Pakistani papers retract WikiLeaks story on India

December 10, 2010

karachiLeading Pakistani newspapers have retracted stories that appear to have partly depended on fake WikiLeaks cables to support long-standing Pakistani allegations against India, particularly in causing instability inside Pakistan. The stories also quoted U.S. diplomats as ridculing India and its army.

The News ran a story saying its report was inaccurate and had been picked up from a local news agency.  The report had originated, it said, in websites “known for their close connections with certain intelligence agencies”.

The Express Tribune said that itdeeply regrets publishing this story without due verification and apologises profusely for any inconvenience caused to our valued readers.”

Britain’s Guardian newspaper, which had advance access to the cables, said that, “an extensive search of the WikiLeaks database by the Guardian by date, name and keyword failed to locate any of the incendiary allegations. It suggests this is the first case of WikiLeaks being exploited for propaganda purposes.”

As discussed in yesterday’s post, Pakistan being what it is, suspicion has fallen on its intelligence agencies for planting the story.  If so, it was a fairly spectacular own goal, as it distracted attention from actual WikiLeak cables. These brought into the public domain for the first time a view by British intelligence that India was supporting separatists in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province – a long-standing complaint made by Islamabad and denied by New Delhi.  According to the Guardian, “the real cables do contain allegations of Indian support for Baloch separatists, largely sourced to British intelligence assessments.”

Meanwhile, just to give a flavour of where the WikiLeaks debate is going in Pakistan itself, here is journalist Ahmed Quraishi - who says in this piece that allegations he is a mouthpiece of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency are “a conspiracy theory with no basis”.

Accusing the Guardian and New York Times of selectively publishing cables which served Western interests, he writes, “Just like the Guardian and NYT, the Pakistani media retains the right to manipulate and highlight WikiLeaks documents that serve our interest. This could involve some exaggeration in some parts of the media.”

I also quite liked this line from Quraishi, attributing the kind of perspicacity to the U.S. cables that no one who knows the region would claim, including those who wrote them:  ”The WikiLeaks documents are the truth.”

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