Saturday, February 5, 2011

Wedding Or Not, The Jang Group Gets Served

We had internally decided to steer clear of commenting on the rumours circulating on the internet - apparently for a few months now though they seem to have got more notice in the last few days - about President Asif Zardari's alleged secret marriage to a Pakistani-American physician Dr. Tanveer Zamani. The reasons for this were rather simple: in the absence of any credible evidence (even the blogs asserting this information admitted that they had no real evidence and were basing their claims on hearsay), any comment would be mere speculation and not a lot different from tabloid sleaze.

Secondly, there's a tricky line here between 'public interest' and using someone's entirely private life to somehow discredit them in the eyes of some. Although it can be argued that Zardari re-marrying could impact national politics and thus be of 'public interest', until that information is confirmed, it remains within the realm of the millions of unverified rumours circulating in cyberspace that don't necessarily deserve the attention of responsible media. To be absolutely truthful, we were wary also of this being some sort of orchestrated smear campaign, and since we could neither confirm or deny the rumours, we thought it best to not to indulge in wild speculation.

Of course, no such qualms for The News' Group Editor Shaheen Sehbai, who decided to append his name to a curiously full-of-innuendo-but-short-of-anything-definite story in the paper today (an Urdu version also appeared in Jang). Most of it was lifted straight from the questionable blogs (all of which carry the same story in the same words and which Pakistan Media Watch has also commented on) but his one value addition was that he spoke to the lady in question, who bizarrely remained non-committal in her answers. Of course, with the story appearing in a mainstream publication, this has only opened the floodgates to further speculation, now with other blogs and even international news agencies feeling it kosher to jump on to the bandwagon.

We still do not have any credible evidence either way and do not wish to be drawn to comment on the authenticity of the story. All we have been able to glean about Dr. Zamani's background is that she joined one of the three factions of the terribly fractured Pakistan People's Party in the US in 2009, that she quite obviously has tried to model her appearance on the late Benazir Bhutto and is reputed to be a bit of an attention-seeker.

However, what we can confirm is that Dr. Tanveer Zamani has sent the following email directly to the press, from her own email address, in response to Sehbai's story:

"I have never met President Zardari and the only reason I have refrained from commenting on an internet hoax involving me is because I deemed it beneath my dignity to respond to such a hoax. Bloggers and journalists do not have the right to make up stories and disrupt the lives of people. I explicitly and clearly deny being married or being subject to a proposal or notion of being married to the Pakistani President, whom I hold in high esteem."

We can also confirm through our sources that the Jang Group has been served a legal notice by the "Bhutto-Zardari" family through their representative Mark Siegel and the legal firm of LockeLordBissell&Liddell. The notice demands of the Jang Group to immediately publish a "retraction and apology" for the "libelous" article, which it terms based on "a complete lie that was fostered by an internet hoax." The letter states:

"Publication of such a non-sourced fabrication was not only reckless, it was malicious. President Zardari has never met Dr. Zamani, and Dr. Zamani has confirmed such to Mr. Siegel."

The notice further says that in case such a retraction and apology is not immediately published, legal action will be initiated...

"...for libel, malicious publication and intentional infliction of emotional distress in all jurisdictions where your newspaper is published, as well as any jurisdiction in which your paper has assets. This lawsuit will seek in excess of $100 million, which the Bhutto-Zardari family would donate to the victims of the 2010 floods in Pakistan."

A copy of the legal notice with some initial mistakes (Shaheen Sehbai's name, his email address, date of publication of the story, supposedly subsequently corrected) is reproduced below:

The legal notice to the Jang Group

Readers may draw their conclusions whether journalistic ethics demanded that Shaheen Sehbai and the Jang Group gather some more evidence before publishing the story. It would do well to recall that under libel laws, the defence that you are merely repeating what has been said by someone else or published elsewhere, is no defence at all.


Jawad said...

I agree with you that the entire topic is idiotic.

1. The fact that PPP is a family property, Pakistani people have an additional interest in knowing who is a member of the ruling family.

