Journalism or jabberwocky?


Call it the new style of reporting Pakistan’s ‘perfidy’. Go to Afghanistan, embed with the National Directorate of Security (NDS), interview alleged Taliban commanders, their faces covered, present their ‘confessions’ to the world as an ‘authentic’ story on what Pakistan and the Inter-Services Intelligence is doing, run an old sound-bite by Pakistani military spokesperson and, lest I forget, interview ‘impartial’ actors like former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh, former CIA officer Bruce Riedel and former British officer Col Richard Kemp and voila!

That this should happen on BBC2 makes one shake one’s head.

Wait. We haven’t got to the facts section yet. The question here, as yet, is not about what Pakistan might be doing but whether the manner of presentation of this documentary passes some tests of good reporting. Simply put, it doesn’t.

• How could the BBC ensure the veracity of its story when the primary facilitator for it was the NDS? Pakistan has, in its custody, many Taliban commanders who have been trained in camps in Afghanistan. Would the BBC interview them and present that documentary as authentic proof of what several intelligence agencies in Afghanistan are doing to hurt Pakistan without corroborative reporting?

• Why did the BBC not feel the need to talk to Pakistani officials, resorting instead to running an old sound-bite by Maj Gen Athar Abbas, DG-ISPR? If that is correct then it is akin to deception?

• Why did it not underscore the documentary with the disclaimer that given the fog in this region with several state and non-state actors playing multiple games its story cannot be presented as anything beyond what is visible and is said by people who have their biases and agendas?

• Why was there no attempt to mention the role of state actors other than Pakistan? Is the Pakistani state acting – even if, for the sake of the argument, one were to accept the allegations contained in the report – in a vacuum and without any cogent reason(s)?

• Are other state actors merely reacting to Pakistan’s perfidy? Is there a context here, and if there is, should the BBC not have mentioned it?

• How does the BBC know for sure it spoke with Taliban commanders and not plants by the NDS? Does it have any independent proof of the IDs of those it spoke with, and who are incognito in the documentary, beyond the NDS’ word about them?

• Does the BBC not know the published views of Saleh and Riedel on Pakistan? Should that have been a concern for the channel?

Nemo iudex in causa sua: it is a principle of natural justice that no person can judge a case in which they have an interest. In journalism, one has to deal with biased actors. But it is precisely for that reason that a reporter has to make that extra effort to sift the grain from the chaff. The BBC documentary, titled “Secret Pakistan”, fails most of the basics tests. That raises the obvious question: is this an attempt to frame Pakistan or just bad reporting?

Now to some facts.

The documentary says there is no significant troop deployment in North Waziristan. This is a widely held misconception and I first tried to dispel it in a May 25, 2010 article in The Indian Express captioned, “A very long engagement”. This is what I wrote:

“There are more troops deployed to and around North Waziristan than South Waziristan, where the army launched Operation Rah-e-Nijat (Path to Salvation) last October [2009]. Statistics compiled from media reports and local journalists, and corroborated with data from the military, show that since 2005, militants based in the area have launched between 70 and 80 raids on different army posts in North Waziristan. These attacks have resulted in about 200 casualties, including over 50 soldiers killed.”

This was more than a year ago. There have been more attacks since then. There is a Division-plus with 5 Brigades deployed to the area which is over 30,000 troops. The Frontier Corps wings are in addition to this deployment. To call this deployment insignificant would take some doing.

Then, of course, we have the supposed ISI generals monitoring training camps including suicide bombers. They come to these camps in uniform so that they can be ID-ed. These camps also have Al-Qaeda cadres, forget the number of top AQ leaders the ISI has captured and handed over to the US or killed. And while ISI ‘generals’ train AQ and Taliban commanders, AQ, TTP and their affiliate groups have attacked and killed nearly 300 ISI officials and blown up 5 ISI centres across Pakistan.

So, while the ISI trains Afghan Taliban, who is training those who are attacking the ISI here and also killing Pakistani civilians? According to data compiled by PIPS, from 2008 until Sept 2011, there have been 259 suicide attacks in Pakistan which have killed 4124 people and injured or disabled 10,216. The fact is that such camps exist on both sides of the Durand Line and suicide attacks have been a problem on both sides. If it is accepted that Pakistan is sending suicide bombers to Afghanistan, then who is sending the ones that come and attack Pakistan – the ISI?

We already have the WikiLeaks saga with NDS reporting on alleged Pakistani activities, reports based on dubious sources and quite often contradictory. Sure, the NDS would do that. It’s part of its job. But it shouldn’t be the job of the BBC to swallow the NDS narrative hook, line and sinker and present it to the world as the ultimate truth on what Pakistan is doing.

Maj Gen Athar Abbas was less charitable. “It is because of the miserable performance of all the intelligence agencies in Afghanistan that this thrust is being directed towards the ISI. If they cannot do their job, they shouldn’t undermine our effort this side of the border.”

There, then. How should I treat this statement, as gospel? I can’t. It is the general’s job to defend the Pakistani military and the ISI. I will report what he said but I cannot present what he said as the ultimate truth. That would require more sources. But then I am not the mighty BBC!

