Pakistan uses biased report to discredit India
Pakistan has always and consistently tried to garner international support against India in whatever way it can
Hypocrisy thy name is Pakistan!
Exposed time and again for running a well-oiled propaganda machinery against India, Pakistan’s latest tactic is to try and turn the tables by accusing India of the shenanigans it has itself employed for the past many decades.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while addressing a webinar in Islamabad recently, urged the international community to take a serious look into “malicious Indian propaganda aimed at defaming Pakistan”. He referred to purported “revelations” by an NGO ‘EU DisinfoLab’ which he said corroborated “our long-held position about India's incurable obsession with Pakistan”.
The EU Disinfo-Lab is a Brussels-based NGO that claims to focus on researching and tackling sophisticated disinformation campaigns targeting the EU, its member states, core institutions, and core values.
The EU Disinfo-Lab claims to have unearthed a massive campaign orchestrated by the Indian government since 2005 with offices in Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada, to spread disinformation, against the countries in conflict with India, mainly Pakistan, by using fake NGOs, and think tanks to influence members of the EU Parliament (MEPs), the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the UN against Pakistan.
According to the report, titled “Indian Chronicles” released on December 9, 2020, the Indian operation’s long-term objective is: to reinforce pro-Indian and anti-Pakistan (and anti-Chinese) feelings; to consolidate internationally the power and improve the perception of India; to damage the reputation of other countries and ultimately benefit from more support from international institutions such as the EU and the UN – through a network of coordinated UN-accredited NGOs promoting Indian interests and criticizing Pakistan repeatedly.
Interestingly, the EU Disinfo-Lab that claims to ‘focus on researching and tackling sophisticated disinformation campaigns’ has made no effort whatsoever to delve in any detail into Pakistan’s activism in this field. A search for ‘Pakistan’ on its website only throws up Pakistan’s reference in its anti-India ‘studies’.
Towards the end of its report the EU Disinfo-Lab has keyed in a smart disclaimer that reads:
“We are well aware – as it is the case for every investigation – that our work will be used and recuperated by those who have an interest in seeing it published. In this case, probably Pakistani authorities.
Let us bear in mind that it is not because one side uses dodgy influence campaigns that the other side does not: A simple Google search will lead you to read about inauthentic behaviours supporting Pakistani interests.
More importantly, our investigation is in no way a judgement of the situation of human rights in Pakistan, nor should it serve to undermine the credibility of minority movements in Pakistan. Our report simply shines a light on how Indian stakeholders have used these issues to serve their own interests.”
One must take note of the fact that while the report claims to expose India’s ‘disinformation campaign’ it makes no attempt to expose Pakistan’s longstanding and well-known anti-India campaign across all international platforms.
The very obvious bias of this ‘research platform’ makes it a suspect in itself and raises more questions about Pakistan’s tactics. The Pakistan media, sure enough, has lapped up this report and is gleefully reproducing it in different formats.
Ironically, in a follow-up anti-India report on UNHRC, published on Human Rights Day on December 10, 2020, the EU Disinfo-Lab targets India but again conveniently makes no effort to look into massive human rights abuses inflicted by Pakistan on its own minorities as well as people in the occupied areas of J&K. This despite its disclaimer (above)!
India has been battling Pakistan’s vicious information war for decades now. Over the last few years, Pakistan’s machinations have been exposed many a times by analysts and investigators.
In July 2020, The Indian Express published an article by Tilak Devasher, National Security Advisory Board member and author of three books on Pakistan. Devasher, in the article titled “Pakistan’s information war campaign against India needs attention”, analyzed how Pakistan had shifted its disinformation strategy following recent developments.
He wrote: “There has been a sharp increase in Pakistan’s vicious information war campaign against India. An analysis would reveal three triggers: The Balakot attack of February 2019, the return of the BJP government in the May 2019 elections and the August 2019 revision of Article 370.
