From Thuggees to fake WikiLeaks

December 17, 2010

lahore mosqueThe fall-out from the fake WikiLeaks cables in Pakistan continues to be far more interesting than the real WikiLeaks cables. To recap, several Pakistani newspapers retracted stories last week which quoted WikiLeaks cables ostensibly accusing India of stirring up trouble in Baluchistan and Waziristan, cited U.S. diplomats as ridiculing the Indian Army, and compared Kashmir to Bosnia in the 1990s.  Since the anti-India narrative presented in the stories chimed with the views of Pakistani intelligence agencies, the alleged cables were then dismissed as fakes and most likely an intelligence plant.

However, just to complicate matters, some of the information in the “fake cables” is also in the “real cables”.  For example, the real cables do contain allegations of Indian support for Baluch separatists, largely sourced to British intelligence, according to The Guardian. The British newspaper, which had advance access to the cables, also cited them as evidence that India practiced systematic torture in Kashmir.

So if the anti-India stories really were an intelligence plant, why did “the agencies” in Pakistan not use actual cables to bolster their allegations, rather than fake cables which could be easily discredited?

In a column in The Express Tribune headlined “Can’t they just be spies?”,  journalist Aamer Khan blamed it on an inability to manage the media. Recalling a news agency he said was set up by Pakistani intelligence to spread the word about the Kashmir revolt, he said that eventually, ”the spooks running the operation went haywire and lost all perspective on what they had set out to achieve. As more and more newspapers started accepting its copy, the agency started reporting a dramatic increase in the number of Indian casualties at the hands of our fearless jihadis.”

The daily death toll rose at such a furious pace that several years later one Western analyst said if that agency were to be believed, jihadis must have killed all the Indian Army posted in the Kashmir Valley twice over by then. He concluded that the fake WikiLeaks story suggested nothing had changed in the last 20 years.

This implied inefficiency is intriguing. The Western media narrative ascribes a great deal of power to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in its influence over the Afghan war, based on its alleged support for the Taliban.  But bear in mind that an organisation sometimes believed capable of ending the Afghan war did not - if it was indeed responsible – manage to plant durably a WikiLeaks story even when it had real cables to back up its case.

 Nadeem Paracha at Dawn, however, argued it did not matter that some newspapers retracted the story since enough papers and television channels carried it for it to be believed. He ascribed the fake WikiLeaks cables to an over-enthusiastic pro-military media eager to deflect attention from real cables which highlighted the role played by the Pakistan Army in the country’s politics as well as other awkward revelations about Pakistan’s  ally Saudi Arabia.

“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. But the deluge that was created by the Wikileaks around certain sacred cows who identify themselves to be the saviours of Pakistan’s internal and external religious and ideological identity – mainly the military, the political clergy and Saudi Arabia – was such that no attempt to deflect criticism from these gallant souls seemed to be working.

“So, off went many dailies and TV channels to try something else. First, certain specific leaks were selected to make the President (Asif Ali Zardari) seem like a Satan incarnate. Not much came out of this, and the gear was shifted and all of sudden one saw certain journalists claiming something about how the leaks were a conspiracy against Muslims. Obviously, this too made them seem even sillier, until the fake leaks – certainly a desperate last ditch effort.”

Dawn columnist Cyril Almeida went further, suggesting the fake WikiLeaks served to manipulate public opinion against U.S. demands that the Pakistan Army “do more” to tackle the Taliban and Islamist militants. 

“The fake WikiLeaks cables give the first public hint about how opinion is being shaped in this country right now. Unpatriotic, secular, godless liberals may sniff about such naked manipulation, but the smart money is on a population raised on a diet of conspiracy and paranoia swallowing it as yet more evidence of external plots against the country.”

Before anyone thinks this is a conspiracy theory too far, let’s go back to the oldest intelligence agency in British colonial India. Both the ISI and its Indian counterpart, the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW),  are – like the Pakistan and Indian armies – inheritors of a system that was designed to maintain British rule.  That system was not set up to promote democracy, and despite attempts at reform in India, neither have completely shaken off that legacy.   While the ISI remains powerful in Pakistan, in India the activities of R&AW are rarely questioned - I have yet to see for example any serious media investigations into its alleged role in Baluchistan.

According to academic reports I had collected on the  ISI and R&AW, the oldest intelligence agency in South Asia is the Intelligence Bureau (IB). It apparently dates back to the creation of a Central Special Branch by British colonial rulers in December 1887 to gather domestic intelligence in the context of the Anti-Thuggee Organisation. ”Thuggees” were highway robbers who strangled their victims and gave the world the word “thug”.

You can read whole books about the Thuggees, and there are frequent references to them in British colonial literature presenting them as a terrifying cult whose members worshipped the Hindu goddess Kali and indulged in ritual murder.

