#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.

Bomb Proof Passports and Bullet Proof Denial

Pakistan Bomb Proof PassportWhen American media announced that Taliban chief Akhtar Mansour was killed by a US drone strike in Balochistan, the response of the state was silence. Soon came posts on social media with photos of a Pakistani passport and CNIC that were supposedly recovered from the scene. This was met with laughter by not only the hyper-nationalist crowd but even liberals. Jokes began to go around saying security forces were issuing new bullet proof jackets made of Pakistani passports. Even those criticising our Afghan policy found the situation ridiculous. How is it that a car and two people are completely incinerated by a hell fire missile but his Pakistani IDs just HAPPEN to survive in perfect condition? The answer was in the question: We were being framed. Again.

Only, this time at least, it appears that there was no framing. Sartaj Aziz has confirmed that the person killed in the attack was Mullah Mansour and that Pakistani authorities had identified him by DNA test. More surprising, though, was that the government confirmed that the official government documents that were recovered, the passport and CNIC, were authentic. They had a fake name, but they were real documents issued by NADRA. Interior Ministry has ordered a ‘crackdown‘ against officials for issuing the documents, but it is well known that those behind such things do not answer to the Interior Ministry.

Sometimes, ridiculous things happen. As ridiculous as it sounds, a hell fire missile did incinerate a car and two people yet a Pakistani passport and CNIC somehow survived intact. Does it matter that even the state has confirmed it? No, we will prefer to stick to our denials and our jokes about ‘bomb proof passports’. It may be a ridiculous mindset that refuses to believe what has already been confirmed, but if we start accepting these things then we will be forced to face the most ridiculous thing of all, which is our own foreign policy that causes such things in the first place. After all, Amir-ul-Momineen will come and go…but our denialism is truly bomb proof.

Hatchet Jobs and Cover Ups

GHQ

I don’t usually agree with Ansar Abbasi, but when someone is right…they’re right. The Jang columnist recently wrote about the problems caused by intelligence agencies operating with complete lack of oversight. Little could he know how his thesis would be proven correct over the next few days as story after story added damning evidence against agencies.

After years of denials, ISI is finding itself facing new charges of support the 26/11 terrorist attack. Former CIA director Michael Hayden has now publicly revealed ISI’s involvement in his new book. The ex-US intelligence chief says that he was personally told of ISI’s involvement by none other than the DG-ISI Shuja Pasha.

“We had no doubt that the attack was the work of LeT, and there was mounting evidence that preparation for and direction of the attack took place from within Pakistan, where LeT enjoyed the protection and support of ISI,” Mr. Hayden said.

Pasha, who had come to ISI only a few weeks earlier and had no previous intelligence experience, came to the U.S. on Christmas Day and spent most of the next afternoon in his office.

“He worked carefully from notes. His investigation had revealed that some former ISI members were involved with Lashkar-e-Taiba [no surprise there]. Pasha admitted that these unspecified [and still uncaptured] retirees may have engaged in some broad training of the attackers, but he was characteristically vague about any detailed direction the attackers had gotten during the attack via cell phone from Pakistan,” Mr. Hayden wrote in the book.

This admission comes the same day that PM’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz admitted that one of the mobile numbers linked to Pathankot attackers was traced to Jaish-e-Mohammad headquarters in Bahawalpur. Once again, this admission comes after security officials strongly denied any links between the ISI-supported militants group and the terrorist attack.

These revelations follow a third shocking admission. Yesterday, former DG-FIA Tariq Khosa wrote a damning piece that exposed the entire ‘memo-gate’ saga as a drama written by GHQ and directed by ISI to neuter the civilian government.

With these three revelations facing us now, we should think about Tariq Khosa’s words of warning.

No heads rolled after the OBL raid; no one had the courage to ask the military elite some tough questions.

The establishment has acquired the art of turning its strategic follies to triumphs. It is this deep state that has curtailed and trimmed democracy, ensuring the country stays rigged in favour of a small but self-aggrandising elite. And until that changes, democracy in Pakistan will remain imperiled.

26/11, Pathankot, ‘Memogate’. These can all be categorised with other strategic blunders: Osama bin Laden living in the shadows of PMA Kakul. Kargil fiasco. Operation Searchlight. The list goes on and on and on. We have allowed agencies to operate with no oversight because they claim it is a matter of ‘national security’. But it is exactly this that has made the nation less secure. Agencies failed policies and strategies have made our neighbors suspect us and have allowed extremism to grow unchecked into the monster that we face today. To paraphrase Tariq Khosa: “Until that changes, Pakistan will remain imperiled.”

Has Gen Bajwa Lost Control of Media Operations?

Gen Bajwa ISPR

DG-ISPR Gen Bajwa has received international recognition as a master of public relations for the media campaign that has lifted COAS to unprecedented heights of popularity. In addition, media has been united behind Army’s efforts to fight terrorists until the bitter end. However, a new trend has appeared within media that has some shaking their heads and wondering if a change for the worst has taken place behind the scenes.

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