The front end: the ISI strikes back
Recently, the LUBP wrote an article titled “Pakistan Army owns up the ISI man on a suicide attack mission in India”. ‘Renowned’ nationalist, patriot, and ‘asset’, Ahmed Quraishi, took exception to our views and thus scolded the LUBP in the following words:
Ahmed Quraishi’s attack on the LUBP:
‘Et tu, PPPP?’
The stunning part is how a Pakistani website that is part of ruling PPPP’s network of online propaganda promptly in endorsed the Indian intelligence reports and supported the reports published by the Indian media. The site runs propaganda material for President Asif Zardari and other PPPP stalwarts. Senior journalist Hamid Mir accused this site of being run from Washington by Mr. Zardari’s close aide and envoy in Washington Husain Haqqani.
The PPPP site, called LUBP, in a post titled, Pakistan army owns up the ISI man on a suicide attack mission in India, said:
“Online factories of suicide bombers: An ISI production: LUBP has been boldly stating for the last many years that Pakistan Army’s continued policy of jihadi and sectarian suicide attacks […] Now it has been once again proven without doubt that jihadi and sectarian suicide attacks are an integral element of the Pakistan Army’s military strategy”
The link shows this PPPP site relying heavily on India propaganda. It did not verify if the Indian news is correct and posted two links, both of Indian TV channels, to prove the Indian allegations.
The Indian army chief is nincompoop who is willing to buy a junior intelligence analyst’s ridiculous story based on a minor data entry error. But what is PPPP’s excuse for endorsing Indian propaganda? And does President Zardari’s media adviser Mrs. Farahnaz Isphahani know what the party’s media cell’s kids are doing online?
Source: Ahmed Quraishi
“Unlike Ahmed Quraishi, whose own network of lies is run directly from GHQ, LUBP does not take dictation from Farahnaz Isapahani or Hussain Haqqani. We publish whatever we think is the truth. Not something that anyone should expect Ahmed Quraishi to understand though.” (Source)
The back-end: more refined line of ISI’s defence
The more refined line of the ISI’s defence in Pakistani media can be seen in the shape of a recent, unusual article by Geo TV’s MD Azhar Abbas. The article titled “A tactical move or the main strategy?” was published on 16 Dec 2010 in The News.
At the onset, one must recall what the Jang Group (including its three prominent components, i.e., Geo TV, Jang and The News) has stood for in the last three years:
- A consistent, maligning campaign against an elected government thus confirming the Jang Group’s complicit role (Teen Jeem) with the military establishment;
- An incessant character assassination of President Asif Ali Zardari;
- Wide and unwarranted coverage to the ideology and sermons of jihadi and sectarian terrorists including but not limited to the Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hasan, extremist Deobandi mullahs Mufti Naeem and Mufti Hanif Jallandhri, Sipah-e-Sahaba’s chief Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi, cultivators of Al Qaeda including Dr Zakir Naik and Farhat Hashmi etc.
- Promotion of notorious, blackmailing journalists including Dr Shahid Masood, Hamid Mir, Ansar Abbasi and Shaheen Sehabi with known contacts with the ISI and the MI;
- Failure to take adequate professional and legal action against Hamid Mir for his involvement in Khalid Khwaja’s murder.
Now let us see what Azhar Abbas had to say in the Jang Group’s defence:
Azhar Abbas wonders if the case of fake WikiLeak cable is “a case of an honest mistake, over-zealousness on the part of the writer, or a calculated plant by a section of our establishment? The publication of the fake WikiLeaks story has not only raised questions about the editorial controls within media organisations, but also about the “powers that be” and their apparent shortsighted objectives.”
In order to assess if it was a one-off case of an honest mistake, we suggest Mr Abbas may more retrospectively ask himself:
- Has not the Jang Group (including Jang, The News and Geo TV) consistently acted as a willing partner and servant of the military establishment in the last three years?
- Has not it played an integral and vital role in continuous character assassination of an elected president of this unfortunate country?
- Has it not played a key role in propagating and reinforcing the military establishment’s “politicians-are-corrupt” mantra, while completely ignoring numerous incidents of financial, political and moral corruption of the military establishment?
- Did it not play a damning role in partnership with the military establishment in its criticism of the Kerry Lugar Bill?
- Is it not a fact that the ISI regularly offers formal and informal directions to media owners and editors about which news items are to be eliminated and which ones need to be twisted and highlighted? Most recently, the Army Chief himself dictated such talking points to the media.
- Thus, are we dealing here with the case of a one off mistake, or has the Jang Group decided to come better prepared and better camouflaged next time?
On more than one occasions in this article, Mr Abbas has shown his selective or partial honesty. For example he writes: “Mohsin Baig, head of the Online news agency, has sacked the agency’s editor, charging him of “fabricating the story”.”