But then do also read historian Manan Ahmed at Chapati Mystery arguing that the British East India Company (which ran Britain’s India possessions until The Mutiny/First War of Independence in 1857) exaggerated the Thuggee threat in order to increase its own power. “… the argument was that the entirety of India was being menaced by these devotees of Kali and it was only the Company’s intervention that can provide security to the people of India.”

Sounds familiar? In a very dotted line, with much inefficiency on the way, we get from Thuggees to fake WikiLeaks.   The problem for all of us is to work out how much the real threat exists, and how much it is used to perform a useful function.  And that as any student of South Asia will tell you, is very hard to tell.


777xxx777: “Ohhh come on KP being someone from south asia and one who knows the history so well should know that the religion is the GREATEST (read in font size 40 and bold) WEAPON to Divide and Rule. Onus is onto people like you and me that we go on blindly following the religions or use or heads first.”

Anything can be used as a weapon for dividing people. Not just religion. Look at North and South Korea. Look at Hutus and Tutsis. Look at Tamils versus Sinhalese. Look at African Americans and Caucasians. Look at Bengalis versus Punjabis. Look at Balochis versus Pashtuns. Look at Nazis versus others. Look at Chocolate ice cream lovers versus Vanilla ice cream lovers. People can go to war with each other on any of these premises.

Religion is also a weapon, but not the only weapon.

I do use my head. I am not fanatical about religion. I believe in tolerance and respect for other religions. It is only the close minded cave dwellers that I go against. And they are not only living in Germany, but also in India and elsewhere. As far as I am concerned, my religion is personal. I have never fought with anyone to project the belief that mine is the most ideal religion for everyone.

What I have said is that religion is not meant for conflicts. It is meant for one’s inner spirit. Religion provides the means to achieve closeness to the spirit.

The only way to come out of petty conflicts is to grow towards better life. Golden ages are needed. When the Abbasid empire ruled, Muslims reached a golden age. They were very open minded. They helped translate a lot of Indian scriptures into Persian and absorbed many of the concepts. It is they who introduced the concepts of modern mathematics, astronomy, Gothic architecture etc to Europe. Tulips were introduced by Ottoman Turks. Every society during its golden age has been like the US today – open, liberal and most sought after. The world now has the means to achieve that golden age and spread it far and wide. India under Akbar was one of the wealthiest places on earth. Emperor Akbar invited people from all faiths to come to him and enlighten him on religion and spiritualism. He lived like a Hindu Rajput, starting his day with the salute to the sun. The last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah celebrated Diwali. Dara Sikoh translated the Bhagavat Gita into Persian. All that takes is a golden age. If we can achieve that, all differences will disappear.

Modern world is capable of extending and expanding the golden age. Ancient empires could not do that over sustained period of time. Our world today can definitely do it. But the attempt has to be made.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

” a good part of that is due to the prompt condemnation of terror by Indian Muslims”

Yes and that’s what Muslims in Europe need to do to escape hardships that Jews faced in past. But where are those moderate Arabs and Africans (if there are any)?

Indian examples of tolerance stand out today. Mumbai 2008 it was calm (in terms of inter-community clashes) and all were together with each other for support in loss. Ayodhya verdict saw almost zero clashes among communities. The fabric is increasingly getting integrated despite fools like Mulayam, Maya, Rahul and other congress agents trying hard to disrupt it. So people like us have to come out of our cages and make our voices heard. Are Arabs upto it???

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive 53689520101220

Example Tolerant Islamic countries…what a tolerance

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

To a series of exposures next scandalous details of personal life of WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange were added.

Life style of Assange becomes even more interesting after disclosure of his former lover’s revelations – a young man from Sweden named Ivar Anderson with whom the founderof WikiLeaks had,though not lengthy but very stormy, relations when Assange had been living in Sweden.

Acquaintance of Assange and Ivar Anderson took place on a computer party in Stockholm where the young man (now 27 years) represented a new online project

Casual acquaintance has ledto short, but very passionate relations, which Ivar remembers as one of the brightest in his life.
Employment of Assange with hisproject and randomness of his life, caused also by pressure of police, haven’t allowed Julian and Ivar to prolong the relations and soon the founder of WikiLeaks had been compelled to leave Sweden.

Ivar Anderson speaks of his former lover very respectfully and notes such qualities of Assange as: purposefulness and hard work to fanaticism, but also believes that the policy of openness promoted by WikiLeaks, should be extended to privacy of Julian. Therefore, Ivar doesn’t see anything wrong in the disclosure of these facts from the life ofJulian Assange.

Frank dialogue of our reporter with the young man was held in one of Stockholm’s cafe in December evening after a brief correspondence. And, also aspiring to an openness, we consider expedient to tell our readers this story.


