Friday, July 30, 2010

Why Look For The Black Box When You Have Saaleh Zaafir?

The Jang Group in general and The News in particular are just so lucky. On their staff they have someone who is not only a fearless and insightful reporter who is never one to shy away from bulldozing his opinions on to the public no matter how whacked out they may seem to those reading or listening, but as it turns out, also an accomplished mechanical engineer, a forensic detective, a flying expert, possessor of Superman-type X-ray vision and a psychic. Imagine getting all these qualities for the price of one salary!

I refer of course to the awesome Muhammad Saleh Zaafir who has humbly revealed all the above-mentioned skills in his piece in The News today as part of his "eye-witness" account of the Airblue crash yesterday. Don't quite believe me? Let me offer you a guide.

The great man himself

The back-page item in The News is titled "I Saw The Plane Just Before Crash", which sounds authentically Mr Zaafir, grammar and all. You may argue that lots of people saw the plane just before the crash, since it was flying low over Islamabad, but then the lots of people do not have the skills that Mr Zaafir possesses.

"I was sitting in the outer veranda of my house in the lap of the Margalla Hills on the fateful moments of Wednesday morning. It was heavily overcast and rain was pouring in, as I heard the boom of a plane flying on exceptionally low altitude parallel to seventh avenue with less speed that was heading towards the hills and I could, in less than a second, imagine that the plane was going to face some devastation because in no manner it was higher than the peaks of lush green hills."

See? Not only is Mr Zaafir able to hear the "boom" of a low flying commercial airliner, he deduces from the sound that the plane is flying "parallel to seventh avenue." Only experience can teach you that. But that is not all. His razor-sharp detective mind takes "less than a second" to "imagine" a devastating end for it. Don't believe for even less than a second that most people who saw the low-flying plane might have feared the same, this is real psychic power.

"Strangely the engine noise was depressed and one could assess that it was flying without required power." 
You have to be in awe of a man, who while chilling on his veranda, is able to detect that the engine of "booming" plane is "without required power." Respect.

"Next second I heard huge bang and as I returned to my room, I came to know about the inevitable crash of the plane. Later, it was revealed that the plane was of a private airline."

Okay, so it seems Mr Zaafir never actually saw the plane, since he only talks about sounds, but that just makes his extra-sensory powers that much more acute. It might also seem that Mr Zaafir's inability to put two and two together - that he needed to return to his room, presumably to catch the news on TV, to figure out what the "huge bang" was all about - betrays some weakness of mind. But you'd be wrong. All it shows is the maturity of a veteran journalist, who does not rush to conclusions. And most psychics focus on the bigger picture, so not getting the tail-markings of the plane is no big deal.

"The planes to be landed at Chaklala airbase must have their approach away from the Faisal Avenue and Faisal Mosque and their direction should be towards Rawalpindi but the ill-fated plane was flying in opposite direction. To my assessment the plan was out of control of the pilot, as he was trying to move away from the city. The Margalla top where the plan crashed is hardly three kilometres from the Presidency, Prime Minister’s House and the Parliament House."

This is where Mr Zaafir reveals his flying expertise. Okay, so he gets a minor fact wrong and commercial airliners do not in fact land at the military Chaklala airbase, but Chaklala is right next to Islamabad airport so it's irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. The point is Mr Zaafir is not only able to diagnose engine problems of flying aircraft from his verandah but also able to peer with his amazing X-ray vision into the cockpit of such aircraft. Incidentally, this Karachi edition report, stupidly cut out a major revelation that did appear in the Islamabad edition of The News. Mr Zaafir was actually able to tell that the pilot had been "overpowered", presumably by a dastardly evildoer. I don't understand why he has not yet been drafted into the official investigation team. He could be like that "empath" Forrest Whitaker character in Species, able to feel things nobody else can see. Thankfully, the Karachi edition did not cut out the implied connection Mr Zaafir makes with political issues. Just a word to the wise, that's always been Mr Zaafir's motto.

"Well placed aviation sources told The News later that the pilot was in constant contact with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) of Chaklala airbase. The radar had throughout been guiding the pilot but it was failed in issuing warning to him that he had entered into a wrong terrain. The radar helped him in avoiding Kahuta but the radar could not detect it heading towards the hills without gaining required altitude. The probe and Black Box recording will establish what was transpired in last conversation of the pilot and the control room."

