Najam Sethi, the most trusted man in Pakistan, brought to you by Malik Siraj Akbar

by admin

Malik Siraj Akbar, Editor in Chief of The Baloch Hal, is known for his flattery of the bold and the beautiful, ie. the rich, powerful elites of Pakistan. In the past he has been seen flattering Akbar S. Ahmed and Husain Haqqani. Now he has broken his own record of flattery by describing Najam Sethi as the most trusted man in Pakistan. Here are relevant xcerpts from Malik Siraj Akbar’s flattering piece on Najam Sethi in the Huffington Post:

Pakistan’s Walter Cronkite Heads the Regional Government
Written by Malik Siraj Akbar
Editor in Chief, ‘The Baloch Hal’


[PPP and PML-N have] picked up a veteran journalist with an unquestionable integrity to take care of the affairs of the government for the next two months.

Mr. Sethi is the founder of the Lahore-based liberal weekly, the Friday Times, and a popular talk-show host on Geo News, the nation’s first private news channel. His nonpartisan and accurate analyses on television have made him the equivalent of Pakistan’s Walter Cronkite, who was popularly known as “the most trusted man in America.” Mr. Sethi’s appointment is perhaps flatteringly the highest recognition of his impartiality.

Conservatives and hyper-nationalists have frequently expressed resentment to Mr. Sethi’s liberal views. They describe him too pro-west and critical of the Pakistani Taliban. In 1999, the powerful Directorate of Inter-Service Intelligence (I.S.I.) kidnapped him for what the state officials billed as a ‘controversial’ and “anti-Pakistan” speech he delivered in India. Recently, Mr. Sethi was once again threatened with death warnings which compelled him to flee to the United States where he temporarily undertook a fellowship at the New America Foundation in the Washington D.C. He returned to Pakistan only after publicizing the threats. While in Pakistan, Mr. Sethi aired his popular talk-show from a small studio established inside his house because he did not apparently consider driving from home to office a safe option.

Besides the professional integrity part, the appointment of Mr. Sethi also reflects the broader changing dynamics of the Pakistani news media. Since General Musharraf, the military ruler from 1999 to 2008, liberalized the media a decade ago, the news media has deeply influenced the society and politics in Pakistan. While some talk-show hosts, such as Mr. Sethi, have established themselves as highly credible, the others have become the agents of promoting conspiracy theories and instilling dangerous sentiments of hyper-nationalism among their viewers.


Reaction on Pakistani’s social media





3 Comments to “Najam Sethi, the most trusted man in Pakistan, brought to you by Malik Siraj Akbar”

  1. Qasida-e-Husain-Haqqani – by Malik Siraj Akbar

    Related post: From Qasida Khwani to Political Asylum: Malik Siraj Akbar’s convenient journalism

    Taken from Twitter, 27 July 2011, without any editing or alteration.

    maliksirajakber maliksirajakbar
    @husainhaqqani is a friend of #Baloch and #Balochistan. Criticizing him amounts to alienating such friends Who r unpopular wid radicals.

    maliksirajakber maliksirajakbar
    @uroojzia @mustikhan should not have criticized @husainhaqqani, a man who criticized #Pakistan’s #Balochistan policy inside the embassy

    maliksirajakber maliksirajakbar
    @husainhaqqani @uroojzia after today’s talk, I think u r more liberal and rational than many intellectuals and liberals in #pakistan

    maliksirajakber maliksirajakbar
    @husainhaqqani you clear support for #Baloch people’s rights and categorical rejection of stereotypes about our people is laudable.

    maliksirajakber maliksirajakbar
    @husainhaqqani @uroojzia and I also publicly apologize for my allegations on u based on @mustikhan article which I and he too couldn’t prove

    maliksirajakber maliksirajakbar
    @husainhaqqani @uroojzia politics aside, u r a true source of inspiration as a professor. 1may still have problems with Isb’s Baloch policy

    maliksirajakber maliksirajakbar
    @husainhaqqani thank you so much for making my day. U truly inspired the young audience with immense food for thought.

