blackwater1-300x2001[1]Last year, America tried to send an anti-Pakistani US army general as defense attache to Islamabad. The Pakistani government quietly accepted the appointment. But Dr. Mazari
broke the story and aborted the plan. When the Zardari government seized power, Mr. Zardari’s special assistant Husain Haqqani’s first order of business was to fire Dr. Mazari from her
official post. And now the US ambassador succeeds in blocking her column. Until now, the US ambassadors had the right to appoint presidents and prime ministers.

The US ambassador is said to have sent a ‘private’ letter to the management [Editor-in-Chief: Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman – Group Chairman: Mir Javed Rahman] protesting against falsehood in Shireen Mazari’s columns. Ambassador Anne Patterson in her letter protested at Dr. Mazari’s writings, especially on the question of the presence of Blackwater [Worldwide -Xe Services –] and other private American militias on Pakistani soil. Interestingly, Ms. Patterson said she did not want to see her letter published in the newspaper and insisted it be kept private. It is also not clear if Ms. Patterson actually threatened legal action or other form of protest or pressure.

The US achieved a feat last year when it forced the country’s military establishment under a weak and insecure Pervez Musharraf to strike a ‘deal’ to forgive the questionable illegal wealth and other criminal cases against several Pakistani political figures in order to help
them come to power in exchange for supporting US policies in Pakistan.

Another major break for Washington is Pakistan’s acquiescence in the construction in Islamabad of what will soon become the largest US embassy in the world. Recently, members of privately armed US militias have been spotted in Islamabad, in some cases roughing up Pakistani citizens, without the Pakistani government daring to take action.

In 2006, the US ambassador at the time, Ryan Crocker, is reported to have warned Pakistan’s foreign secretary Mr. Riaz Khokar that he will consider Dr. Mazari’s writings to be reflective of official Pakistani thinking because Dr. Mazari was heading a think-tank financed by the
Foreign Office. The US diplomat demanded Dr. Mazari, according to her, be removed from office or told to stop criticizing US policies.

The foreign secretary resisted the pressure and Dr. Mazari continued her policy discourse. The interesting thing is that the first order of business for the present government in Islamabad after seizing power last year was to fire Dr. Mazari.

Her ousting was engineered by Mr. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington who is widely known in Pakistan as a staunch American apologist. Many jokingly call him ‘America’s ambassador to the Pakistani embassy in Washington.’ So it was no surprise that Dr. Mazari was fired as soon Mr. Haqqani’s government came in power.

Subsequently, the News Management on September 7 issue the following statement:

A press conference of Dr. Shireen Mazari was reported in the newspapers of September 3, 2009, in which it was indicated that The News had been pressurised by the US Embassy into dropping her article, although it appeared in the same day’s issue. Some websites have also alleged that the US ambassador has written a ‘private’ letter to the Jang Group pressuring that Dr. Mazari’s article be dropped.

We are surprised that someone as familiar with the Jang Group’s editorial policy as Dr. Mazari — an official turned politician and Information Secretary/ Spokesperson of the Pakistan Tehrike Insaf — should level such unfounded allegations. The facts of the matter are as follows:

* The US ambassador had sent a letter to the Jang Group complaining that in her article published in The News the week before, Dr. Shireen Mazari had levelled certain incorrect allegations that had endangered the life of a US citizen.

* In accordance with our policy, and accepted international norms, we referred the complaint to Dr. Shireen Mazari — for her feedback and comments.

* While this complaint was being investigated, Dr. Mazari sent another article on September 1, which was to be published the next day. In this article she had again levelled certain allegations, which were also without attribution. Since certain contentions in the previous article had been refuted and were under investigation and she had not produced any evidence or reliable reference to prove the same (nor has she been able to do so till date), we reverted to Dr. Mazari and asked if she could substantiate these allegations. The concerned editor also informed her that her article had been referred to the concerned department to make sure that it was not libellous. As it happens, on receiving supporting comments from her, as well as advice from the concerned editor, the article was published the very next day.

* It is normal for embassies, political parties and other affected people and institutions to complain against perceived bias and the letter from the US ambassador was in the same vein. She neither asked us in the above letter nor any time in the past to drop articles by Dr. Mazari or by any other contributor holding similar views and writing for many years in The News. The ambassador also did not desire that the letter be kept confidential. While we take all complaints seriously, we allow them to exert no pressure on us or influence editorial policy or decisions. Therefore, at no point did anyone from the management or editorial staff of The News suggest to Dr. Mazari that this, or future, articles by her would not be published.

* We not only publish articles by some of the most respected columnists in the country, but as a matter of policy, give space to people holding strong and diverse opinions. Since years some of the fiercest criticism of US policies has been voiced on the pages of The News. We are sorry that she chose to go public with accusations that have no basis in fact.

That very day, Shireen Mazari joined the Nawa-i-Waqt Group of Publications as Editor of its daily English Newspaper The Nation, columnist and anchor of their TV channel Waqt.

Dr Mazari, a Canadian national, holds a Ph.D in Political Science from Columbia University, New York.

She has also served as the Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies – a Think Tank sponsored and funded by the Foreign Office.

Ms Mazari was formerly an Associate Professor and then Chairperson of the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

In a statement issued on September 7 she said, “It gives me great pleasure to join the Nawa-i-Waqt Group and I look forward to an interesting and exciting interaction.”

Mr Majid Nizami, the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the Nawa-i-Waqt Group, and Ms Rameeza Nizami, the Deputy Managing Director and Managing Editor, welcomed Dr Mazari to the Group, “We are delighted Dr Mazari is joining us,” adding, “She will be an invaluable addition to our management team”. Dr Mazari will also be contributing a column for the daily Nawa-i-Waqt and hosting an exclusive weekly television show on the Waqt News channel.