Original Articles

Najam Sethi, CIA agents and professional journalists

US Ambassador Ryan C Crocker, Gen Jahangir Karamat, US Defence Attaché Col Gene McConville and Najam Sethi at the latter’s residence. (2007)

There are some points of merit in Mr. Najam Sethi’s editorial for The Friday Times (TFT, 6-12 Jan 2012).

While there are some crucial omissions, one must give Mr. Sethi credit for stating a few bold things. The problem is Mr. Sethi himself fails on many of these counts.

In the last year, he has:

1. Stated the following in his September 23rd editorial: “there is only one institutional force that can establish the writ of the state and restore law and order. That is the Pakistan Army.”

2. Promoted the works of a controversial Indian author who has sought to dilute the role of the Pakistan Army in the 1971 genocide in East Pakistan

3. Been a part of the “elite” panel of “journalists/analysts/ex-military bureaucrats that have argued for supporting the Taliban as an instrument of Pakistan’s (read military establishment’s) policy in Afghanistan

4. Shifted the blame for Pakistan’s military’s actions on to the elected government.

So it is heartening to see that Mr. Sethi has laid down a criteria that exposes himself; even if that criteria has omitted some crucial points.

For starters, when talking about the danger to journalists, Mr. Sethi has highlighted the name of a Punjabi victim of the ISI and not a Baloch or Pashtun victim! His discourse is typically Punjabi-urban centric and unfortunately often laden with contempt for the PPP which derives its electoral strenght from Sindh, Southern Punjab and many areas of FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

Mr. Sethi has also conveniently omitted how the media along with the judiciary has played a crucial role in slandering all those journalists who have taken a line that differs from that of the establishment. It is the Punjabi-Jamaat-e-Islami dominated media that has reinforced the grotesque criteria used to malign journalists with a differing viewpoint.

The most troubling element in Mr. Sethi’s simplistic definitional article is the implicit false liberal-conservative binary and selective posturing. The false binary that comes across is that those who don’t brazenly reinforce the jingoism of the Urdu press are the victims, the CIA agents. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For starters, the psuedo liberal or life style liberal journalists who are being lionised in this false binary of being CIA agents are far more subtle and insidious in their support for the military establishment. Like Najam Sethi, they will continue to selectively undermine the elected PPP government, heap mostly unsubstantiated abuse on its leaders and like Sethi, occasionally offer token, diluted and vague criticism of the military establishment.

Hence the false binary that journalists like Najam Sethi are CIA agents is ludicrous on many levels. For one, calling someone a CIA agent is reflective of a conspiracy theory laden and xenophobic mindset and hence does not constitute a credible argument against the inconsistencies and pro-army scholarship of Mr. Sethi. Secondly, when viewed in the context of his career, Mr. Sethi comes across as a journalist who has preferred military dictators to elected governments.

Furthermore, the selective posturing is limited to highlighting the threats on Mr. Husain Haqqani’s life. There is little if any mention of the ongoing army-backed judicial coup and how the media and judiciary are cohesively undermining the PPP government.

Creating false binaries and selective posturing makes some of us skeptical of Mr. Sethi’s claims. However, unlike his insensitivity to elected PPP leaders, one should take him at his word and wish him the full security that is the right of every Pakistani. It pains many when Najam Sethi, Ejaz Haider and Hamid Mir engage in such acts being apologists for genocidal anti-Ahmadi, anti-Shia Deobandi militants (Sipah Sahaba Taliban). It disappoints us when they line up with the military establishment to heap slander on the PPP government. It is a matter of concern for us when in their intellectual dishonesty, they distort and omit crucial facts to shift the blame of the wrongs of the military on to elected governments.

Their blaming-the-victim tactics are a disgrace to journalism as is their participation in caretaker governments that followed the coups undertaken against the 1996 PPP government. However criticism against these characters must be based on principles and not silly slander (CIA agent allegations) and threats. We condemn both.


Appendix: Washington Post

Posted at 01:54 PM ET, 08/18/2011
Personnel Files: New America adds Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin to work on Pakistan
By Allen McDuffee
The New America Foundation has announced Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin as two new senior fellows to the think tank’s National Security Studies program.

Prior to joining the New America Foundation, Sethi and Mohsin co-founded The Friday Times, Pakistan’s first independent weekly newspaper as well as Aaj Kal, a liberal Urdu weekly paper.