    maliksirajakber maliksirajakbar
    @husainhaqqani your today’s lecture about conspiracy theories, myth, rhetoric, rationale was one of the best I had ever heard. Thanks.

    maliksirajakber maliksirajakbar
    @husainhaqqani a man who is anti-Zaid Hamid, Imran Khan and Dr. Qyamat Masood can’t be an enemy of we, the liberals.

    maliksirajakber maliksirajakbar
    @husainhaqqani never heard a Pakistani leader who so passionately believes in the power of education, research, competition

    maliksirajakber maliksirajakbar
    @husainhaqqani opposes pan-Islamic confrontationist ambitions and can’t stop advocating research, education and rationale.

    maliksirajakber maliksirajakbar
    @husainhaqqani never ever form opinions about people until you talk to them urself and hear their thoughts. Some ppl may mislead u

  2. From Qasida Khwani to Political Asylum: Malik Siraj Akbar’s convenient journalism
    Related post: Qasida-e-Husain-Haqqani – by Malik Siraj Akbar

    We are cross-posting this interesting post by Baloch Hal editor Malik Siraj Akbar in which he “humbly and respectfully thanks the government of the United States of America” for granting him asylum in a country where in his own words he is sure he will not be judged “by the color of… skin but the content of … character.”

    Malik Siraj AKbar is commonly known to have the following peculiar features:

    1. Siraj belongs to the Najam Sethi lobby of the non-Baloch “champions” of the Baloch cause. The myth of Sethi’s contributions to the Baloch resistance movement has been shattered by none else than his own Baloch resistance colleague Asad Rehman in his interview with Siraj (what an irony!)

    Other people in Najam Sethi tribe include the following: Ejaz Haider, Urooj Zia, Beena Sarwar etc.

    2. According to senior Baloch journalist and activist, Ahmar Musti Khan, Siraj belongs to a Punjabi settler family in Balochistan. The American Friends of Balochistan have requested him to clarify if it is true that he is a Punjabi settler’s son to clear misperceptions in the minds of the people about his political loyalty, once and for all. While this does not make him less worthy or less equal, this does raise important questions about his transparency and integrity particularly when he presents himself (e.g. in the following post) as a “young endangered Baloch journalist”.

    3. Siraj has a track record of developing networks with and flattering influential people, even if they represent Pakistan’s establishment, to promote his personal interests. For example, review his famous qasidah of Ambassador Hussain Haqqani.

    While we congratulate Siraj on achieving his long time personal goal (political asylum in the USA), we hope he will refrain from occasionally misrepresenting facts for personal gains, for example when he refers to an ISI’s asset’s arrest in the US as an outcome of trust deficit between Pakistan and US. Baloch activists and their supporters will agree that anyone who is associated with known toadies of Pakistan’s military establishment, e.g., Najam Sethi and Urooj Zia types, for personal gains is not to be trusted on the Baloch cause.

    Here is Siraj’s post in his own words:

    Goodbye Pakistan
    by Malik Siraj Akbar
    26 October 2011

    During the past eight years, we, the indigenous majority people of Balochistan, the largest resource-rich province in Pakistan, have experienced extraordinary brutalities. The Pakistani forces have killed the best of our politicians, doctors,lawyers, professors, journalists, and students. During the ongoing conflict, I have lost some of my best friends. Friends with whom I shared my dorm room; those with whom I ate lunch and worked as a journalist. Many of my friends have disappeared while the others are going through trauma.

    As a liberal, progressive journalist, I have always advocated a peaceful political solution to the conflict in Balochistan but Islamabad never paid attention to our suggestions. The government agencies killed several Baloch journalists,blocked my online newspaper, The Baloch Hal, threatened to kill me, ran massive abusive online campaigns against me.

    Pakistan loves Balochistan’s resources but not its people. A Baloch, whether educated or uneducated, is, at the end of the day, considered as a ‘traitor’. There were so many times I proposed in my articles that insanity should stop and Pakistani forces should end the killing of Balochs. Instead, the post-Musharraf Balochistan has witnessed the new gruesome phenomenon of kill and dump. At least 250 Baloch youths have been tortured to death in the last eight months.

