Pakistani media publish fake WikiLeaks cables attacking India

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A glaring example of how ISI dictates Pakistani newspapers: The case of a missing WikiLeak cable

Comments alleged to be from WikiLeaks US embassy cables say Indian generals are genocidal and New Delhi backs militants

They read like the most extraordinary revelations. Citing the WikiLeakscables, major Pakistani newspapers this morning carried stories that purported to detail eye-popping American assessments of India‘s military and civilian leaders.

According to the reports, US diplomats described senior Indian generals as vain, egotistical and genocidal; they said India’s government is secretly allied with Hindu fundamentalists; and they claimed Indian spies are covertly supporting Islamist militants in Pakistan‘s tribal belt and Balochistan.

“Enough evidence of Indian involvement in Waziristan, Balochistan,” read the front-page story in the News; an almost identical story appeared in the Urdu-language Jang, Pakistan’s bestselling daily.

If accurate, the disclosures would confirm the worst fears of Pakistani nationalist hawks and threaten relations between Washington and New Delhi. But they are not accurate.

An extensive search of the WikiLeaks database by the Guardian by date, name and keyword failed to locate any of the incendiary allegations. It suggests this is the first case of WikiLeaks being exploited for propaganda purposes.

The controversial claims, published in four Pakistani national papers, were credited to the Online Agency, an Islamabad-based news service that has frequently run pro-army stories in the past. No journalist is bylined.

Shaheen Sehbai, group editor at the News, described the story as “agencies’ copy” and said he would investigate its origins.

The incident fits in with the wider Pakistani reaction to WikiLeaks since the first cables emerged.

In the west, reports have focused on US worries for the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile, or the army’s support for Islamist militants such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group blamed for the Mumbai attack.

But Pakistan’s media has given a wide berth to stories casting the military in a negative light, focusing instead on the foibles of the country’s notoriously weak politicians.

Editors have pushed stories that focus on president Asif Ali Zardari’s preoccupation with his death, prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s secret support for CIA drone strikes and tales of a bearded religious firebrand cosying up to the US ambassador.

Among ordinary citizens, the coverage has hardened perceptions that Pakistani leaders are in thrall to American power.

Pakistan has become “the world’s biggest banana republic”, wrote retired diplomat Asif Ezdi last week.

Military and political leaders, portrayed as dangerously divided in the cables, have banded together to downplay the assessment.

Don’t trust WikiLeaks,” Gilani told reporters in Kabul last weekend. Beside him president Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, also tarred in the dispatches, nodded solemnly.

On Saturday the army, having stayed silent all week, denied claims that army chief General Ashfaq Kayani “distrusted” the opposition leader Nawaz Sharif. Kayani “holds all political leaders in esteem”, a spokesman said.

Meanwhile conspiracy theorists, including some journalists, insist Washington secretly leaked the cables in an effort to discredit the Muslim world; the Saudi ambassador described them as propaganda.

But senior judges favour their publication. Dismissing an attempt to block WikiLeaks last week, justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed said the cables “may cause trouble for some personalities” but would be “good for the progress of the nation in the long run”.

The lopsided media coverage highlights the strong influence of Pakistan’s army over an otherwise vigorous free press.

This morning’s stories disparaging Indian generals – one is said to be “rather a geek”, another to be responsible for “genocide” and compared to Slobodan Milosevic – is counterbalanced by accounts of gushing American praise for Pakistan’s top generals.

The actual WikiLeaks cables carry a more nuanced portraits of a close, if often uneasy, relationship between the US and Pakistan’s military.

But the real cables do contain allegations of Indian support for Baloch separatists, largely sourced to British intelligence assessments.

Pakistan’s press is generally cautious in reporting about its own army. But some internet commentators said the latest WikiLeaks story was a bridge too far.

Noting that the story was bylined to “agencies” – a term that in Pakistan means both a news agency and a spy outfit – the blogger Cafe Pyala asked: “How stupid do the ‘Agencies’ really think Pakistanis are?

Source: The Guardian

3 Comments to “Pakistani media publish fake WikiLeaks cables attacking India”

  1. J&K genocide, Indian Army divided: Pak’s FakeLeaks

    Had they been true, they could have brought temperatures between India and the United States down by a few degrees, handed Islamabad a big stick to beat New Delhi with, and perhaps obliged India to do some explaining in international fora. Except that they were completely untrue.

    Major Pakistani newspapers this morning published reports based on fake WikiLeaks cables in which American diplomats were said to have described the Indian Army as faction-ridden, Indian military officers as incompetent, and an ongoing “Bosnia-like genocide” in Jammu and Kashmir.

    PTI, reporting from Islamabad, said the papers had “reproduced an elaborate Internet hoax”. The Guardian, which is one of the newspapers partnering with WikiLeaks in the publication of the cables, said the reports could be “the first case of WikiLeaks being exploited for propaganda purposes”.

    “An extensive search of the WikiLeaks database by date, name and keyword failed to locate any of the incendiary allegations,” said The Guardian report on the fake cables. Pakistan’s The News ran a screaming front-page headline ‘Enough evidence of Indian involvement in Balochistan, Waziristan’. A similar story was published in the group’s mass-selling Urdu daily Jang. The Urdu Nawa-i-Waqt too carried the story.

    The Nation ran a story on its front page headlined ‘Kashmir genocide like Bosnia’. The Express Tribune, a partner of the International Herald Tribune, reported the fake leaks on an inside page.

    The reports claimed former Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor had been described in the cables as an “incompetent combat leader” and “rather a geek”, and that the Army was split into “two groups” led by Gen. Kapoor and current chief Gen. V K Singh.

