Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Newsweek Editor Who Never Was (Updated)

We still have not managed to get our hands on the newly launched Newsweek Pakistan, which is probably coming out with its third issue as I write this. And for some unknown reason the magazine's website continues to be nothing except an old ad. So we cannot really offer a considered evaluation of it just yet. All we do know is that the first issue's cover, titled "The World's Bravest Nation" (read Pakistan) over a black and white picture of a child affected by the recent floods, drew all sorts of praise from the usual quarters who heave a sigh of relief at anything remotely positive about Pakistan in the 'international' media these days.

Newsweek Pakistan: The debut

To be frank, however (and reiterating that I haven't yet read the story itself), didn't you find the cover a tad bit cynical? I mean, the globally circulated international parent magazine notoriously runs a story calling Pakistan "The Most Dangerous Nation in the World", and its Pakistan franchise - which would only see distribution in Pakistan - takes the opposite tone? It helps to ingratiate it to the locals, sure, but it doesn't really mean Newsweek as a whole has changed its stance, does it? Is that what is known as doing as the Romans do, in Rome?

But Newsweek Pakistan has also had a number of distractions to contend with even before it hit the market. First of all, the Washington Post Company, which owned Newsweek, decided to dump its mounting liabilities with the magazine and sold it to billionaire Sidney Harman, who made his fortune selling stereo equipment, reportedly for $1. As a consequence of this sale in August, the editor of Newsweek, Jon Meacham, decided to leave his job, as did foreign policy whiz kid / enfant terrible Fareed Zakariya Zakaria. Zakariya Zakaria, who announced he would be moving to Time magazine, it should be mentioned, was one of the people who helped secure Iqbal Z. Ahmed's A.G. Group (which owns Newsweek Pakistan) the franchise.

Fareed Zakariya Zakaria: another casualty of the Newsweek sale

The decision by Newsweek to launch a Pakistani franchise was made before the sale of Newsweek took effect, but it's not clear how the change of management and top editorial staff will affect the Pakistani edition. Although Harman has said he would like to retain "most" of Newsweek International's 325 employees, it is expected that there will be all sorts of cuts to recover the magazine's heavy liabilities. Whether these affect operations in Pakistan at all may be moot (as a franchise, it's probably paying royalty to the parent company to use its name) but Newsweek's international coverage may be affected.

As if this were not enough, Newsweek Pakistan's first issue, scheduled to hit the stands on August 30, could not make it to the market on time. Apparently, the magazine - which had been printed outside Pakistan - got stuck at customs and it took more than two days to have it cleared. It only reached the newsstands on September 1.

But all of these issues perhaps pale in comparison to the fact that the franchise lost one of its high profile editors (the Editor? we're not sure) before the first issue was even launched. As we reported in March, former Daily Times news editor and The Friday Times contributing editor Ejaz Haider had been signed on with much trumpeting by Newsweek Pakistan. So it was a bit unsettling for the journalist community to discover in August that Ejaz Haider had already left his new job.

We can now confirm the reasons that Mr Haider was asked to resign. Some of you might have come across a rather rude anonymous email letter / article that had done the rounds right after President Zardari took his infamous trip to his French chateau in the midst of the building floods crisis back home. Yes, the one titled "Fuck You, Mr President" which began thus:

"Let us start with the basics. You are an asshole. A thief. An alleged murderer. And a scoundrel. And mind-blowingly incompetent to boot. The only reason you matter is because your equally incompetent, currently delusional, then dysfunctional, mother-in-law thought that you were such a lowly piece of shit that you would never get in the way of your late wife, also delusional, whose dowry included the most popular political party in Pakistan. Why she had such elevated expectations of a two-bit thug is beyond us. But still.
After you had done your husbandly duties, the sensible thing for BB to have done would be to have had you shot. In fact, she should just had had your sperm frozen on day one and then had you tortured into the next dimension. But BB made many mistakes, marrying you being one class-fucking-A example."

