ISI is the most powerful spy agency in the world. We know because once a year we see a Facebook post or we are forwarded an email about how ISI was ranked as the world’s top spy agency by “US Crime News” or some other media group that doesn’t seem to exist except in the imagination of whoever invented the story. More important than knowing where ISI ranks among other spy agencies (actually, there’s no such think as ranking of spy agencies), we should be asking what ISI media wing hopes to achieve with all of this crude propaganda.
Our more famous propaganda professionals like Ahmed Quraishi and Zaid Hamid may have achieved celebrity status, but as jokers rather than real analysts. Their constant peddling of hypernationalist conspiracy theories destroyed any credibility they ever might have had. What’s puzzling is that they are continually funded to perform a song and dance routine that has become so boring and predictable.
What’s even more interesting, though, are the attempts at propaganda that don’t even measure up to the lowly stature of Ahmed Quraishi. For example, someone sent me this clip recently and I actually had to stop halfway through watching it because I was laughing so hard.
The most impressive part of this video is actually how quickly it discredits itself. First thing that is shown is the cover of newspaper Daily Mail. No, not that Daily Mail. The fake Daily Mail. The one that was used to “break” the story a few years ago that spot-fixing accusations against Pakistani cricketers were a RAW plot.
The fake Daily Mail was just part of a large internet propaganda ring that was exposed by media bloggers Cafe Pyala around the same time. One of those sites (named ‘Daily Mail Post’ – zero points for creativity) eventually proved to be quite embarrassing for Pakistan after it was revealed that it was the source of a fake Wikileaks report being promoted by…you guess it, Ahmed Quraishi and company.
As if this psy-ops slapstick wasn’t badly handled enough, Ahmed Quraishi actually published a piece defending the effort titled, ‘Guardian Uses WikiLeaks For Propaganda, Pakistani Media Can’t?’ in which the self-styled ‘analyst’ both defends peddling bald-faced lies and then goes a step too far and proclaims that he is not “an ISI mouthpiece”. In the words of the Bard, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Shortly after that propaganda ring was exposed, many of the fake news websites were quietly taken down. It was no loss, not just because they were full of nonsense, but because they were so crudely thrown together. At the time they wrote the expose, the bloggers behind Cafe Pyala asked this question:
Do I really need to spell out who I think has the resources and the motivation to spin this elaborate web of fake publications and yet be so incompetent about it?
It was a rhetorical question, of course. The real question should be why? Why are our national agencies devoting so much effort to such crude and obvious propaganda? What can they possibly hope to accomplish with all of it?
Omar Ali made a pretty good guess in 2011:
Unwilling or unable to find a narrative that justified their sudden change from pro-jihad to anti-jihad, GHQ opted for a short-cut. Bad Jihadis were described as agents of evil powers (mainly CIA, RAW and Mossad). Many of the Taliban killed in Pakistan were said to be uncircumcised Hindus. India was said to have 14 consulates in Afghanistan from where they and their American friends were running this vile operation. Military-affiliated websites like paknationalists.com and rupeenews.com provided a narrative that may seem fantastically improbable to outsiders but that fit in well with previous military psyops efforts and was smoothly accepted by many middle class Pakistanis.
And he didn’t see it working out very well:
Pakistan will have to live within its current boundaries and will have to make a serious effort to go after any transnational terrorists based in our territory. Even the India-specific terrorists will have to be told the game is over. For the deep state, this is not an easy news bulletin to deliver to its own people because they have been telling a very different story for a very long time. Most people in Pakistan do not even know that Pakistan was world headquarters for international Jihad for so long and that our own intelligence agencies set up most of the militant organizations and trained most of the terrorists we are now fighting. Most Pakistanis probably believe that 9-11 was an “inside job” and Mumbai was staged by some rightwing Hindu colonel. This amazing level of denial and disinformation has been carefully cultivated by the deep state, but is now coming home to roost.
That was three years ago. Today, despite Zarb-e-Azb operations and a COAS who says Army will root out all terrorists from Pakistan, we are still seeing massive terrorist attacks , and we are still seeing the same low quality propaganda being churned out, peddling the same old conspiracy theories.
Earlier this year, signs began appearing all over Islamabad that said, “PAKISTAN LOVE ISI” and featured a photo of DG ISI Zaheerul Islam. It was unnerving at the time, not because a nation should not support its national agency, but because when your national agency has to carry out a psy ops campaign to convince you to support it…something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.