    The cables were purported to have had US officials describing a “Bosnia-like genocide” in Kashmir, and that the slain Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare had told the Americans about a nexus between Indian military leaders and “Hindu fanatic groups”. An Indian military officer had been compared to Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian leader who was charged with war crimes, in the cables, the reports said.

    The PTI story on the fake WikiLeaks reports referred to unspecified Pakistani bloggers noting that the “Internet hoax” for which the newspapers fell “was first traced to the website of the Daily Mail, a Pakistani newspaper known for publishing conspiracy theories.

    The Guardian reported that the stories were credited to Online Agency, “an Islamabad-based news service that has frequently run pro-Army stories in the past”. Shaheen Sehbai, Group Editor at The News, told The Guardian that his paper had carried “agencies copy” and that he would investigate.

  2. On WikiLeaks, India, Pakistan and a partisan media

    Reading through some of the WikiLeaks cables, I have been struck by how easy it might be to take the fragmentary and often outdated information contained in them and make a case to support either side of the India-Pakistan divide. Now it turns out someone did, but without even the support of the underlying cables, according to this version of Pakistani media reports by the Pakistan blog Cafe Pyala of alleged Indian skulduggery, including in Baluchistan.

    As Cafe Pyala notes, Pakistan’s The News and various other papers cited the alleged cables as proof of alleged Indian involvement in creating trouble in Baluchistan and Waziristan. These allegations were included amongst others that anyone who follows the subject closely hears being bandied about between India and Pakistan. (Reporting on those allegations is much harder, for reasons I will discuss below.)

    But according to Cafe Pyala these cables may not even exist, but are rather the work of intelligence agencies telling the media what is to be found in them. ”Small wonder The News and Jang give the source of the report as ‘Agencies’,” it says. “Question: How stupid do the ‘Agencies’ really think Pakistanis are?”

    This is terribly confusing, as it is hard enough to make sense of the WikiLeaks cables on India and Pakistan, without having to filter out what intelligence agencies/media say about what may or may not be in that huge database of leaked U.S. embassy reports.

    As it is, we have to keep in mind the idea that the cables are only as accurate (we assume) as the ambassadors who penned them were able to make them, given that they themselves were dependent on sources who might, or might not, have been telling the truth. They are not gospel (and odd that in Pakistan which tends to distrust everything the Americans say, they are being treated as such.)

    So two points – one on Baluchistan, and the other on the media in India and Pakistan.

    For background, Islamabad accuses India of using its presence in Afghanistan to destabilise Pakistan, particularly by funding and arming separatists in Baluchistan. India denies this, and says it is interested only in promoting development in Afghanistan. The Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad particularly trouble Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, which sees them as bases for alleged nefarious activity by its rival, India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) spy agency.

    As far as I can make out, there is nothing in the WikiLeaks cables on Baluchistan that I haven’t already heard. And if I have heard them, you can be sure that governments have heard them too and tailored their policies accordingly, so we shouldn’t treat them as a game-changer.

    On Baluchistan:

    A U.S. embassy cable sent shortly after the 2008 Mumbai attack says the British High Commission in Islamabad feared an Indian response might include, ”at a minimum, increase GOI (government of India) covert activities in Balochistan or even an aerial bombardment of LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) camps in Azad, Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). ”

    The Guardian newspaper, which was given advance access to the cables, adds that “The British fears of ‘ramped-up’ Indian aid to militant nationalists in Balochistan highlights an assertion found elsewhere in the cables: that British intelligence strongly believes New Delhi is covertly supporting the insurgency in reaction to alleged Pakistani support for LeT.”

    I have not yet found any cables which give an independent U.S. view of the allegations of Indian involvement in Baluchistan. If someone has the links, do please post them.

    A separate series of cables, reported by The Guardian with links to copies of the cables, highlights tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan over the fate of fugitive Baluch separatist leader Bramdagh Bugti, whose grandfather was killed in a military operation in Baluchistan in 2006. If you search for Bugti on The Guardian website you can find more of the back-story on this.

    I personally thought this was common knowledge, but maybe it is more controversial, and complicated, than I realised.

    On the media:

    I don’t know what is happening in Baluchistan. I listen to British, Indian and Pakistani analysts and sources to try to form an informed view. Short of going there, hanging around outside/inside the Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad, and spending time with Baluch separatists, I can’t possibly know for sure. But I’m still a bit troubled that the media is not asking enough questions – in either country.

    A quick trawl of recent stories on Google threw up this story from the Times Now TV channel (I’m using this as a convenient example to explain a point, but it is not untypical):

    “Government sources on Saturday (November 27) denied former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s claims that India is responsible for creating unrest in the Balochistan region. Sources told TIMES NOW that India’s conduct on Balochistan was like an open book … ”

    Whatever is going on in Baluchistan, it is not “an open book”. You can’t have an open book in a region where journalists can’t travel easily and safely.

    And you don’t have ”an open book” when it comes to India and Pakistan. When I first started researching the Siachen war – another battle between India and Pakistan that took place away from the public eye – I had the (with hindsight naive) idea that at the very least I would be able to match Indian and Pakistani versions and where I found them to overlap, discern a kernel of truth. In the end, I discovered I often could not even match accounts by people who fought on the same side on the same day. So let’s none of us assume we know what is happening in remote Baluchistan.

  3. GEO /JAnG Anti Democratic Govt !

    Geo TV and its team of Goebbels – by Irfan Urfi
    Excellent post Well done Junaid Qaiser !

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