‘Fake News’ is an old business in Pakistan. From the front pages of Dawn itself in 1971 to today, the powers that be have been obsessed with using media in attempts to redefine facts instead of using facts to understand reality. Over time, there have been several reports that have exposed these operations including the famous ‘connecting the dots‘ by Cafe Pyala and most recently the excellent piece by Umer Ali. Along the way, though, there have also been those who have been willing participants in this fake news circus. People like Ahmed Quraishi and Faraz Karamat. Now questions are being raised about another media personality, Dunya TV host Moeed Pirzada.
A little known website ‘Global Village Space’ was quietly launched in 2016 and promotes the writings of well-known ‘perception management’ operators such as Brig Gen (r) Asif Haroon Raja who is regularly featured on other propaganda websites such as the infamous ‘Veterans Today‘ which was a special project of Hamid Gul and more recently Russian propaganda websites. Also featured on ‘Global Village Space’ is Syed Haider Mehdi, another former military officer who is featured on ‘Command Eleven‘. ‘Global Village Space’ also features personalities from Russian propaganda operations.
None of this is very surprising as such operations have been exposed for years. However what makes this case interesting is that according to public records, the website ‘Global Village Space’ is registered to none other than Moeed Pirzada.
Imagine my shock when I saw the Director of Eurasia Future, Adam Garrie sharing these stories on Twitter, exclaiming: “Make Pakistan Sovereign Again”. In another tweet, he wished Pakistan could get rid of Nawaz Sharif. Several individuals involved with Eurasia Future are also regular contributors for Sputnik International and Russia Today (RT).
Mr. Garrie also writes for Global Village Spaces, a well-known pro-establishment Pakistani news and analysis website registered under Moeed Pirzada’s name. Is it a mere coincidence then that he was the first news anchor in Pakistan to take up this fabricated news story on his TV show?
Shocked, we decided to check this claim and found it was confirmed by the website hosting records.
Moeed Pirzada has never pretended to be unaware of this website. Actually, he is listed as an ‘author‘ (but not the owner) where he posts conspiracy theories and praise for Army. He also regularly ‘re-Tweets’ its anti-government posts and conspiracy theories from his own account.
This all raises fresh questions about whether Moeed Pirzada is a ‘journalist’ or a planted mouth piece? Are the rumours of his close relationship with the establishment more than just rumours? Obviously, Dunya needs to investigate whether their star anchor is secretly working behind the scenes as part of a propaganda scheme. Rumours are mere rumours, but Moeed Pirzada’s ownership of a fauji propaganda site have become a proven fact.
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.
Indian Prim Minister Narenda Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore added to the celebrations of the week. Nawaz did not greet his Indian counterpart as part of a high level diplomatic mission, and yet it was exactly the type of diplomatic ice breaker that has been so desperately needed. Even Imran Khan was found appreciating the event, terming it ‘a positive step’.
Not everyone was pleased, though, as certain media personalities took to social media to make their own opinions known.
For the common man, improved relations between the two nuclear powers is an obvious benefit. Besides reducing the obvious chances of violence, improved relations also promises to improve economic opportunities and tourism. For certain media talking heads, though, improved relations are obviously very threatening. Perhaps this is because their own economic success depends largely on continued tensions and an easy enemy to demonise. Is it possible that certain individuals are willing to put their own wealth and fame above the good of their own country? Would someone who puts their own greed before their country be correctly called a ‘patriot’?
Obviously this may be taking things a bit too far. However if these individuals are not acting for their own self interest, whose interests are they so desperate to protect? Perhaps the better question is who is it that gains the most money and power from having poor relations between our two nations? Some will point to religious groups and their private funders who find themselves with more power when they can convince the people that Islam is under threat. There are others who will note that it is not only religious groups that play the ‘fortress of Islam’ card to continually increase their funding and authority.
Probably we will never know what causes some to feel so threatened and scared of peace between Pakistan and India. Never mind them, though. There have always been those who have tried to sabotage Pakistan’s relations to their own benefit. Some will dismiss the visit between the two Prime Ministers by saying that it didn’t accomplish anything. This is not entire accurate, however. It did accomplish one thing which was flushing out certain individuals and making them show their true face.