Expectedly, Pakistan has mounted a massive campaign of disinformation against the surgical strikes in PoK by India on 28 September — to attempt to portray that these strikes never occurred. This was logically response with Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani army chief — who is due to retire shortly — made to look silly with all the chest-thumping about the Pakistani Army being on full alert for 10 days since the attack on the Indian Army's Uri post.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his defence minister Khawaja Asif looked equally silly and shell-shocked. That is why they baulked and released chaotic and contradictory statements; Nawaz proclaiming naked aggression by India, till obviously told to shut up by the military and ISI, who denied that anything happened. And later, Asif, who was shouting from the rooftops about how India will be destroyed through nuclear strikes, till he too was cautioned by the US. Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Hafiz Saeed naturally went berserk: His ego was obviously hurt as advisor to the ISI and coordinator for terror attacks in India and Afghanistan despite a US bounty on his head.
Much before the surgical strikes in PoK, the media had already reported that large terrorist training camps like at Mansera and Muzaffarabad had been shifted out anyway
Significantly, Voice of America had reported only recently about Afghan officials telling Pakistan that Saeed was directing Islamic State attacks inside Afghanistan, and that he is not to be confused with the Hafiz Saeed of Velayat Khorasan who was recently killed in Afghanistan.
Adolf Hitler is quoted (somewhat erroneously) as having written: "If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed". This was echoed by John F Kennedy who quoted Hitler as having said, "No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as truth". China mastered this art completely, one example being the sustained campaign of the so called “Peaceful Rise of China”, whereas its rise has consistently been most violent. China’s protégé Pakistan has not lagged behind either. Meet a Pakistani and he will tell you that Pakistan won the 1965 India-Pakistan War; oblivious of the enormous graveyard of Pakistani tanks and the territory lost (including the strategic Hajipir Pass and the adjoining mountain massifs).
In fact, he will tell you Ayub Khan is worshipped in Pakistan for having won the 1965 war. For that matter, the Pakistani public is unaware that Pakistan’s Qaid-e-Azam post, located at a height of 6,500 metres (the highest post on the Saltoro Range in the Siachen Glacier area) was captured by India in 1987 and renamed Bana Post. Pakistani tourists and correspondents on the Pakistani side continue to be shown some peak from a distance and told that it is the Qaid-e-Azam post, which is held by Pakistan. In fact, in the mid-1990s, a Pakistani captain who leaked information about the loss of the Qaid-e-Azam post to the media had to face a court martial and was cashiered out of service.
Then came the 1999 Kargil Conflict which General Pervez Musharraf claimed to have won. Would the Pakistani public know that Musharraf refused to take the bodies of Pakistani soldiers killed in the conflict because he wanted to showcase them as freedom fighters? In addition, the dead bodies of some 500 soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry were unceremoniously dumped at their doorsteps in the dead of night. This was reported in detail in the monthly edition of Dawn magazine in 1999, but how many Pakistanis would have read it? It is the same Musharraf who in a TV interview on 28 October, 2015 revealed that the Pakistani government had trained and bolstered terror groups such as the Taliban and LeT, and that Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahari, Hafiz Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi were considered heroes in Pakistan.
And now, the BBC is showing a YouTube video of Pakistan’s DGAC, ISPR conducting correspondents at Tatta Paani (Hot Spring) area showing that there are no signs of Indian Army’s surgical raids to destroy any launch pad. Correspondents are then invited to get into helicopters and visit the other claimed strike areas to see for themselves the myth/lies of Indian claims. Incidentally, it is known that the BBC is wholly funded by the British Foreign Office. Not only are BBC correspondents selected after being interviewed at the foreign office, serving correspondents not toeing the government line are simply given the marching orders.
The BBC-ISPR links are well known, as is BBC’s Pakistan bias. That is why BBC never mentions the BJP without the prefix “India’s Hindu Nationalist Party”. However, this notwithstanding, there are two possibilities along which ISPRs disinformation campaign is being run. It is quite possible that either they are taking the correspondents to some places other than those struck or have worked diligently to obliterate all signs before taking them to these locations — either of the two options are feasible. Even if the correspondents were taken to say area of Tatta Paani, the launch pad could be anywhere in that general area, hidden from view. After all, launch pads for say eight to 10 terrorists hardly require large area and don’t require much effort to obliterate signs of having been raided.
Much before the surgical strikes in PoK, the media had already reported that large terrorist training camps like at Mansera and Muzaffarabad had been shifted out anyway.
The interesting part of the disinformation campaign mounted by the ISPR is the exploitation of the social media including WhatsApp. Although neither the Government of India nor the Indian Army has released any photographs, social media is flooded with photographs that are clearly not related to the strikes in PoK conducted on 28 September. This is being done in a professional fashion, setting in motion or deliberately inserting a chain of questions, claims and counter claims that would be picked up by Pakistani sympathisers in India as well as politicians of Opposition parties.
Not only are BBC correspondents selected after being interviewed at the foreign office, serving correspondents not toeing the government line are simply given the marching orders
It would not be surprising that the Chinese are advising the ISPR on how to refine their skills on information warfare. After all a detailed study by Harvard University has recently established that the Chinese government fabricates around 488 million social media comments annually (nearly the same as one day of Twitter’s total global volume) in a massive effort to distract its citizens from bad news and sensitive political debates. China providing tacit approval to Pakistan’s proxy war on India is well established. That is why China has extended her protective cover to a terrorist like Masood Azhar at the UN. That it would have provided Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR) — which provides encryption for instant messaging conversations — to Pakistani proxies is also quite possible.
That ISPR’s disinformation campaign will slip into inertia is obvious. But as per our media, photographic evidence of the surgical raids is in possession of the government and will be released when the government so desires. That being the case, the ISPR disinformation campaign can continue the way Pakistan wants because the later it is countered, the better the effect.
The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army, who has served in Kashmir