#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.

Solutions for Karachi

On Friday, the National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution to bring all parties together to review the worsening situation in Karachi. The resolution underscores the sense of urgency, as hundreds have died in the last few months, victims of brutal target killings and senseless murders.

The worsening crisis in Karachi is nothing short of a matter of national security; the National Assembly is right to pursue its responsibility, and gather to assess the law and order of the city, and to offer solutions going forward.

The Corps Commanders agree. The 141st Corps Commanders Conference was held, with General Ashfaq Kayani presiding over it. In the released statement, the Commanders declared their concern about the deteriorating security, but expressed confidence in measures “taken by the government that will help resolve the situation.”

One really has to look at Pakistan’s history military interventions to understand the enormity of this Commanders statement. Because of the army’s history of intervening in domestic affairs, people looked to them to “fix” Karachi. But amidst calls for the military to tackle the violence, the army insists the civilian government is the rightful authority on domestic issues.

More guns in Karachi are certainly not the answer. In their statement, the army decided that all arms licenses issued by the Ministry of the Interior would be canceled as of September 1st, and license holders should go to the NADRA offices to obtain new license. This policy will stop the gross misuse and forgery of many existing licenses. It is important to note that it is the Ministry of the Interior that will be overseeing this process. More guns and more force will simply add to the downward spiral. The army has made a wise and very intelligent decision to keep an eye on the city, while supporting the civilian government’s role.

Coalition and opposition parties need to now take the opportunity and work together to find a political solution that addresses the concerns of all Karachiites.