The writer is Contributing Editor, The Friday Times.


  1. Looks like the documentary nailed it judging your response. The level of your denial proves quite a lot. But then again, Mr Ejaz Haider, you are one among the many in Pakistan who suffer from this conspiracy theory virus. The whole world is accusing your country. THERE IS A GOOD REASON FOR THAT AND YOU KNOW THAT REASON.

    • What is that reason Mr.Real Indian ? Please educate us with your crystal glass manufactured by Rediel's and Saleh's. There are too many of you who read Ejaz which worries me !

      • The reason is a high school boy kind of patriotism which teaches that Pakistan can neither be defeated nor be guilty of any wrong doing. So first do wrong things than deny , If you can't deny ask for evidence, dispute the evidence and if that is not possible challenge the integrity of the accuser !!!
        You don't have to worry for too many of us reading Ejaz, there is much more for you to worry about.

        • Now that is the problem with you Pats …The uncalled preachers who somehow has appointed themselves to be our guides and have assumed a sacred mission to keep on telling us there is so much wrong we need to fix..Invest your energies on your slums and Brothels..We will settle things without your kind help.

    • I can understand your emotions against Pakistan and their military as you are an Indian but before throwing stone make sure that your home is not made of glass.

      • Another conspiracy theorist. in 1971 the US and its allies were with Pakistan and not with India. India was firmly in USSR camp. As far as Jinnah is concerned- If it was not Pakistan which was undone in 1971 what was it ?
        Jinnah was neither a freedom fighter, nor a statesman, not a leader nor a thinker. He was just a good lawyer. He never went to jail nor wrote any book had a westernized lifestyle and was thoroughly irreligious. There is more wisdom in the essay writings in India's civil services exam than his speeches. All he did was scream in the name of Islam and get Pakistan. What happened to him we all know, his family never called Pakistan its home. So Pakistan was undone before its birth. If half of it is still surviving it is because of this world doesn't know what to do with a fragmented Pakistan and not because it is not possible to break Pakistan. No one is conspiring to break Pakistan.

        • O My God. what kind of people now will talk about Jinnah.By the way it was not a Muslim and not a Pakistani who killed a man wearing "dhoti". would you like to explain who did it and why? i think you would not. the life style Jinnah followed is all you Indians are dying for today to adopt. and are you really qualified to talk about what Jinnah says or think about ISLAM. come on you can only talk about how much skin your daughters of India will show in next c grade movie. and where is the wisdom of your civil service when you people treat half of your population as "untouchables" AND we are not afraid of anyone who is conspiring to break Pakistan. if anyone thinks he can. go ahead with it and we will see.

          • The only people who say Pakistan is not supporting terrorism are Pakistanis only. Yeah not even your sugar daddy China is with you on this one! What was that Gilani said? Something about friendship being deeper than oceans and all. Well, that is usually the prostitute talk, when she switches from the Pimp (US) to the sugar daddy (China). Yep! the author is definitely in denial because instead of asking questions to the Pakistani army about these accusations, he prefers asking questions to the ones accusing it. BTW, India is far better off in all fields including efforts to lift people from poverty. Because we are trying. Heard the word "TRYING" anytime. We made it our focus to improve education and economy as a solution to that. U aren't even doing that. In fact , you guys are too busy opening Madrassas. That is a "U-turn" right there already.

          • The only people who say Pakistan is not supporting terrorism are Pakistanis only. Yeah not even your sgar daddy China is with you on this one! What was that Gilani said? Something about friendship being deeper than oceans and all. Well, that is usually the prostitute talk, when she switches from the Pmp (US) to the sgar daddy (China). Yep! the author is definitely in denial because instead of asking questions to the Pakistani army about these accusations, he prefers asking questions to the ones accusing it. BTW, India is far better off in all fields including efforts to lift people from poverty. Because we are trying. Heard the word "TRYING" anytime. We made it our focus to improve education and economy as a solution to that. U aren't even doing that. In fact , you guys are too busy opening Madrassas. That is a "U-turn" right there already.

    • Why don,t you Indians mind your own f***** business which definately is watching some stupid SRK movies,or a more stupid Indian cricket match. stop poking your bloody noose in our matters.

    • where is the denial in the above article. have you even read it? the author is simply asking questions about methods used by BBC and the credibility of the judgment.

  2. It was the great Subhas Chandra Bose of the Indian National Army that labelled the BBC " Behooda Bakwas Corporation"! When the NTC fighters entered Tripoli the BBC showed footage of Anne Hazare supporters with the Indian flag clearly visible. One brown face looks like another brown face! One Afghan looks like another! And of course we all remember in 1965 : ' Lahore has fallen '!

