Khaki TV

Gen Musharraf Bol TV Gen Musharraf who had tightened the noose on journalists at one time, is also often credited with granting the media the freedom that allowed it to grow into what we have today. However, like many things in Pakistan, there is more to media ‘freedom’ than first meets the eye. Actually, the claim that Musharraf himself freed the media came from none other than the general himself, and was mocked in the international media at the time. Even Moeed Pirzada once admitted that ‘a carefully-created perception of free media inside Pakistan helped the military dictator to market himself’. Despite being exposed in the international press, the strategy worked better than could ever have been dreamed at home and led to the rise of an entire industry of Army/ISI media proxies. Now it looks like that strategy is coming into its latest phase.

Ever since becoming ‘free’, media has seen the likes of Ahmed Quraishi and Zaid Hamid whose journalistic credentials were less important than their talking points. Mainstream anchors have also raised questions about media independence as certain well known voices are widely considered as Army mouthpieces, and those who dare question or criticise GHQ are silenced with threats or worse. It is a coincidence that in this era of ‘media freedom’, this is the quality of ‘journalism’ we are subjected to?

Waj bro will soon have competition, though, from a new media personality even closer to GHQ: The ex-dictator himself. Gen Musharraf has announced that he is joining none other than Bol TV (yes, the same channel that has long been rumoured to be an ISI front). It is more accurate to say that Gen Musharraf is returning to TV since he has played this role before.

Gen Musharraf PTV coup

At a time when whole world is trying to solve the problem of ‘fake news’, Pakistan media is doubling down on the strategy of ‘a carefully-created perception of free media’ to market the Army to itself. Now they will even be joined by the founder of this strategy himself.

World Is Cracking Down On Fake News: Is Pakistan Media At Serious Risk?

After Donald Trump brought the problem of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ to the attention of the world, internet editors have begun to ask questions about the credibility of so-called ‘news’ sources. The latest sign of a widespread crack down on fake news is the announcement that Wikipedia has banned using UK newspaper Daily Mail as a source, terming it as ‘generally unreliable‘. This is a major development because it is banning of a newspaper that was founded 120 years ago, not some shadowy website that popped up over night.

With wide spread concern about the ill effects of ‘fake news’, banning of Daily Mail  may be just the beginning, and Pakistan media may be at serious risk. Since the past several years, dozens of fake news sites in Pakistan have been exposed. The most famous example was blog Cafe Pyala that shined the light on shadowy propaganda rings that appeared close to the deep state including even a Pakistani fake news source called ‘Daily Mail‘! Then last year an APP report may have  accidentally busted another fake news operation with ties to ISI.

Tight control of Pakistan media by Army is already well reported in international media. In 2015, The Guardian published an expose about Army officials threatening journalists and forcing them to self-censor. How can such media be deemed as reliable if it is well known that it is threatened and coerced by Army? These threats have again come under view after a group of bloggers who dared question Army mysteriously disappeared earlier this year, resulting in new global attention to the dangerous turn of censorship in Pakistan.

However, it’s not just censorship that threatens the credibility of Pakistan media as a whole, it is also the number of obvious deep state puppets who dominate the media. There are the obvious jokers like Ahmed Quraishi and Zaid Hamid, but there are also the more ‘serious’ journalists like Mubashir Lucman, whose fake news cost ARY millions after being judged by an international court, or Moeed Pirzada who is widely seen as close to the establishment.

As the world makes moves to limit the negative influence of fake news, will Pakistani media find itself caught between the rock of international questions and the hard place of establishment operations to keep tight control over national discussions? If UK Daily Mail is termed as ‘generally unreliable’, what can we say about most of Pakistani news? As the world community takes on the problem of fake news, Pakistani media will be facing a lot of difficult choices.

#CyrilGate: Has ISI Changed Its Tune on Fake News?

Corps CommandersNation’s top military leadership (in other words, the nation’s leadership) met to discuss the latest threat to national security: This news report in English daily DAWN. At the meeting, Army leaders ‘expressed their serious concern over feeding of false and fabricated story’ to the media. The confused and contradictory nature of officials’ response to the story has given it some credibility, and it must be noted that DAWN has defended the report saying it was only published ‘after verification from multiple sources’. However I am not writing to defend or deny the report’s authenticity. Rather, I am writing to ask whether there has been some change within the establishment’s position on fake news stories?

Disinformation and propaganda has been a tool of the establishment for decades or longer. DAWN itself has been a willing participant in such activities as can be seen on the archived pages from 1971 war.

