Our fellow bloggers at Cafe Pyala have recently posted a story on The News senior investigative journalist Rauf Klasra‘s potential move from the Jang Group to the Express Media Group. But now that the daily Express itself has confirmed it, Cafe PYala add to it the reasons for it beyond the lure of a better pay packet. The story also highlights the role of Ansar Abbasi and Ahmad Noorani (an ex-member of the Sipah-e-Sahaba) in publishing anti-Klasra stories on pkpolitics.com (a pro-right-wing website). Here is the story cross-posted from Cafe Pyala:
In fact, Klasra had been rather unhappy at the Jang Group for quite some time. The official reason that Klasra is apparently now giving is his unhappiness with the, in his opinion, ‘agenda-driven anti-government line of the Jang Group.’ (It must be remembered that Klasra is known to be quite friendly with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who is from his hometown, Multan, and who it is believed is sometimes himself the source for some of Klasra’s stories.) The upset with the excesses of the Jang Group may well be true, but it is also true that Klasra has been at daggers drawn with some of his colleagues at the Islamabad bureau of The News, particularly with the Editor Investigations Ansar Abbasi and his juniorAhmad Noorani, whom he accuses of constantly maligning and undermining him.
The rivalry between the three truly came out into the open last year when the website pkpolitics.com ran a story about Klasra’s alleged corruption in receiving favours from the government in the allocation of plots and government housing for his (government employee) wife and relatives, claims Klasra strenuously denied. Klasra believed the story was instigated by the Nawaz Sharifcamp to discredit him in retaliation for stories he had done about the Sharifs’ alleged corruption and maladministration and claimed in a Jang column in September 2009 to have served a legal notice for 100 million pounds on the website (we have no idea what became of it). But more than that he also saw the direct connivance of Abbasi and Noorani in what he termed a ‘smear campaign’ against him. (Noorani, who most believe says things and writes stories at Abbasi’s behest, even weighed in publicly against Klasra.) Things became so bitter at the Islamabad bureau that Mir Shakilur Rahman did one of his trademark organizational fudges to calm things down: he removed Klasra from under Abbasi and gave him a made-up title of Editor Reporting, reporting directly to the Editor. (Incidentally, the current Editor of The News Rawalpindi, Mohammad Mallick, supported Klasra in his fight against pkpolitics, which makes eminent sense since pkpolitics had also run a story earlier about Mallick’s alleged corruption.)
But things continued to simmer and came to a head last month when Klasra ran two stories on September 28 and September 30. The first of these claimed that “backdoor channels played a key role” in defusing a crisis between the government and the judiciary. Bizarrely, the newspaper carried another story side-by-side with this, from “our correspondent” (code for Abbasi / Noorani) quoting Supreme Court sources debunking Klasra’s story. (The Jang Group must have the only newspapers in the world that carry two diametrically opposite ‘investigative’ stories on the same day.) In fact, the Supreme Court exerted so much pressure for a retraction that The Newspublished an “unconditional and sincere apology” on September 30. However, since Klasra was adamant about his story (insider sources say he told management he was willing to go to jail for it if need be) the apology was published from the editor, printer and publisher. No journalist appreciates a management that refuses to stand by its reporter and apparently Klasra was incensed that the apology was published despite his standing by his story. In fact, he blamed Abbasi for goading the management into publishing the apology and even hit out publicly at Abbasi on a Dunya TV programme later.
The second story Klasra published on September 30, claimed that President Zardari had admitted in an internal Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) meeting that he had been “misled” into not defending in court the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) by some unnamed “players of the game.” Klasra further cited “one insider source” to claim that Zardari may have been referring to a well-respected but unnamed former judge from Karachi. Once again, two days later Ahmad Noorani published a story claiming that Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim denied the “president’s defamatory allegations” and mocking Klasra for defaming him. This was another bizarre rebuttal since Klasra had never actually named anyone in his story. It is also obvious from the story that Ebrahim had been goaded into offering a rebuttal, as if he was the only respected retired judge in Karachi.
These two instances of direct undermining by colleagues were apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back, leading Klasra to finally say enough is enough. For whatever it’s worth, Klasra has often broken some interesting stories at The News / Jang and his departure will certainly leave the Jang Group poorer in the investigative department. The Jang Group will also miss his contacts within the government since Abbasi and Noorani have already been accused by the PPP of running one-sided stories. Klasra, whose recently published bookEk Siyaasat, Kayee Kahaniyaan [One Politics, Many Stories] has already become a best-seller, may be on a high at the moment, but it remains to be seen how well he adjusts to a new organizational culture at the Express Media Group.