    I have always considered myself as a brave reporter but my friends tell me there is a very fine line between bravery and stupidity. But I chose to become a journalist because I wanted to fight injustice.

    As a young endangered Baloch journalist who is still committed to exposing human rights violations, particularly from Balochistan, I am announcing a very difficult but important decision of my life. I would like to humbly and respectfully thank the government of the United States of America for granting me asylum in this country where I am sure I will not be judged “by the color of… skin but the content of … character.”

    Book Review: The Thistle and the Drone
    Malik Siraj Akbar | 22nd February, 2013 1

    American University Professor Dr. Akbar Ahmed’s latest book The Thistle and the Drone, published by Washington-based Brookings Institution, has finally given voice to how the ‘War on Terror’ is being viewed as a war against Muslim tribal societies. — Photo: Malik Siraj Akbar/File

    Since the killing of Al Qaeda leader and US citizen Anwar al-Aulaqi in a drone strike on September 30, 2011 in northern Yemen, the debate over the legality of drone strikes has gained momentum in the United States.

    While the discussion in Washington still mainly revolves around the use of drones against US citizens, the program has also caused frequent diplomatic tensions between the United States and its key allies in the war on terrorism.

    Among all the countries where Washington conducts drone strikes, the Pakistani nation in particular has condemned the strikes as a stark violation of its sovereignty and also counterproductive in combating extremism in the country’s lawless tribal region.

    For those who have closely monitored the debate about drones, media reports have often proven too overwhelming, given the divergence of claims made by both sides. In the midst of intense discussions among diplomats and security experts, the voices of the actual tribal communities where these strikes have been taking place have remained unheard for almost a decade.

    Now, however, American University Professor Dr. Akbar Ahmed’s latest book “The Thistle and the Drone“, published by Washington-based Brookings Institution, has finally given voice to how the ‘War on Terror’ is being viewed as a war against Muslim tribal societies. The tribal regions, such as Waziristan in Pakistan, had historically enjoyed either remarkable internal autonomy or widespread poverty and underdevelopment. Today, the tribesmen believe drone strikes have made “every day like 9/11” for them. In wake of the Predator attacks, the tribes feel collectively terrorised, humiliated and displaced from their native lands.

    Dr. Ahmed, who had previously served as a Political Agent, the highest official administrative post, in Waziristan, passionately endeavors to educate his readers with firsthand experiences on how tribal societies function and what their traditions and values mean to them.

    He opens The Thistle and the Drone with a comparison of the United States’ search for Osama bin Laden, which cost trillions of dollars, and the search for Safar Khan, a notorious criminal back in the day when the author was the political agent as the agent of the tribal region:

    Drone warfare, Dr. Ahmed argues, has exacerbated the miseries of tribal people in the Muslim world because they have been “traumatised not only by American missiles but also by national army attacks, suicide bombers and tribal warfare, forcing millions to flee their homes to seek shelter elsewhere.”
    “It was not Bush but his successor, Barack Obama, who located and killed bin Laden. But it would take a decade of war costing trillions of dollars, with hundreds of thousands of lives lost and millions displaced. Entire nations would be thrown into turmoil and the world put on high alert. I got my man alive without a single shot being fired. The writ of the government was established, justice served and the guilty man brought to book. The difference was that I worked entirely within the tribal framework and traditional social structure.”

    Dr. Ahmed attributes the failure of the United States and Pakistan to deal with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other tribal worries to their ignorance of tribal lifestyles and patterns of behavior.

    The author goes on to add: “Today all major decisions and initiatives in this area are being made by military officials, whereas the entire operation to get Safar Khan was led by the civilian administration in close cooperation with tribal elders and win the regions’ larger tribal networks that crossed several borders.”

    But The Thistle and the Drone is not just a book about drones. It discusses how the ‘War on Terror’ has increased tensions between the central governments and the Muslim tribes living on the periphery. In addition, it also talks about the relationship between the tribes and the centre in countries where drone warfare has not yet been encountered.