17 December 1971 Dawn front page

One does not need to go back that far to find evidences of fake news stories, though. It was only a few years ago that Pakistan found itself facing international embarrassment after it was discovered that our media were reporting on a fake wikileaks cable in order to embarrass India. At that time, Ahmed Quraishi actually responded by defending the feeding of false and fabricated news stories. Today, without even a drop of shame, he is hosting a TV programme demanding an official commission to investigate the same.

hypocrite Ahmed QuraishiAhmed Quraishi’s shameless U-turn on the cleverness of false and fabricated news stories raises further points. AQ has actually been connected with several fake news operations during recent years along with others. Earlier this year, Umar Cheema exposed the fake news site ‘ABC News Point’ just as Cafe Pyala had exposed a dozen or more fake news sites being run under shadowy circumstances (also connected to Ahmed Quraishi!)

It remains to be seen whether the top brass have the good sense to cut their losses, but one has to wonder whether ISI’s M-Wing, which is headed by a Rear Admiral and staffed by several Brigadiers and other officers, sees the irony in having the Army Chief himself serious concern over feeding of false and fabricated stories.

Lack of Credibility Undercuts Kashmir Diplomacy

Pakistan Black Day Kashmir

The latest idea of sending abroad dozens of envoys to promote Pakistan’s position on Kashmir has been met with mixed responses. Even the government has offered to make it a bi-partisan affair with opposition politicians involved, but still the opposition has expressed doubt about it.

For years, the establishment has tried to use diplomacy to shift international attitudes on Kashmir, but it hasn’t worked. Actually, the establishment’s attempts at influencing global opinion has done more harm than good. The case in point is the humiliation caused when ISI agent Ghulam Nabi Fai was exposed taking millions in secret funds to lobby the US on Kashmir. Instead of convincing anyone of anything, all this operation did was destroy any credibility of pro-Kashmir voices who are now nothing but suspected ISI agents.

Even after the embarrassment of the Ghulam Nabi Fai fiasco, certain quarters didn’t give up on the idea of sending spokesmen to make Pakistan’s case. Ahmed Quraishi has been sent on many paid junkets in Europe. Who can forget how well this strategy has worked?

The other problem is that the establishment wants to have its cake and eat it too. We want to convince the world that we are acting in support of human rights, but certain people can’t give up also acting in support of jihadi militants. Former Ambassador Husain Haqqani noted this perfectly: “Until Pakistan can demonstrate its complete disassociation with Jihadi terrorist groups, delegations like these will be nothing more than junkets”.

Pakistan does not have the credibility to defend the Kashmiri cause. Actually, our efforts are doing more harm than good. As Defence and Foreign policy analyst Maria Sultan notes, effective lobbying on Kashmir will have to come from independent Kashmiris. If we really want to see justice for Kashmir, we need to step aside and stop hurting their cause by trying to promote our own.

Putting the ‘media’ in ‘comedians’

John Mccain

One of my favourite parts of Eid is always the new comedies that are released for the holiday. For example, ARY “News” reported that US Senator John McCain has called for Gen Raheel to be given an extension. To proof this report, ARY posted a Tweet by the American Senator showing a photo of him awkwardly shaking hands with our Army Chief.

John Mccain and Gen Raheel

Even US Senators are saying #ThankYouRaheelSharif! I can’t wait for the next ARY “News” reports about other important John McCain statements. For example, surely this is the US Senator telling Afghanistan that Taliban are the true freedom fighters!

John McCain Abdullah

Surely this is the US Senator telling American troops that they will now follow orders from the World’s Number One General COAS Raheel Sharif! Why don’t they show the American troops celebrating their liberation and raising the Pakistani flag?

John McCain talking to US troops

ARY was not the only channel carrying truly great comedies this Eid. There was also this hilarious news report by Ahmed ‘Qurazy’ for Neo

Don’t believe what you read about international isolation! American officials are the MOST PATRIOTIC Pakistanis! F-16s? Didn’t you see ARY’s report about US Senators singing the praises of our Army Chief? What? What about F-16s? The American Congress said they wouldn’t sell us F-16s because they want us to have EVEN BETTER planes than F-16s! Being such Pakistani Super Patriots, of course the American officials hate Husain Haqqani!

With so much tragedy in the world this year, it was so wonderful to know that I can always count on our professional co-media-ns to bring a lighthearted laugh on this blessed holiday. What is even better, though, is knowing that they will continue to bring us such comedies all year!