Well, it seems this particular inflammatory diatribe was traced back to Mr Haider, who, according to this site (where you can read the entire text as well, we saw no point in reproducing it here), acknowledges at least being "a minor author" but "100 per cent editor" of the piece. (We cannot vouch for the credibility of these claims, but our sources have independently confirmed the reasons for Haider's departure.) Understandably, the publishers of Newsweek Pakistan, known for their closeness to the target of the piece, were not terribly thrilled. Actually, to be fair, even without the top-level linkages, any publisher wishing to preserve their journalistic credibility, would have had to take action against Mr Haider.

Ejaz Haider talking cleanly about politics on his Samaa TV programme

It does seem strange that a journalist of Mr Haider's experience and usually sober public temperament would have allowed his name to be associated with such a polarizing piece of foul-mouthed invective, no matter what the provocation. But then, who knows what forces possess people in the dark of night, which often lead to their undoing. Mr Haider is now back as a contributing editor of TFT.

: : : UPDATE : : :

Ejaz Haider Rebuts

Ejaz Haider has written to us to rebut the claims of the above post. We reproduce here his email to Cafe Pyala in full and leave the matter for readers to judge:

"Gentlemen: i write you apropos of your post…

i don't know who you are and what is your interest in putting out the such-gup contained in your piece which has been sent me by someone. i do hope this blogging helps you make some money. and if it does, do tell me how. on the other hand, if it's a luxury, i envy you for being able to afford it.
I had no idea until this stage that I was worth writing about. but strange are the ways of this changing world that even considers lady gaga an icon, so i shan't waste my time on trying to figure out your motives, good or bad. nor do they matter to me, frankly. in fact, if you did want to write about me, one of you (assuming there's more than one, and i could be wrong) could have, given your "range", contacted me directly. i resigned from newsweek pakistan for my own reasons which have nothing to do with the piece whose writing is being attributed to me, though i must say that i forwarded it to several friends after tweaking it a little. in my private, punjabi moments i even agree with some of its contents. but i like to abuse in punjabi. far more satisfying. also, if i had written it, i would have happily bylined it. if you want my take on mr zardari, you can read it here http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-difficulty-of-staying-democratic/658873/
i hope that clears up the issue. as for newsweek pakistan, i wish them well. best,
Ejaz Haider
Contributing Editor, The Friday Times"


vijay said...

Woow! I read the TFT fairly regularly and i will be honest. I find EH's columns/pieces the most perceptive and readable. One of the most clear thinking columnists out there. ALso i dispute the non funny bit. His style is different granted but if you are looking for an uplifiting piece of queens english replete with references to the classics, greek thought et al, he was the man. It must have been really bad for him to blow his fuse that way. Still...i consider him the best columnist in PK hands down.
Just my 2 cents...

Anonymous said...

I have read newsweek - two issues - it's available at liberty books - and don't really understand what it is all about and how it plans to stay afloat.

If its print run in agreement with newsweek international is 30,000 copies, and assuming it costs a handsome amount to print such a large quantity in glossy paper and that too out of Pakistan - it must net a sizeable amount in ad revenue and sales. The ad content seemed limited at approx 15 ads - and sales cannot be very high given that it is impossible to get 30,000 people in Pakistan to read serious (and somewhat unexciting) pieces in Pakistan in a weekly format.

And the articles are unexciting - just opinion pieces of the columnist concerned. Why would anyone pay 200 rupees per issue for propaganda?

In addition, Newsweek Pakistan has now replaced its international edition in Pakistan, which means you cant read or subscribe to the int issue even if that was what you had subscribed to earlier. what a gip!

can someone enlighten me on what this business plan is?

Anonymous said...

I have it on authority that your sources are wrong about the reason for Ejaz Haider's departure from Newsweek Pakistan. To Anonymous: But it sure does look pwetty!

AA said...

how does the cover photo illustrate bravery? You have to think really hard and twist ideas to find a nation's bravery here.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 11:41 -- I find it difficult to believe that the suits at Newsweek would force a franchise to print 30k copies a week given that such figures are barely ever touched by Pakistani dailies (on good days). I don't think the local franchise would've signed on to such an agreement either. 10k I can believe to be an ambitious run initially, but 30k? I'm not buying it.