2. Dr sahiba is an idiot fro being a Zaradai admirer, IMHO

3. The Jung story is completely idiotic, but probably not libel. They are simply reporting on the denials and non-denials.

Sana Moneer said...

Brilliant write up, very impressive. and thank god people like you have the sensibility to rake out grains from the chaff people like Shaheen Sehbai insist on producing. Well Done

JJ said...

aren't there too many spelling mistakes in the legal notice? even zardari is misspelt as zardai..

Anonymous said...

Now Shaheen Sahbai can do physical masterbuation even on speculations before you r doing verbal fondling ........but AZ will never give you Ambassadorship even to Patuki or chicu ki
Lage reho ......lage reho...

Anonymous said...

Why does the Jang Group and Mr. Sehabi hate Zardari so much? Is it personal? It must be if they are willing to published rumors.

Anonymous said...

The Jang/Geo Group's issue with the government primarily arose beccause of a tangle over a DTH licence. The group wanted direct to home licence so they could deliver a direct TV signal into peole's homes via a satellite like Sky in the UK.

This would have sharply curtailed the influence of the cable operators and government and also dramatically increased the footprint of GEO and would have brought the group more power and money.

When Zardari said no, Mir Shakilur Rehman unleashed his attack dogs on the government. The government came in for sharp critcism even beofore it had made a dog's dinner of governance.

Of course, the group has become a darling of the army, judiciary and the PML-N as well because of its attacks on the Zardari led PPP which has now pitifully become a right wing party anyway.

Ullta Seedha said...

Man, this guy Shaheen Sehbai has really, truely gone nuts. I mean he has proven that he can be even worse than Jang Group's regular assholes like Ansar Abbasi.

The fact is, even if the story was true, what the heck is a so-called 'political analyst' and former Editor doing writing about it??

Mine my Arabic, but what a super chootiya Sehbai is.

Ahsan said...

None of you see it, eh? This is brilliant strategy by Zardari and co. Very cunning, made all the more so by the fact that no one sees what's going on.

Step 1: Spread rumors about yourself getting married by using a contact as the purported "wife".

Step 2: Make clear to your partner in crime (and purported partner in life) to NOT outrightly deny what's going on, and be coy about it, until...

Step 3: Wait for the media organization that hates you, and that you hate back, to take the bait and write something potentially libelous on it.

Step 4: Use your partner in crime to NOW outrightly deny it, getting your media nemesis in legal and potentially financial trouble.

Step 5: Unbutton one button of your shirt, twirl your chest hair, twirl your mustache, and then light a cigar.

Hammad said...

It take some effort to produce a dumbo as shaheen sahbai--- allow me to attack his personality likewise he has been doing so for the last so many years---
These guys are symbolic representations of stray dogs ,always barking for bones and once they get it ,you will see them running away
Chewwn ,chewwn, chewwn

Tanzeel Zehra said...

Instead of admitting their mistake, they are playing as victims, claiming that “The Jang Group emphasises that in dealing with these stories, complete professionalism was used, all norms of ethics were observed, all versions were prominently printed and frivolous details which had been circulating for days and weeks were ignored. There was absolutely no malice and ill-intention but to bring out the truth about the whole issue which concerned a duly elected President of Pakistan.” The Jang Group further claims that publishing the hoax was in great public interest “It may not be out of place to mention that public office holders, elected politicians and celebrities continue to remain a subject of great public interest.” The Jang Group then chooses to re-publish the same hoax and crappy reporting as an evidence of its high professional and ethical standards. Shame!

Delirium said...

For days, was just wondering, for the benefit of the orphaned nation, if there was another BB in the making somewhere in the wings.

While the president has come down hard upon the dazed Geo guys, whether or not it curbs the speculation is independent of the lashing.

While Shaheen Sehbai took a clear enviable lead on the matter, I am curious to see Ansar Abbass's reaction on the entire episode.

Until the lion is out of proverbial den, I am keeping my fingers crossed.