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The Akbar Zeb story: too good to be true

I wrote last week about Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canada Akbar Zeb’s reported rejection as ambassador to Saudi Arabia due to the unfortunate Arabic translation of his name as "biggest dick." Alas, the story turns out to be false: Mr. Zeb has responded, saying that the press reports are nothing more than "a practical joke ...

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MR. MIANGUL AKBER ZEB AND MR. GUL HANIF, PAKISTAN AMBASSADORS (DESIGNATE) TO CANADA AND PORTUGAL CALL ON PRESIDENT ASIF ALI ZARDARI AT AIWAN-E-SADR ON FEBRUARY 28, 2009

I wrote last week about Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canada Akbar Zeb’s reported rejection as ambassador to Saudi Arabia due to the unfortunate Arabic translation of his name as "biggest dick." Alas, the story turns out to be false: Mr. Zeb has responded, saying that the press reports are nothing more than "a practical joke someone played on the Internet." Zeb denies that he was ever considered for an ambassadorial position in Saudi Arabia; lending credence to his account, he has only been stationed in Ottawa for nine months of a planned three-year assignment, and Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia is only four months into his tenure.

Maimoona Amjad, the press counsellor for Pakistan’s High Commission in Ottawa, also confirmed to FP that the story was untrue. There is "no question that he will accept a post anywhere but Canada," she said, referring to the rumor as "completely baseless" and "rubbish."

The story seems to have originated with this Arab Times article, and spread like wildfire throughout the English-language press from there. Let this be a lesson: Don’t believe everything you read in print. Sometimes, the press gets hold of a story and, before checking all the facts, goes off half-cocked.

David Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq. @davidkenner

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