Mr Zaafir didn't really need to refer to anonymous "well placed aviation sources" for information that basically everyone had already reported directly from the Civil Aviation Authority (minus the Chaklala / Islamabad airport mixup) but I believe this just shows his innate humility. I also think he is being unduly self-effacing by referring to the probe and the black box recordings. We all know that Mr Zaafir already has all the answers.

"The sources say that the pilots who fly to and from Islamabad are always advised to stay away from the Margalla hilltops..."
Now this may sound counter-intuitive to lay readers; that's why we should be glad to have Mr Zaafir's breadth of expertise and of course his incisive sources.

"..and in case they have to fly over the federal capital, they are to essentially fly at least two thousands feet higher than the top. In case the pilot fails to keep away from Kahuta approach, he is required to take right turn over the Rawal Lake or if the turn is on the left, it must be clear of the Margalla Hills. No pilot is supposed to cross the Jinnah Avenue parallel to the Blue Area. The ill-fated plane not only crossed the red line but again it did not assume the required altitude in the area where low flying means death and destruction."
 Further proof, if any were needed, of Mr Zaafir's in-depth knowledge of flying, especially in Islamabad. My only complaint is that our self-effacing eye/ear-witness ends with this feint:

"It is a mind-boggling puzzle for the aviators what forced so experienced pilot to cross the red line and why the radar failed in offering correct guidance to him."

Come on Mr Zaafir, don't tease us at this tragic time. Just tell us what I am sure you already have pieced together on your verandah.


CP reader said...

brilliant, xyz.

Shahid said...

The moron does not even realize that the same runway is used in both directions and had he even tried to look up Dawn and/or Tribune websites yesterday, he would have come to know about the Runway numberings as well (which are just compass bearings).

The News has one or two fine people but in essence it's a bunch of morons and buffoons rambling their opinions as news all the time.

What an idiot !

Thumbs up for the wonderful post.

Sesser said...

The News, Geo, Jang ...
Sigh.If only these could just vanish.

Ahsan said...

Pyalas, do you remember the Swat flogging video of that girl, and how it represented kind of a symbolic turning point? How popular opinion kinda/sorta changed permanently against the Taliban after that episode?

Do you think this airline crash thing is something similar in terms of the public getting fed up with the media? I mean there's always been a hue and cry about their dickishness after tragedies, but is it just my imagination or is this time more widespread and more strident?

Anonymous said...

His command over the English language is not good for a senior journalist!

mcphisto said...

Anon 10.39: For veteran journalist like Saaleh Zafir, his command over journalism, ethics and 'News' itself is questionable.

Anonymous said...

He is actually cooler than the daredevil with his awesome ears..all he needs now is a costume & a mask... :D

Umair J said...

Would it be too much to ask if someone could send this post to Mr. Zaafir? And then record his subsequent reactions??

@Ahsan: The Pyalas would probably answer this better, but in my opinion the English press has really come out against the tv reporting of the tragedy. That said, someone should take a look at the Urdu press to see if there's anything in there as well. Although i doubt that they'd be as vehement in their criticism.

Alpha Za said...

What. A .FUcking. Idiot.

Newton said...

I have all respect for the editor of The News, Karachi. And tho I have no idea what the role of a group editor is, I still can't imagine Shaheen passing this piece as print worthy. Then who at The News decides to get this kinda stuff printed in all editions?

Eiynah said...

As moronic as his thoughts and ideas may seem, it kinda sounds like you're picking on him because he doesn't have the same command over the English language as you. It's a little unfair to nit-pick because he didn't have a privileged upbringing (although it could be argued that he should stick to writing in Urdu then).

However, even with excellent communication skills in English, I doubt he could redeem himself fully, but some of what he says might just be a language issue.

That said, I do enjoy your writing :)

Omair said...

I thought the CAA had rented the Chaklala airbase from the military and in essence it was still a military base.

mcphisto said...

Umair J: it would be an honour to send Mr Zaafir this piece and gleefully wait for his next article :D

faisalk said...

bechara Tito kahan phans gaya hai

nishtar said...

but had tito thought this way he would have quit the news a million years ago, instead of hanging their for ages with assholes like ansar abbasi, shaheen sabhai, saly zaafar, and a thousand more,

i think tito likes being treated as furniture, just like his brother imran aslam is at geo.

It was imran's voice that announced the arrival of geo's reporter at the site of the crash.

"Aur geo ki reporter wahan pehlay ponchi ..."

Sad to see such an intelligent man allowing himself to help sell cheap, amoral and idiotic journalism.

Same goes for Tito. poor sod.

Anonymous said...