These developments have forced it to shift the emphasis of its anti-India strategy from fomenting terrorism supported by an information war component to an information war supported by terrorism.”
The key platforms for this strategy are Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube and Facebook, Devasher pointed out. “Pakistan has developed malicious narratives embellished with fake audio and video clips. The use of handles with phoney Middle Eastern identities is the latest addition to its bag of tricks.”
“For India, there has to be a relentless vigil and battle against this campaign just as there has been against terrorism fomented by Pakistan,” he said.
In April 2020, an IANS report revealed how Pakistan was running social media propaganda against India using fake Arab, Christian and Hindu identities to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.
The report said security agencies and independent social media users after investigation found that hashtags like Islamophobia in India on Twitter were mostly sourced to bots, trolls and people in Pakistan. The idea was to bombard social media with content to generate anti-Modi sentiment in Gulf countries and create a wedge between India and its allies in the Middle East, the report said.
The report gave several examples of misuse of social media for malicious propaganda and concluded by saying that these attempts at disinformation against India on social media were not new. Pakistan’s ISI was known to have been running social media propaganda against India over Kashmir. Thousands of handles pretending to be Hindus try to incite Muslims in Kashmir and the rest of India, using fake news about human rights violations committed by Indian security forces. Many bots post communal content against Muslims with an aim to incite communal violence.
PAKISTAN BUILDING ANTI-INDIA NEXUS
Pakistan has always and consistently tried to garner international support against India in whatever way it can. A DNA report of December 30, 2020, reveals how Turkey is hiring Kashmiri separatists, journalists to spread anti-India propaganda to help Pakistan.
“A new Turkey-Pakistan nexus has emerged in the recent past, leading to a complex network of academia, media, and NGOs working to spread anti-India propaganda. The nation has become a backdoor and safe haven for anti-India elements to work on Pakistan's behest as well as the converging point for anti-India actors and Pakistani agencies,” the report said.
The Turkish media infrastructure is also acting as a platform to bring together pro-Pakistani and anti-India elements together by adopting and employing them within Turkish media houses, it said. Besides the media, Turkey has also been indulged in promoting and accelerating anti-India activities through educational institutions — in Turkey as well as within India, the report revealed.
India has time and again officially exposed Pakistan’s tactics to spread anti-India sentiment. Just recently, on February 24, 2021, India slammed Pakistan for misusing international platforms for "baseless and malicious propaganda" against it and said Islamabad would do well to put its own house in order, before venturing to point a finger at New Delhi.
Using its Right of Reply under the High-Level Segment of the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council in response to a statement by Pakistan's representative, India said it was not surprised that Islamabad's representative misused the UN forum yet again.
"Pakistan's continued misuse of various platforms to engage in baseless and malicious propaganda against India is not new," Second Secretary of India's Permanent Mission in Geneva, Seema Pujani, said.
As a country with one of the world's worst human rights records, Pakistan would do well to put its own house in order, before venturing to point a finger at India, the diplomat said. Highlighting the violence and institutionalised discrimination and persecution faced by Pakistan's minorities, including Christians, Sikhs and Hindus, she said that there have been frequent attacks on the places of worship of minority communities.
"The condition of women belonging to minority communities, notably Hindus, Sikhs and Christians, remains deplorable. An estimated 1,000 women from minority communities are subjected to abduction followed by forced conversion and forced marriage in Pakistan every year, according to a recent report published by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan," she said.
As far as the ‘report’ by EU Disinfo-Lab is concerned, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that as a responsible democracy, India does not practice disinformation campaigns.
"In fact, if you are looking at disinformation, the best example is the country next door which is circulating fictional and fabricated dossiers and purveys a regular stream of fake news," he said at an online media briefing.
Disinformation is practised particularly by those who have records to hide such as sheltering international wanted terrorists including Osama bin Laden, and seek unsuccessfully to cover up their own tracks such as on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Srivastava said.
(The writer, a senior journalist, is a commentator on Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir affairs; views expressed are personal)