Posted by pablitisimo | Report as abusive

777xxx777: “Example Tolerant Islamic countries…what a tolerance”

I see nothing Islamic in this. It is about a movie director siding with political opponent. I’d call the following as pure backwardness and to be condemned by all:

In India, we have honor killings, dowry deaths, female infanticide etc. Continuous progress and women’s empowerment will help eradicate these issues in the long run.

A lot of issues are social rather than religious. Caste prejudice in India is more social in nature than religious. We must be clear in distinguishing the difference.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

“Caste prejudice in India is more social in nature than religious”

Well, in that case I would say that we disagree on this. I consider caste system as a side effect of blindly following the religion and its so called prophets and saints. People seldom use their brain and become fodder for self proclaimed prophets who want to achieve their own political goals. All those shouting God God have any idea what God said, is there any conclusive evidence that the scriptures and books that reached to us are correctly carried forward to us by our ancestors? And still religion and faith?? Ohh give me a break. Religions create more troubles than solutions and world is witnessing that right now.

In case of Iran which is a pure Islamic state where state has everything to do with religion, suppressing opposition voices is political intolerance wrapped in Islam.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

777xxx777: “Well, in that case I would say that we disagree on this. I consider caste system as a side effect of blindly following the religion and its so called prophets and saints.”

Which religion? As far as I understand, there is no such thing as a Hindu religion. There are various types of cults and orders that appear similar in structure with their own deities and rituals. It is like all of Africa looking similar to us from a distance. You go in closer and you find more diversity than you can imagine. This is one reason why in India there are so many Gods and so many saints. All Indians do not follow the Vedas. Most do not even know what Manu’s edicts are. If you read Indian history, you will find that the current structure of the pan-Indian “Hindu” religion was set up during the Gupta dynasty. Buddhism had spread across most of India prior to the Gupta dynasty. A revival happened when a lot of things were changed to appeal to the masses. The avatars of Vishnu were put in order at that time. Caste system had remained before that and after that. Buddha himself campaigned against it. This tells me that caste system is a social system that helped people monopolize professions as a matter of survival. The natives of the land were conquered people and pushed down the order to do jobs that no one wanted to do – dealing with dead bodies, skin and leather, washing clothes and so on. Religious justification was concocted to sustain the social prejudice. Many white Aryan supremacists twist religion to suit their campaign as well.

When something is a social background, you will find it remaining despite the overall changes. Even amongst us Sikhs there is caste prejudice. I am a Jat. When it comes to marriages, we somehow prefer our own people. Amongst Muslims, the same class and caste hierarchy has crept in.

Even in modern India, one can see the profession based class taking new shapes – Actors’ children become actors. Doctors’ children become doctors. Lawyers’ children become lawyers. Accountants’ children are invariably accountants. Politicians’ descendants are politicians. Military people seek military professions. Farmers remain farmers. If you give a thousand years time, this demarcation will become rigid again.

Caste system is a symptom of overall backwardness and stagnation. In a modern world, it does not have much strength to survive. India is changing. Hopefully in a hundred years, we will be more mixed and cosmopolitan.

“People seldom use their brain and become fodder for self proclaimed prophets who want to achieve their own political goals.”

Even those who are not religious tend to seek their own groups. It provides a feeling of security and social acceptance.

“All those shouting God God have any idea what God said, is there any conclusive evidence that the scriptures and books that reached to us are correctly carried forward to us by our ancestors? And still religion and faith?? Ohh give me a break. Religions create more troubles than solutions and world is witnessing that right now.”

Religions will never disappear. They are a part of the human psyche. Laws and constitution do not have the personal appeal a religion has. And people follow religious edicts more than laws. Religions form a part of the social fabric and culture. Communists have already tried everything and failed.

“In case of Iran which is a pure Islamic state where state has everything to do with religion, suppressing opposition voices is political intolerance wrapped in Islam.”

Nuclear technology has nothing to do with religion. If Iran is pursuing it, it is not for religious reasons. According to your logic, they must be performing Namaz five times in front of the reactors to enrich the uranium. Sure Iran is a theological state. But they drive cars and watch TV. They also play soccer. Everything is not religion based. Religion comes in only when the question of identity is raised. If I use your logic, then one can conclude that all elections in India are based on caste, because it is part of the “Hindu” religion. We are Sikhs and we elect our politicians in Punjab. And it has nothing to do with turban and beard.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

I fully agree with you! But try to consider in your mind the time when muslim armies were destroying the world which was not compatable with their vision. Mr Nehru and the congress party were not the decision maker. How could they, they were slaves themselves.

Now sit back and relax and watch what the American military is doing today in the 21st century, a crusade of destruction in many parts of the world under the banner of Democracy! Do you approve of this because it is them and not you who is the underdog?

