A story has been circulating on the Internet for some time now which alleges that Altaf Hussain, the MQM chief , was trying to flee from London and was apprehended by authorities due to the watchfulness of a surprisingly Pakistani taxi driver. The news story is fantastic, it gives the readers want they want to read, it has drama, it has thrill, it is stuff that dreams are made up of. Unfortunately, it is not true.
The news of Altaf Hussain running away to South Africa first caught my attention on facebook, shared by a friend. This was from a seemingly harmless website called “Statestimes”, here’s the link. If we get over the obvious spelling mistakes and complete disregard of fundamentals of journalism, we find the story too good to be true.
So we do some more research about the website itself and find many other dubious stories among copy-pasted stories from other websites. Furthermore, the Website does not seem to understand its own country of origin. In one article it would be talking about the “President” and referring to the Indian president, and in another, the “President” would be the Pakistani president. That happens when you copy-paste without understanding or reading or when you try to look legit when you are not.
But it gets deeper.
So, in a short while, I am referred to a new website by Dr Golam Mujtaba’s (the “famous” politician – I will come back to this guy at the end of the article) page where the same article about “Altaf Hussain caught escaping to South Africa?” appears. This time the website is called, The London Post. Sounds pretty legitimate and “international”. But it is none. Even though sincere effort has been done to make the website look legit, it has been done by pasting random links of news stories from other websites like CNN, BBC etc, with only a few stories hosted on the site itself. Also, The London Post has more stories about Karachi than London.
The stories that are hosted on the website itself are either fake, or not stories at all, just some opinions written in the form of random essays.
So we dig deeper.
I began to look for obviously fake stories and search exact sentences on Google, to see who else had carried the exact same story and see where that might lead me. Here is an obvious fake story on the so-called “The London Post”. Baloch and Sindhis demand for the US intervention in Balochistan. So i tried to get exact sentence matches on this one and this led me to…
A story posted on MSN by the “Satestimes” Statestimes seemed like a pretty “pro” Pakistani website a moment ago. This story was not posted on Statestimes website itself, but only posted on MSN by Statestimes. Hmm…okay.
So I began to look more into Statestimes. It seems that Statestimes is a Pakistani website because when it says “More rains likely in country” by ‘country’ it means Pakistan. However, sometimes it just randomly reports an Indian story and an unexplainable Indian point of view. So I took one of those stories, this one, and followed its trail to see where else it was posted.
and that led me too….there should be a drum-roll here….
The Indian version of Statestimes, which purports to be a “bold voice of J&K in New Delhi”. And this is no ordinary website. If you read it, you will see that this website is not being run by a hardworking journalist or an online-media entrepreneur, no sir. This is a website to spread Indian propaganda about Kashmir. It exclusively sings the praises of Indian Army with stories like: “Romeo Force organises Iftar Party“.
So which Statestimes posted that Baloch and Sindhi article on MSN? Indian or Pakistani? How can we believe that they are both one and the same?
The article on MSN has another name in its logo, “Al Qamar”. If you go to (allegedly) Pakistani Statestimes, you can go to any detail page by clicking on a link, and scroll down, you will see a facebook LIKE link of Al Qamar. So that means, the Pakistani Statestimes with Al Qamar fan page pasted the Anti Pakistani story on MSN, and many other Indian websites. (Al Qamar is another extremely shady website of doubtful origins, and its in URDU!)
So, we continue following the trail.
We take another random story from Statestimes and do an exact sentence match search. We come up with more such websites where these fake news items are carried. Websites targeted at Kashmiris and singing praisies of the Indian Army.
The Pandora’s box opens up and its crazy. This is what happens when you give your online psy-ops dept to just 2 guys.
For example: these 4 websites:
These websites not only have the same news stories, same editorial policy, same URL structure, same CMS, but they all also forgot to change their favicon.ico (Tab Icon) so they all ended up looking like this:
Needless to say, none of these websites give any contact names, any bylines etc.
These are the printscreens of these (poorly designed) websites lest they disappear:
I continued my search (because I am unemployed these days).
I find dozens of such websites. Selling Indian propaganda to Kashmiris, but that is understandable, that is what the Indians are supposed to to.
It was the other strain of websites that i found scary.
Websites like the London Post and the Statestimes, which pretend to be Pakistani but are actually not. By following the same method, i.e. taking a fake story and researching it on Google, you could come up with so many websites that you lose count of your open tabs.
http://www.jknewspoint.com/ Jammu Kashmir News Point
http://livepakistan.com/news/ Live Pakistan (Contains rehashed stories, and an occasional, planted, subtly anti-Pakistan, story)
http://www.bhrc.tk/ Balochistan Human Rights Council – from the same origins about Pakistani ‘brutalities’ in Balochistan.
http://www.balawaristan.net Freedom for Gilgit and Baltistan from Pakistani opression.
These are few cases in point.
I am sure you will find many more if you do a little research on your own.
So what is my point? I have wasted a couple of hours and what have I arrived at?
When i started writing this, i remembered another very similar article posted on Cafe Pyala. This was about fake websites with Pakistani propaganda. The writer, probably NFP, had tried to point out some websites and associate them with ISI without announcing the name of the agency. Personally, i agree that they were run by a Pakistani agency and i had seen that phenomenon taking shape a long time ago and it was so bloody obvious. It now seems like the Pakistani agency has abandoned this modus operandi but another agency continues to use it, an Indian agency, RAW probably.
So we come back to where we started from. Someone is trying to spread rumors regarding the current confusion in Pakistan and creating more chaos in the process. And that someone is definitely Indian. However, the story was subsequently picked by many well-meaning Pakistani websites and reproduced. My point in wasting so much time with this article was to tell my dear friends who use the internet to beware of such websites, on both sides of the border. Not only do they harm your own search for the truth, they also help in increasing chaos, and ultimately, our problems.
These websites, both Indian and Pakistani fake websites, point out how both agencies are increasingly using the Internet to spread propaganda. These agencies, however, are just doing their jobs. (poorly – but i think that is because they are just overworked and don’t have large staffs for online propaganda, that is probably because the higher-ups are old men who are not very excited about the Internet).
So why is Dr. Gholam Mujtaba promoting The London Post’s article like its the most reliable piece of journalism to come out of Britain? Why is he pretending like the London Post is to a newsreader what the bible is to a Catholic – when it is so obviously fake?
One can think of 2 reasons:
1. Either Dr Gholam Mujtaba is also an Indian agent.
2. Or. He is so dumb that he cannot tell real from fake, and thinks that “The London Post” is the most reliable newspaper ever.
Personally, I would not like to accuse him of a cunning and insidious act of plotting against the country by spreading chaos in it. I just think he is really really stupid. But one wonders, where do stupid men keep getting all that money from? And who is making DOCTORS out of all these sheer idiots?
Maybe Dr Zulfiqar Mirza can answer that. by Tesseremos