Tuesday, February 23, 2010


You know what the difference is between a scoop and just another story? Sometimes as little as a few seconds. In my case, it's about one hour.

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin (Source: Dawn / Reuters)

So the story is, I actually had the scoop about Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin's resignation having been accepted - ostensibly because he's needed back at Silk Bank, which he owns -  at about 9pm tonight. Problem was, I couldn't completely confirm it. Bigger problem was I was away from the net. And by the time, I finally got to a computer, Kamran Khan had led with the story in his 10 o' clock show on Geo. Pretty pathetic I must admit. And no, I don't expect you to believe it. If someone else told me the same story, I would probably say, well, too bad, but who cares you had the story earlier. Point is, Kamran Khan broke the story.

But it did make me think a bit about scoops. In the olden days, scoops operated on a day-basis: which newspaper got the story a day before the others. Wire agencies - those who supply news to newspapers - of course operated on a much more stringent timeframe, since agencies competed with each other to be the first to break the news to other news organizations. But generally, the average person (i.e. those not working in newspaper offices) hardly ever discovered which agency got the scoop first.

Since the advent of 24-hour television and the web, that whole languid manner of working has gone out the window (pardon the pun). And everyone with access to television and the net has access to breaking news, even from wire agencies. Of course, the race to achieve first-status is why all manner of mayhem is unleashed on the unsuspecting public, with half-baked and even sometimes completely untrue stories making it out there. But despite what DawnNews may think, you really cannot have a news channel that ignores the breaking news (as an aside, while Kamran Khan was breaking the news about Shaukat Tarin, DawnNews' new Urdu programme hosted by Wusatullah Khan was running a fascinating discussion about the place of 'regional' languages in the national psyche). It's the nature of the beast. The best you can do is to try and tame the excesses of news organizations, through laying greater audience store in the checking of facts. It's a long-term process, however, where audiences force channels through their viewership / ratings to provide them correct information. If there is any other viable (i.e. non-draconian) alternative, I don't know it.

I also thought about whether scoops really matter to anyone other than media people. I mean, I can think of some stories that might save lives (e.g. you hear about firing going on in an area you are about to go to before you get there) but, generally, most scoops can hold for a few hours or even a day. For example, would it really make a difference to a common viewer / reader if they found out that the Supreme Court struck down the NRO the day before? Would finding out about Shaukat Tarin's resignation tomorrow really negatively affect anyone other than perhaps people who might want to lobby for his post and find themselves out-lobbied? Isn't the act of scooping closely tied in with egos and entertainment?

Just some things I was thinking about...(And I'm not being a sore loser; I have already accepted that I lost the "race.")

In any case, coming back to the Shaukat Tarin story, Kamran Khan named three possible successors to his post: Arif Habib CEO Nasir Baig, former State Bank governor Dr Ishrat Hussain and former PPP finance minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin. From my sources, apparently, the President's camp and the Prime Minister's camp have their own favourites. Baig, who is incidentally the brother-in-law of Anwar Majeed, Zardari's so-called right hand man (who is also related to Shaukat Tarin through the marriage of their offspring), and Shahabuddin are apparently in the President Zardari's list, as is PPP MNA Naveed Qamar. PM Yousuf Raza Gilani's list, on the other hand, has, in addition to Hussain, current state minister Hina Rabbani Khar and economist Dr Hafeez Pasha. Who eventually gets picked may indicate which way the wind is blowing. In fact, having one of Zardari's nominees get the post would be no big deal. One of them not getting it, on the other hand, might be.


Anonymous said...

Sad you missed the scoop but I had a similarly humbling experience too vis a vis the same story.
Obviously, we do not mix with the right people or attend the right parties, so obviously we do not know that these scoops are common knowledge in the right quarters long before they make it to prime-time TV. Before Kamran Khan spilled the beans, Pappu and Tinku and Juju seemed to know it all.
I was recently told unbelievably juicy gossip by a mere socialite about Tarin and Anwar Majeed and Naseer Baig -- including being given a fascinating account of their interlinked family trees and whose children married whom and bought what and invested in what and how Zardari enters into it all. Sadly, the same socialite knows more about these people than I could even if I spent years in a library.
Moral of the tale: Remind me to get invited to more of the right parties if I REALLY want to be a succesful journalist.

Vanguard said...

After the privatization fiasco wherein Hafiz Pasha begged government owned Etisalat to take over government owned PTCL ( i thought privatization follows from the mantra that business of government is not business) on terms that were disadvantageous to Pakistan, breached bidding contract and mind boggling, I would think twice before appointing him anywhere in Finance.

We all know that Naveed Qamar can't deliver. Thats why Shaukat Tarin was brought in.

Hina Rabbani Khar..you got to be kidding me...except for good looks, the lady has nothing going for her and except for the budget speech in Parliament, she did not have to work a single day in her life

Ishrat Hussain is a developmental economist and by the same virtue was unsuitable for the State Bank job. But since he came from IMF/WB and had an open mind (willing to learn and be corrected) he was ok and much better than what followed: Shamshad Akhtar who was not a practising economist and had made a career in Operations at ADB and the current absent minded incompetent Salim Raza whose only qualification is relation to NBP president Ali Raza.

Nasir Baig apparently seems competent but I dont know much about him. Ishaq Dar/Sartaj Aziz are also relatively competent but they belong to opposition.

Historically, Finance has always been the weak point of PPP.

Tazeen said...

Oh God, I dont know about others buthaving worked (very briefly) with Hina Rabbani Khar, I can say that she is very very incompetent. She is so farigh she makes someone like Imran farhat look like an efficient little god.

XYZ said...

I don't think Hina Rabbani Khar has a snowball's chance in hell. Actually, from what I'm hearing on the grapevine, the other names have been floated for "cosmetic" purposes, so as to make the eventual choice of Baig seem well-considered.

Actually I have no issues with Baig personally - I don't know him and he may well be a competent person. But it is interesting to remember that another of Zardari's associates, Hussain Lawai, is the CEO of Arif Habib Bank, of which Nasim Baig is also a director.

Anonymous said...

Who would have thought that Tarin's smooth as Silk Bank would encounter a rough patch! Next, Muslim Commercial Bank will be taken over by a Hindu. United Bank will be torn apart by internal squabbles. And National Bank would become a victim of secession

Riaz Haq said...

Although IMF is closely watching Pakistan's economic management for now, I believe it is still very important for the next finance minister to be persuasive, and display sufficient independence from the political leadership in managing the nation's economy as a professional.