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

In as much as I dislike to address you with 777′s but you have choosen the digits for your name so I am obliged to address you as such. Similarly, the armies which I was referring to belonged to the countries which called themselves muslim countries. Now you are a smart guy, how should I refer to them. Today armies of the christian countries are no longer called christian armies or crusaders simply because these contries have separated the church from the Govt. affairs. Clever, is’nt it?
It is one thing to accept Islam or any other faith, as a way of salvation and it is another to reach that goal and becoming a good muslim. Is this not the dilemma the world is facing all over; are the so called christian countries do not accept the ten commandments and millions say ameen in their churches every sunday of the week and like a super hypocrites adhere to the death sentence?

Now do’nt be touchy, reforms in education are needed all over the world. India is not the only candidate, the problem is the leaders who democratically get elected but are always behind the time they live in or to imagine the future. In Europe Scandanavian countries have the upper hand, in central and south the leaders are not visionary. I am not able to understand the indian wisdom, Is nuclear energy the salvation for Indian needs? Is India aware of the accidents which occur in France Nuclear plants. How does one protect nuclear plants from the so called terrorists who consider India as a legitimate target for their operatioons to free the Kashmiris?

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

Burqa has no place in the modern world, which calls for full participation of women in the development of their economies. Burqa has very little to do with the religion either, Those who want to retain it as a right, and regard it as a protection against the men, should better move about in countries where the State is unable to protect them otherwise.

We have already got problems in the western societies with the so called hajab, which is now becoming the political symbol of expression of muslim women!

The fact that Bona part went for burqa was to gain votes from the French Right( Le Pen Party). This was shabby on the part of the French President who having the jewish background, wernt on a spree of contoversial and anti-muslim, anti- minorities campaign, even appointed a jewish foreign minister, though the guy was from the opposition socialist party.
Also, in my opinion you do not need a house of God with minarets in Europe for muslims to pray. Let the muslims purchase or rent the churches which are now standing empty, and use them to say prayers. The Sultan of turkey whose army occupied Budapest for more than a century and a half, did not build mosques with minarets but used beautiful cathedrals in the country for prayers.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

“I am not able to understand the indian wisdom, Is nuclear energy the salvation for Indian needs”

You need to live in India and understand the corruption scenario which according to your misconception is a British bogey. I am as much disgusted with nuclear deal as with latest fighter jet deals with Russia. But in case of nuclear deals other options like solar energy are not feasible right now because of other long term pending reforms for industry. In India like Europe and US the problem is with leaders or politicians if you put it that way. Power Corrupts be it Britain, France, Germany or India or Pakistan.

“Today armies of the christian countries are no longer called christian armies or crusaders simply because these contries have separated the church from the Govt. affairs”

Then why do you keep calling them ‘christian’ all the time?? Why do you see everything that is political from a lens of religion? Instead of calling the armies as Muslim you could have said Arab armies, Persian armies, Middle East armies, etc but you chose to call them muslim armies why??? As for my name you have option to refer as ‘xxx’ for it is ’777xxx777′. I hope that solves ur irritation with my name.

“Burqa has no place in the modern world, which calls for full participation of women in the development of their economies”

Ohh wow I remember a few days back u were all up for supporting burqa by saying its personal rights and all and now u say its not needed. Good to see a change in your stand.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

Ohh KP you should think faster than you type. I am saying that to push in any evil into society the religion is the best tool and greatest weapon. Anything that has supposed support of so called prophets can be pushed into society however evil that custom or rule may be. Why so?? Because people follow religion blindly and anything that is supported by prophets gets very easily accepted by society without thinking if that is evil or good. People here do not question religion but blindly follow it and so all social evil are side effects of this blind religion following.

India was not divided by Jinnah alone but by those paranoid muslims who supported his threat of civil war. He was just a poster/face of evil of society wrapped in religion. Had people not been following religion blindly the division would not have occurred.

People need to use their heads before just following so called God’s commandments.

I hope I am clear now. If not let me know, I’ll try to rephrase.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

“Then why do you keep calling them ‘christian’ all the time?? Why do you see everything that is political from a lens of religion?”

Pakistanis have been taught to look at everything from a religious perspective, from the day they are born. Quoting Zulfikar Bhutto from one of his (in)famous speeches “the christians have the nuclear bomb, the jews have it & now the hindus have it as well. So why can’t we muslims have one too?”. I think that says it all about the psyche of Pakistanis.

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive

I think you are a comedian! I do not see anything from the lens of a religion.
You must be joking accusing me of supporting Burqa? You have even got a shadow called Mortal1 who is thinking loud with you. I do not believe we have anything further to exchange on wikileak!

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

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