The addition of Sethi and Mohsin indicates an increased commitment to the study of Pakistan.

“Najam and Jugnu are two of Pakistan’s most important public voices – courageous, analytical, and focused on the big questions that will shape their country’s future, said New America Foundation Steve Coll in a released statement.

Sethi has received the highest civil award of Pakistan, the Hilal i Imtiaz, in 2010, for public service and media freedom. He is also the recipient of three International Media Awards, the Golden Pen from the World Association of Newspapers, the Courage in Journalism from Amnesty International and the Press Freedom Award from Committee to Protect Journalists.

Mohsin has received the Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists. In 2005, she founded the Pakistani lifestyle magazine, Good Times. Mohsin is a founding member of the Women’s Action Forum, an organization set up to oppose gender discrimination laws in Pakistan.

By Allen McDuffee | 01:54 PM ET, 08/18/2011


About the author

Jehangir Hafsi


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  • Interesting exchange at twitter. Apparently, the Namoos-e-Haqqani Network also happens to be Namoos-e-Sethi Network.

    There are however a few feeble voices of those who confront the Fan Club:

    beenasarwar beena sarwar
    Pakistanis who question the security state are “CIA agents”; what about the biggest recipient of US aid..? bit.ly/x88OZO @najamsethi

    myraemacdonald myraemacdonald
    Veteran editor Najam Sethi (@najamsethi) on threats to journalists in #Pakistan. CIA agents in Pakistan shar.es/WdpWg

    dhume01 Sadanand Dhume
    Najam Sethi on how to be labeled a CIA agent in #Pakistan. [Speak sense.] shar.es/WeSE1 v @OmarWaraich

    mazdaki Mohammad Taqi
    Must read MT“@OmarWaraich: Ooh, wow – @najamsethi’s on form: bit.ly/zV2n0J” Thank you Najam !!

    BinaShah Bina Shah
    Today’s Friday Times editorial is only one reason why I have so much respect for @najamsethi.

    Razarumi Raza Rumi
    Tell tale signs of a CIA agent in Pakistan by @najamsethi thefridaytimes.com/beta2/tft/arti… v @najamsethi

    Rezhasan Rezaul Hasan Laskar
    Must read: CIA agents in Pakistan by @najamsethi bit.ly/yuPmfK

    OmarWaraich Omar Waraich
    Today’s #Pakistan #MustReads by @ejazhaider bit.ly/A7jlxH and @najamsethi bit.ly/zV2n0J

    OmarWaraich Omar Waraich
    Ooh, wow – @najamsethi’s on form: bit.ly/zV2n0J

    jrshami Javaid Shami
    Was Mohammad Malik (Editor, The News, Islamabad) the one who whispered Haqqani’s name to Imran Khan just before the Lahore jalsa?


    Laibaah1 Laibaah
    @jrshami @mazdaki While we can blame everyone on this planet, we will never blame Quaid-e-Azam of liberals Najam Sethi, political advisor of Jang!

    mazdaki Mohammad Taqi
    @Laibaah1 Blame @najamsethi for what? We disagree on some things & disagree on others.Can do so with profound respect. No ? @jrshami

    Chiltan salma jafar
    why is Najam Sethi getting Kudos? what has he achieved? can someone share the link of his article plz, I also want 2 read.

    Laibaah1 Laibaah
    @Chiltan Najam Sethi presents a false liberal-conservative binary, ignores the role of Teen Jeem including himself: bit.ly/yuPmfK

    Laibaah1 Laibaah
    @Chiltan Sethi presents a self-selected, incomplete criteria to prove his professional journalism and anti-army credentials.

    MureedBizenjo Mureed Bizenjo
    @Laibaah1 Najam Sethi & his lobby have/will always remain urban-centric, their role is criminal

    MureedBizenjo Mureed Bizenjo
    Fact: Like #SaleemShehzad dozens of #Baloch journalists are extra-judicially killed. anyone?

    Laibaah1 Laibaah
    @MureedBizenjo This fact is completely lost on Najam Sethi who names a Punjabi journalist in his article, Baloch journos remain unnamed.