With respect to the post itself, I've been reading Ejaz Haider's articles for years now and find it very difficult to associate the linked diatribe with him.

Also, given that he provides an email address at the end of his articles, did Cafe Pyala email Ejaz Haider to get his side of the story? Would be interesting to get what he has to say about this, not to mention fair and responsible.

Anonymous said...

I fear Ejaz Haider can sue CP for damages on the basis of this post.

CPM said...

There seems to be an issue with one of the commenters who has posted his or her comment three times only for it not to show up in the comments section. S/he believes we are censoring the comment, which is absolutely not true. (For the record, if we ever do delete a comment, a notification will indicate that the comment has been "deleted by a blog administrator"; in case a writer deletes his or her own signed comment, the notification says the comment has been "deleted by the author.") In any case, we have no idea why the comments have not shown up repeatedly even though we did get email notifications of them.

So I am posting the invisible comment on behalf of Anonymous 01:41:

@Anon 1:28 -- The link that Cafe Pyala has posted has only this to say about the authorship of the impugned email: "Ejaz Haider says he was only the 'minor author' of this piece and the '100 per cent editor', and the 'major author' does not want to own up to it." I'm sorry this is not good enough. Who has he said this to? Cafe Pyala should have checked with both Mr Haider and Newsweek Pakistan for comment. This is not steaming chai, but it is steaming something else. I see CPM also got the spellings wrong for Fareed Z.

CPM said...


Hope you are satisfied that we are not censoring your comment and the inclusion of the point of view of Ejaz Haider.

Also you are absolutely right about the spellings of Fareed Z. Will make corrections.

Ahsan said...

Well, that was an interesting denial. What's with the comments about making money or having the luxury of time? By his own admission, EH spends time forwarding and "tweaking" mass forwards, which is a pretty big waste of time if you ask me. Anyway if he denies it he denies it. Do you have any response Pyalas?

Qadir said...

Man, this guy Ejaz Haider is the most obvious pompus punk ever.

This is what I've wanted to say whenever I used to read his popmpy rants:
Fuck you, Mr. Ejaz Haider, you pretentious dick!

Masuud said...

Seriously dude, you got too much time on your hands. Writing about EH and still wasting hours on how and who did write that anti-Zardari masterpiece? Wow. WOW infact, with capslock.

People have been feeling it that you and the pseudo-liberal minded bloggers have got a new fascination for Zardari- that is to support him and get the maximum attention.
Do something worthwhile tbh, you got good writing skills. I've loved some your pieces before par this one is just too 'farigh' :)

AKS said...

EH's rebuttal is as dull and humorless as the Fuck Zardari email. An Imran Aslam he is not.

And what is up with the grammar? I say that knowing full well my own tenuous relationship with the laws of English language.

Rabia said...

the funny thing about this 'rebuttal' is that he's basically confirmed what CPM's post stated! good going ejaz sb.

Anonymous said...

Cafe Pyala! I think Ejaz Haider is a member of the Freemason-like group of Zaffar Abbas... which The Terrorland blogs have exposed: http://theterrorland.blogspot.com

know it all said...

Regardless of the reason for EH's departure from Newsweek, I find him to be a below par writer. Never found his pieces well written, except perhaps once when he wrote something on Swat in an Indian paper. Saw him writing on ET recently---another borrring piece...I did however think that he did a brilliant job on Talat's show when he spoke out against the IJT goons at Punjab University. Haven't seen his show on Samaa so don't know how that goes.

XYZ said...

Don't want to step on CPM's turf here but my sources claim the parting of ways between Ejaz Haider and Newsweek was decided weeks before the email controversy came to light (what the issues were I do not know). However, that latter controversy, according to the sources, 'certainly did not help.' And this bit of information does not in any way absolve Ejaz Haider of being behind the email.