    It is probably the first extensive research of its kind which examines at least forty case studies spread in three continents. The core studies focus on the Pakhtun of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal regions, the Somali, the Yamenis, the Asir and Najran regions of Saudi Arabia and the Kurds of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

    In all these case studies, Dr. Ahmed talks about tribal regions in the Muslim world where “the centre is failing to protect its citizens on the periphery and is not giving them their due rights and privileges according to the principles of modern statehood…wherever the tribes have lived and however fierce their resistance, the intensity and scale of the onslaught from the centre has created the same results: massive internal disruption in the periphery which has consequence for the centre.”

    Drone warfare, Dr. Ahmed argues, has exacerbated the miseries of tribal people in the Muslim world because they have been “traumatised not only by American missiles but also by national army attacks, suicide bombers and tribal warfare, forcing millions to flee their homes to seek shelter elsewhere.”

    The author says, while quoting one survey, that 92% of the people living in the Pakhtun-dominated areas of Kandahar and Helmand had “never heard of 9/11 and therefore had no idea of its significance for Americans.” The book comprises of the author’s direct interactions with the people of the tribal region and how they feel about the ‘War on Terror’.

    “We have been declared terrorists on our own land,” one enraged tribal resident told the author, “no one from the tribal areas was involved in 9/11 or 7/7 or any conspiracy against anyone. For a couple of Arabs our whole nation is being destroyed… the life of a tribesman is so valueless that anyone who wants to bleed a human can come and fire at a tribesman and no questions will be asked.”

    The centre of America’s drone strikes in Pakistan has been Waziristan where, according to Dr. Ahmed, out of 118 strikes in 2010, 104 hit North Waziristan. Only 18 drone strikes were reported outside Waziristan between 2004 and 2012. While the debate about authenticity of the statistics regarding civilian casualties has remained the centre of controversy, Dr. Ahmed relies on figures published in two Pakistani newspapers which argue that the vast majority of those targeted in the drone strikes are civilians. While The News, as quoted by the author, reported 701 civilians and 14 “militant” causalities in 60 drone attacks between 2006 to 2009, statistics figures in Dawn say only 5 of the 708 people killed in forty-four drone strikes were known ‘militants’.

    Hence, Dr. Ahmed argues, drone warfare has triggered a sense of revenge among tribesmen in Pakistan. The spirit of revenge is so deep that some of the suicide bombers also included women. The author also challenges the work of several contemporary Pakistani writers like Zahid Hussain, Farha Taj, Imtiaz Gul and the late Syed Saleem Shahzad who look at the TTP as a religious organisation with global jihadist motivations. He says, “TTP attacks were motivated not by thoughts of Islamic virgins but the idea of tribal revenge.”

    According to Dr. Ahmed, those Pakistani writers who link the TTP to a global jihadist network come with a ‘kind of thinking that remains devoid of cultural and historical context and is therefore not supported by facts on the ground.” In his opinion, this school of analysts is “affiliated with or are based in the centre with its national newspapers and think tanks, they invariably reflect the worldview and therefore their notions are not entirely surprising.”

    Dr. Ahmed’s book has come at a critical time, when the United States is gearing up to pull out from Afghanistan in 2014. While it richly educates readers about tribes and their lifestyle, the book, at the same time, raises questions to what extent the author’s glorification of tribal values, such as the Taliban’s “hospitality” for Osama bin Laden or TTP’s suicidal ‘revenge’, can jeopardize peace elsewhere in the world. The ‘War on Terror’ may have worsened the relationship between the centre and the periphery but internal tensions had already existed decades before 9/11 in most of the case studies mentioned in the book.

    The Thistle and the Drone will hopefully initiate an earnest debate about tribal people whose lives have been shaken simultaneously by drone attacks, belligerent federal governments and armed insurgent groups like the TTP. In the discourse on the global ‘War on Terror’ the voices of the tribes were barely heard for one decade – and now The Thistle and the Drone has given them a remarkable voice.

    Malik Siraj Akbar, based in Washington D.C, is the editor-in-chief of The Baloch Hal and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.

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