  3. So now we have the likes of Mr Ejaz Haider lecturing the BBC on impartiality. Doesn't get more ironical than this.

  4. Good Job Ejaz! The reason BBC & other western media are reporting like this is that Pakistan is next after Iraq & Afghanistan. It's Pakistan + China vs. US + India. All these baseless statements from the US & NATO officials and ill-informed international media are just to set the stage for the war which will be reality within a year. It's a replay of 1971. First malign the army and sow the seeds for hate between people & the army, then prop-up, support & finance the insurgency & freedom movements and weaken its economy & institutions so that there is civil unrest. And when the state is weakened from within you attack under the pretext of maintaining peace, order & ofcourse democracy. The capture of Raymond Davis & the info that he gave was an eye-opener for Pakistani security establishment. Upon the info he gave all US & Indian agents were caught & expelled who were working under diplomatic cover to finance & arm bombings in Pakistan. Not a surprise when terror bombings just stopped after his capture! But remember what Jinnah said: "There is no power in this world that can undo Pakistan!"

  5. Ok, BBC was dishonest, and ISI was not supporting Taliban. Then what is the bone of contention between Pak and NATO-ISAF? Everything should be peace, happiness and pancakes.

  6. Preach to BBC the reporting ethics which you yourself fail to practice, as obvious from your pieces in defence of security establishment.


  8. Why are pakistanis so obstinate right from the time a failed lawyer called jinhah started demanding a separate state in the name of religion and was willing to wage a civil war even though muslims were outnumbered. pakistan has inherited this suicidal streak right from its inception- 1965,71, Kargil are live testaments. Mr ejaz haidar forgets that pakistan started insurgency in afghanistan in 1979 itself before soviets marched in to counter daud khattak's anti durand line rhetoric and even rejected a soviet compromise formula in 1983 because they did not want a stable afghanistan. For god's sake realize what is wrong with your country and stop dreaming that your army can defeat the might of India let alone the US. War with India or US will be your road to perdition.

    • I fail to understand why some Indians find it impossible to talk about pakistan or an issue related to Pakistan without trying to impress upon everyone within hearing or reading distance the indisputable greatness of India and how India is better than Pakistan. Of course there is plenty wrong with Pakistan that needs to be fixed. The issue being discussed right now is Taliban and its relation with Pakistan and Pak-Afghan relations. No one's talking about waging war with India. Please try to step out of your one track mind.

      • Indisputable greatness of India. hahahahahahahahahahahaahhahahah. if a person can live a whole day on 32 Indian rupees in India. then there is no doubt about Indian greatness. according to an UN report 650 million Indians are victims of malnutrition. the biggest stamp on the Indian greatness. i will quote some more facts about greatness of India once i am done with laughing.

  9. i have one thing to say… DAMN YOU INDIANS… you seem to have great concerns regarding MR.Jinnah- Quaid e Azam's religious stance and even professional capability. But what would you say about the fact that gandhi all his life wore a dhoti and drank goat's milk? yup he sure was the one most well-dressed and most dignified.. Figured that out already…

    and by the way, you and your 'glorified' india is nothing but crap where majority are termed as "untouchables" and then let aside to clean the gutters of the country for the rest of their lives. wake up you faggs.

    • Please come to India and see if the so called untouchables are cleaning toilets in our country. This is the same prejudiced lens that elite landowning muslim league people used to scare the muslims in demanding a separate state where they could live with their jagirs. As for pakistan's policy in afghanistan it is as clear as daylight that bogey of indian influence or strategic depth is just a hogwash, pakistan wants an afghanistan that is weak and unstable so that afghans are forced to accept the Durand Line which they refuse to recognize. Pakistanis should ask themselves whether their current military intelligence complex with its nuclear weapons can provide their burgeoning young population with the jobs they need or is every young person in pakistan aspiring to become a defence analyst like a dime and dozen that inhabit your land. If afghanistan wants to trade with India and wants pakistan to provide a land access to india it is because the poor and illiterate afghans know that their salvation lies in linking with the growing Indian economy, something that pakistanis refuse to recognize because of their prejudice and false pride.

  10. The hostility and aggression in these posts, particularly from the pro-Pakistanis is disappointing. I am neither Pakistani or Indian and I do want Pakistan to prosper as India has but Pakistanis must direct their energy away from hate/fear of India and into more productive endeavours.
    Acknowledging the problem that is the ISI is the first step to resolving Pakistans problems and international image, By denying it Ejaz further alienates the country.

  11. Haha, Ejaz Haider commenting on BBC's journalistic values is rich…. I still distinctly remember his article explaining how Ajmal Kasab wasn't a Pakistani right after the 2008 attacks. Ejaz Haider : Liffafa journalism at its best…

  12. I am surprised that Ejaz Haider didn’t suggest that what the interpreters are saying is not what the “not-real Taliban with no links to Pakistan” fighters are claiming in their native language. This is a big int’l conspiracy to defame the ‘squeaky clean’ image of Pakistan. Tauba Tauba… Latif Afridi is not a pakistani, he’s an Indian,

  13. The more Ejaz Haider and Co tries to clear their boss the more they are exposed. Wait and see what follows. Generals shall stand naked. No more double crosses. This rhetoric is being used to discredit the what ever transition democracy we have.

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