Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that as a responsible democracy, India does not practice disinformation campaigns.
India on Friday slammed Pakistan over its accusations that New Delhi was spreading disinformation, saying when 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”.
Responding to questions on Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan quoting an EU disinformation lab report to accuse India of subversive activities through fake media organisations and similar allegations by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, 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, Mr Srivastava said, hitting out at Pakistan.
Asked about Pakistani media reports quoting unnamed sources to claim that India was planning false flag operations, the MEA spokesperson said the best example of a country practising disinformation is the country next door.
“Our position in this matter and the facts on the ground are well known, I don’t want to dignify such propaganda by responding to it,” he said.
To a question on External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar announcing at the Geneva Donors Conference recently that India will be constructing the Shahtoot Dam, Mr Srivstava said the minister had made the announcement that India and Afghanistan have reached an agreement on the dam.
The agreement is expected to be signed shortly, he added.
Asked when would the Nepalese foreign minister visit India, Mr Srivastava said he is expected to be in India shortly for the next joint commission meeting, but the dates for it are yet to be worked out.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
In Pakistan, the media is intimidated by both state and non-state actors
On November 9, Pakistan’s Supreme Court granted bail to the owner of the country’s largest media group, the GEO, after a 10-month-long detention condemned by the rights groups as suppression of the press. The country’s not-so-legally-immaculate National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had accused Mir Shakilur Rehman of illegally leasing government land in 1986 and of having ownership rights transferred to himself in 2016 when ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ruling Pakistan.
Normally, it doesn’t take that long for NAB to step back and let its inadequately challenged victim go. The courts were reluctant to touch his case till the Supreme Court thought the man had rotted in a NAB cell for too long without being convicted for a crime he was supposed to have committed 34 years ago. The NAB, of course, didn’t care; nor did Pakistan. In the World Press Freedom Index for 2020, Pakistan ranked 145 out of 180 countries.
Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf — the last word meaning “justice” — looked the other way as if it actually enjoyed Rehman’s maltreatment. Deeper in the state, Rehman’s journalists had been roughed up over time, as in the case of Hamid Mir, a popular anchor in Rehman’s GEO TV, who was shot at in Karachi in 2014. In 2018, investigative journalist Ahmad Noorani was trailed for miles before being attacked with an iron rod on a busy street in Islamabad.
Then in 2020, Radio Free Europe reported that a prominent Pakistani journalist Matiullah Jan had been abducted in July from Islamabad by several men, only to be released after the kidnappers were satisfied that he had “learned his lesson”. In June 2018, a British-Pakistani woman journalist and columnist, Gul Bukhari was abducted for “a few hours” by “unknown personnel” in Pakistan. In February 2020, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) reported that “a Pakistan law enforcement agency” had threatened to slap terrorism charges on one of the country’s most prominent government critics, journalist Gul Bukhari. The CPJ said: “The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has asked Gul Bukhari, a columnist and democracy activist, to appear before an inquiry probing online propaganda against the government, national security organisations, and the judiciary.”
As if in response, the Imran Khan government urged the British government to take action against Bukhari for using “British soil for her nefarious activities” against Pakistan while abusing “freedom of speech rules and western values”. It went further: “Her venomous social media activities promote divisive tendencies and incitement of violence.”
TV anchor Hamid Mir’s top-rated show, Capital Talk, is popular among those trying to know the underside of Pakistan’s real politics. Declan Walsh, in his book Nine Lives of Pakistan (2020), tells us he was shot at in 2014 while going to Karachi: “As Mir was being driven from Karachi Airport, a gunman stepped onto the road. Bullets thudded into the vehicle. Mir dived onto the back seat. As the car zigzagged through the Karachi traffic, Mir speed-dialled his producer. ‘They’re killing me! They’re killing me,’ he cried. The car made it to a hospital where Mir was rushed into surgery. He had been shot six times — in the pelvis, bladder, legs, and shoulders.”
There are many “parties” working as “non-state actors” who may dislike your reports and come after you. In the interior of the province of Sindh, a journalist can be kidnapped and killed by an offended landlord called “wadero”. In 2011, Saleem Shahzad, a freelance journalist, was brutally murdered. Instead of its mandated six weeks, it took the five-member inquiry commission on his death six months, 23 meetings, and 41 depositions to present its findings. As expected, in its 146-page report, which was forwarded to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, the commission said it still didn’t know who had killed Shahzad.
The first flight of British airline Virgin Atlantic, which took off from Manchester, landed in Islamabad on Friday.
According to a press release by the British High Commission in Pakistan, another flight from the federal capital will take off for London’s Heathrow airport on December 13 and a third will head from Lahore to London on December 14.
The airline will operate three routes from Pakistan to the United Kingdom: two from Islamabad to London and Manchester and one from Lahore to London.
According to the statement by the British High Commission, Pakistan is the airline’s first new route since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
British High Commissioner Christian Turner said the beginning of the airline’s operations to Pakistan was a “historic moment”.
“Our 1.6 million strong Pakistani diaspora in the UK is at the heart of our ties,” he was quoted as saying by the press release.
“Eighteen months ago we had no British airlines flying in Pakistan; today we have over 20 direct flights a week to both Islamabad and Lahore. This is a sign of confidence in Pakistan and will improve people to people links and boost trade.
“Followed by the change in travel advice and return of England cricket team to Pakistan, it further shows #UKPakDosti.”
The airline will operate the Boeing 787–9 Dreamliner aircraft on all routes from Pakistan, the press statement said, adding that the passengers will be provided with in-flight entertainment including movies and shows in Urdu. Halal food options will also be available.
“UK is home to the largest Pakistani diaspora community in the world, with around 1.6 million people,” the press release read.
“The new Virgin Atlantic services will provide vital connectivity for friends and relatives visiting family and loved ones, in addition to serving growing demand for business and leisure travel.”
Additionally, connecting flights to destinations in North America, including New York, Boston and Los Angeles will also be available. The airline is also offering “onward connectivity alongside its transatlantic joint venture partner Delta Airlines” to more than 200 destinations in North America.
The airline also has put in place measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which include “enhanced and thorough” cleaning practices at check in, boarding gates and onboard. The practice would include “electrostatic spraying of high-grade disinfectant” in cabins and lavatories before every flight.
Social distancing will be observed “wherever possible” and wearing a mask on flight will be compulsory. A health pack will be provided to all passengers, which will include three face masks, surface wipes and hand sanitiser.
In addition, the airline has “redesigned” its meals to minimise interaction “enclosed and controlled from preparation in a Covid-safe, monitored environment to the moment it is served”.
Furthermore, the airline will also provide “fast, efficient” cargo services which will “enable growing trade volumes between exporters and importers in both the UK and Pakistan”.
The press release noted that the UK is Pakistan’s “largest export market” for textile, apparel and machinery.
“We are thrilled to bring our award-winning service to customers in Pakistan,” the press statement quoted Virgin Atlantic South Asia’s Country Manager Alex McEwan as saying.
“We are confident that passengers will love flying with us on our cutting-edge Boeing 787 Dreamliner to London Heathrow, Manchester and beyond to North America.
“Our services will promote trade and provide vital connectivity between UK and Pakistan, enhancing already close ties. It has been a monumental effort to enable our set up in Pakistan, and I would like to thank the British High Commission and the Pakistan authorities for their unwavering support.”
The airline had announced its plans to commence operations to and from Pakistan in August. The airline’s request to commence operations was approved by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority last week.