    ShahidQazi1 Shahid Qazi
    @Ali_Abbas_Ch I don’t read Najam Sethi:-(

    naeemshamim Naeem Shamim
    Gem of a tweet! Speaks volumes !! RT @AbdulNishapuri Najam Sethi the Quaid-e-Azam of Pakistan’s lifestyle liberals.

    AbdulNishapuri Abdul Nishapuri
    We pity those who consider Hamid Mir, Ejaz Haider and Najam Sethi etc as anti-military establishment.

    AbdulNishapuri Abdul Nishapuri
    People e.g. Ejaz Haider, Faisal Qureshi, Tammy Haq, Najam Sethi remind us that right-wing left-wing binary is irrelevant in Pakistan.

    AbdulNishapuri Abdul Nishapuri
    We urge Mir Shakil, Shaheen Sehbai, Najam Sethi and other senior editors & advisers in Jang Group to refrain from harassing HRW’s director!

    Laibaah1 Laibaah
    Najam Sethi parrots Deep State’s lies by equating Pashtuns with Taliban – by Salma Jafar shar.es/WdsLi

    Chiltan salma jafar
    @Laibaah1 another half truth – it’s an attempt to galvanize all journos. Exceptions aside, most have not had done All of this #Sethi

  • Great anlaysis, Mr. Jehangir.

    Also great collection of Tweets by Mr. Haroon. It is saddening and entertaining at the same time to see people such as Dr. Taqi and Ms. Beena reducing themselves to mundane flatterers of Haqqani, Sethi and others. The fans you mentioned are a tight network of opportunists and flatterers.

  • 1. While Sethi ostensibly defends (the presumable objective) professional journalists in Pakistan, he conveniently omits two facts:

    (a) the sinister role the Teen Jeem (3J) network in Pakistan of which he himself is an active part and became most visible during his tenure as caretaker minister in Frooq Leghari’s cabinet.

    (b) As is typical of most Punjabi and Muhajir journalists of Lahore and Karachi, Sethi refers to Balochistan in token terms, mentions some un-named journalists killed by army and proxies in Balochistan and KP but then focuses on only one case, i.e., a Punjabi journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, why no such attention to the most prolonged kidnapping and susbeqent killing of a Baloch journalsit Javid Naseer Rind and many others.

    2. The core of Sethis argument is his own promotion as a anti-army, senior professional journalist who he claims is being termed as a CIA agent by the right wing proxes of the security establishment. This is the very line of argument which we find problematic. Let us explain why:

    (a) We consider the conservative-progressive or left-wing right-wing binary in Pakistani media and politics as irrelevant and artificial. Critical readers of Pakistan politics are aware of the fact that both groups (right wing and the so called liberals) remain loyal to the strategic agendas as well as domestic political interests of the security establishment. A case in point is Mr. Sethi himself (e.g., his services to the ISI as a part of the 3J network in undermining the elected goverment of BB in 1996), a similarly pro-army role is currently being played by none other than Sethi’s close colleagues, e.g., Ejaz Haider as a head of ISI sponsored Jinnah Institute. Many of the so called liberals in Pakistani media are in fact lifestyle liberals who have consistently undermined the cause of political liberals.

    (b) Mr. Sethi presents some criteria for being a professional journalist in Pakistan. While some elements of the critiera are alright, ironically Sethi himself fails the very critiera, e.g., his consistent, refined undermining of the democratic government, his blaming the victim tactics against political leaders.

    (c) Threats to Mr. Sethi may be real or imaginary. We wish all the best to his well being but at the same time are also aware of the fact how some pro-establishment journalists are wrokikng really very hard in presenting themselves as anti-establishment in order to regain some of their lost credibility.

    (d) In the last para of his article, Mr. Sethi once again presents a false binary: i.e., liberal, progressive, anti-imperialist Pakistani citizens vs state security agencies and non state religious parties and jehadi groups. Of course there is no mention of liberal affiliates of Pakistan army (the urban chatterati).

  • This article doesn’t wash the contents of Mr. Najam Sethi’s definition about a CIA Agent in Pakistan.
    Mr. najam Sethi himself, might be a CIA agent or linked with ISI, but his Editorial makes sense.
    Under the existing circumstances, even an outspoken person like Hasan Nisar is very careful while unfolding a Truth.

  • In his capacity NS has frequently criticized the 3-Jeem and others. This article is one more biased piece by CPP.

    No proof, no facts, only bashing and leg pulling.