@eiynah: saleh zaafir gets off lightly in this pyala diatribe, if anything. his language skills are practically immaterial. he's a miserable piece of sick garbage, and a prime example of the pathetic nature of our journalism industry that allows such trash to prosper.

Omar R Quraishi said...

nishtar -- if that is your real name -- talat is one of the best editors in the business -- widely respected and admired for his professionalism - what he has to deal with is an occupational hazard

Maria said...

The Jang Group, top contender among the "Whats wrong with Pakistan" list (just as TOI is for India). The art of taking a seemingly innocent piece of news and converting it into "tragic, heartwrenching, anti-Islam and Pakistan, sensationalist conspiracy theory" begins and ends within its newspapers and tv channel. I like free media, but can someone shut these guys up in the name of sanity?

Magnum said...

Still waiting for The News and The Nation to have a front page story about UFOs over Islamabad. It's bound to happen.

Anonymous said...

Breaking news: If ORQ's claims are anything to go by, Talat Aslam "knows" what professionalsim is. Duh!
Omar if TALAT is one of the best editors in the business then newspaper industry has no future in Pakistan.

Omar R Quraishi said...

anon above -- YAWN

fauleba said...

why the yawn, omer sahib? what anon said makes perfect sense. talat needs to get out of the news. otherwise he's as guilty as any one of the many assholes there.

Newton said...

Unfair to hold Talat responsible for the Jang group follies. Why he stays there is again debatable. He could be working hard to make a difference from the platform of The News. Alternately, he could leave and do nothing to contribute towards any kind of solution or improvement of standards.

Both choices have their pros and cons.
By the way, apart from occasional gems like the one under discussion, i say The News is a respectable paper under Talat. The horrors are all in the past now. And I mean THE HORRORS!

Newton said...

You! Magazine not included, in the comment above. Horrors continue there.

Shameem A. said...

Gimme a break, Newton. Don't much about the editor of The News, but just what you see so 'respectable' about The News, beats me,
Just like a print version of Geo and jang, The News is crass, loud, and sensationalist. The quality of its language sucks and it keeps calling stuff based on cheap conspiracy theories, assumptions and gossip as 'analysis,' 'stories' and 'reports.'

The News is the pits, man. What the fuck are you talking about. Respect, my ass.

Newton said...

daant parh gai :-(

Accha, I will concede this much, i usually read and scan the News' city pages only. And I find them to be fine, with a lot of leg work being put in. Dont know if they went and changed it in the past week or so.

Scared of Shameem A. or would ve said "two men looked out the window, one saw stars, the other..." :-P


Bolshevik said...

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAH!!! Props, XYZ, props! Chhaa gayee / gaye / jo bhi. Bohat aala! :-D

GP said...

If you compare the Islamabad and Lahore editions of The News with the Karachi edition, you'll know just how good Talat is.
Obviously, most here are not aware of the massive differences in the three editions.
Lahore and Pindi have their own editors/news editors - if they can indeed be called editors/news editors instead of sycophants.
Talat is reponsible for Karachi - and when I say responsible, I mean that, despite the pressure from the top, he does a hell of a lot to not make it a laughing stock - something that no editor does. He shows spine when it matters.
If you think The News is bad, then imagine what it would be without its current editor.
If you only knew the sort of stories that have been dropped by The News Karachi or have been heavily edited on Talat's call, you would not be questioning the man's ability and integrity.
You should also know that the Karachi team of The News has/had some of the best names in journalism - all of whom stayed there despite it all only because of Talat.
So yes, I think he deserves some respect.

HH said...

What edition does The News website draw its content from?

One would think it is the Karachi edition (given that the Jang group is based here), but the low quality of writing, insertion of sub-standard stories, etc, suggests that it isn't.

Anonymous said...

errr GP I thought "the best name in journalism" (khi based journalists to be specific) stayed at The News for Kamal Siddiqi

may1 said...

kamal siddique????
for heavens sakes, guys, let's not start on him again.
he's good reporting material, but just how he ended up as an editor ...? Well, ET is a stark example.
And really do feel bad for talat. The News is certainly no place for decent journalists.

Rick M said...

Anon 11:02: Kamal has his merits. But please remember Pakistani journalism didn't start when a group of twenty year olds joined The News in 2005. I know it may be hard to believe for many of you, but even The News has been around for much longer than you have noticed. Shocked?

And I respect Talat for his work.

nayyares said...

i received an email today, with attachment:

there are many secrets we were missing :)