politicians needed the Americans. It was like theater, Haqqani said. The whole region was a theater in which everyone understood their part, except the Americans.

These lessons were delivered below the waterline. They bore no resemblance to the ambassador’s official cables to the foreign secretary in Islamabad after his formal meetings with Holbrooke, in which he echoed the Pakistani military’s suspicion of every American move. His cables were part of the theater. Holbrooke’s labors were gargantuan. The contemplation of them wears me out. Repeated trips to Islamabad, strategic dialogues in Washington, donor meetings in Tokyo and Madrid, the bilats, the trilats, the fifth draft of the thirty-seventh memo, the sheer output of words—in pursuit of a chimera. All the while knowing what he was dealing with—all the while thinking he could do it anyway, with another memo, another meeting… One evening he was sitting in Haqqani’s library when the ambassador took a copy of To End a War off the shelf. He opened the book and read aloud a description description of the Balkan presidents at Dayton—their selfishness, their lack of concern for the lives of their people. “Do you feel that you’re dealing with a similar situation now?” Haqqani asked. “God, I’d forgotten about that,” Holbrooke said. “Maybe it’s true.” Haqqani asked what Holbrooke was hoping to achieve. “I am trying to get the Pakistani military to be incrementally less deceitful toward the United States.”

Packer, George. Our Man . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Riaz Haq said…
Not 'Lifafa', Pakistani media has a new name: 'Basket Journalists'. Thanks to a leaked audio

New Delhi: A new leaked audio between Pakistan Muslim League (N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz and party leader Pervaiz Rashid is fuelling the Pakistani public’s anger towards the media.

While the politicians can be heard purportedly scheming to control independent media, the audio claims that certain journalists will receive ‘baskets’ from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The ‘aam aadmi’ of Pakistan now have a new name for those who are betraying public trust: ‘Bas
Riaz Haq said…
Ch Aitzaz Ahsan


Video clip of Aitaza Ahsan showing him describing Nawaz Sharif as a fugitive criminal appearing on Pakistan TV and directing the PMLN government of Shahbaz Sharif on running the country.

Aitazaz is also critical of the fact that Salman Shahbaz Sharif, another fugitive from Pakistani law, participating in official meetings in Saudi Arabia.

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