How conveniently he ignored the fact that Mohsin Baig is already known as the most volcal advocates of the GHQ and the ISI in media circles in Pakistan. Also, was it not Mr Baig himself who in an interview with BBC Urdu asserted that the cable was genuine:
اس بارے میں بی بی سی کے نامہ نگار حفیظ چاچڑ سے بات کرتے ہوئے خبر رساں ایجنسی آن لائن کے سربراہ محسن بیگ نےدعوٰی کیا یہ دستاویز اصل ہے۔ انہوں نے ان اخبارات پر تنقید کی جنہوں نے اس خبر پر معذرت شائع کی ہے۔
ان کے مطابق ’اگر ہماری خبر کی وکی لیکس تردید کر دے تو ان اخبارات کی معذرت جائز ہے اور وکی لیکس کی اس خبر کے انٹرنیٹ پر بے شمار لنکس موجود ہیں‘۔
محسن بیگ نے کہا کہ وکی لیکس کے دستاویزات شائع کرنے کا برطانوی اخبار گارڈین کے پاس کوئی اختیار نہیں ہے اور یہ دستاویزات انٹرنیٹ پر موجود ہیں اور انہیں کوئی بھی چھاپ سکتا ہے۔ انہوں نے ان خبروں کی بھی تردید کی جن میں کہا گیا ہے کہ خبر رساں ایجنسی کو یہ خبر مخصوص مقاصد پورے کرنے کے لیے دی گئی تھی۔
Is it just a coincidence that this wave of honesty has also entrapped Hamid Mir along with Azhar Abbas. Recently, in his interview with an Indian TV channel (Times Now), Mir admitted the role of the (military) establishment in planting the fake cable story:
Leading Pakistani newspapers acknowledged that they were hoaxed into publishing reports based on fake WikiLeaks cables that contained stories of factionalism in Indian army and accused New Delhi of sponsoring militant groups. The reports splashed prominently in several papers including The News and The Express Tribune, a partner of the International Herald Tribune, quoting alleged US diplomatic cables to confirm bias Pakistani views and conspiracy theories about India particularly about Jammu and Kashmir. The two papers today carried prominent apologies on their front pages regarding the report they had published yesterday on alleged disclosures in purported diplomaticcables from the US embassy in Delhi about Indian Army generals and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. TIMES NOW’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami debates the issue with Maroof Raza, TIMES NOW Strategic Affairs Expert; Farrukh Dhondy, Author and Former Commissioning Editor, Channel 4 and Hamid Mir, Executive Editor, Geo TV.
To understand the establishment’s next strategy, one must carefully listen to what their own man, the notorious Mushahid Hussain, is saying to Azhar Abbas: ““It is quite clear that some people did try to manipulate the information to save their skin. But it was done in a very crude manner and they were caught with their pants down.”
In other words, Mushahid Hussain is suggesting that information may be manipulated to save the military establishment’s skin but this must be done in a refined manner. In principle, Mushahid Hussain agrees with Ahmed Quraishi’s suggestion that if Guardian uses WikliLeaks for propaganda, why can’t Pakistani media do the same?
Further, Azhar Abbas writes: “Political and security observers believe a concerted effort is once again being made to encourage and promote a typical extremist mindset. Some analysts-cum-anchors have re-emerged from quasi-oblivion. Many journalists and analysts are briefed and encouraged to take an aggressively anti-West, especially anti-US, stance. Experts, who ‘preach’ extremism in disguise, are encouraged to participate in talk shows.”
Wait a minute. Is Mr Abbas now admitting that Hamid Mirs, Shahid Masoods, Ansar Abbasis, Kamran Khans etc of the Jang Group have been towing the military establishment’s line in the last three years and even before? Does he mean to assure the people of Pakistan that Jang Group’s anchors, reporters and analysts will take no further dictations from the military establishment? Not even from Mr Abbas’s own brother, the chief spokesman of the Pakistan Army?
Mr Abbas writes: “It is no secret that there were those in the media and clergy who openly opposed the Army’s campaign against the militants in Swat and tried their best to put the armed forces’ objectives and intention in doubt.”
How conveniently he ignored to mention the heroic role played by the ANP and the PPP, Asfandyar Wali Khan and Asif Ali Zardari in particular, in convincing the army to start an operation clean up in Swat. Indeed, no Swat Operation would have started or been successful in the absence of sacrifices of dozens of the ANP workers and leaders who refused to remain dominated by extremist Deobandis and Wahhabis in their province.
Along with Nadeem Paracha, I too am worried that “Is veteran journalist, author and media commentator, late Zamir Niazi’s fear and warnings about the Pakistani media becoming a chaotic hub of agency men who are amorally willing to lie and cheat to protect even the most atrocious ways of their patrons in the figurative establishment be true? Perhaps.”
In my view, supporters of free media including journalists, anchors, reporters and bloggers need to understand the ISI media’s two pronged strategy.
The goal is common for Ahmed Quraishi (and his likes) and Azhar Abbas (and his likes). The only difference is in the level of refinement.
One operates at the front end, the other at the back end. One is widely known for his contacts with the military establishment because of his upfront and crude manners, other is rather subtle and refined (save the fake cable saga) in its promotion of the military establishment’s agenda.
In my assessment, it is the subtle and refined worms in Pakistan’s “free” media who are most dangerous not only for freedom of information and its unadulterated access to the common public but also for the very foundations of this unfortunate country that these worms are eating from inside.