Visas, Conspiracy Theories, and Propaganda Rings

Mar 4th, 2011 | By | Category: Blogs, Conspiracy Theories, Daily Mail, Pak Observer

When the US under President George Bush decided to invade Iraq, a well documented propaganda campaign was undertaken in which the American people were convinced that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 attacks – a piece of misinformation that was necessary to justify the invasion of Iraq. The propaganda tactic used was a simple one – repeat the misinformation enough, even after it is disproven – and enough people will either believe the lie or be confused about the issue that space will be available to promote a political agenda.

Ahmed Quraishi’s latest column for The News uses this same neocon propaganda tactic of repeating a claim even after it has been disproven.

A third issue is the role of President Zardari, his interior minister and his Washington envoy in facilitating the entry of hundreds of US operatives into Pakistan over the past months. It is clear that the US government and CIA rely on proxies to further its agenda in Pakistan. This must come to an end. The personal interests of individuals in the Pakistani government must never trump national interest. The Oman meeting indicates the goal now is to sweep all these urgent issues under the carpet in the name of saving Pak-US relationship.

This is a continuation of visa conspiracy that was disproven a few weeks ago when Ambassador to USA Husain Haqqani opened the books and revealed to legitimate journalists that there was no conspiracy and that all visas were issued following the proper protocols.

But Ahmed Quraishi does not stop with simply repeating disproven conspiracy theories, he goes a step further by making unfounded smears against unnamed government officials. Suggesting that “individuals in the Pakistani government” are putting personal interests above national interest is a straw man type of argument. If Ahmed Quraishi has some evidence of a government official putting personal interest above national interest, why does he not name the individual and the instance so that it can be investigated? Actually, this appears to be nothing but an attempt to smear the names of individuals while side-stepping liability for defamation lawsuits.

Ahmed Quraishi is not the only person repeating this misinformation. The claim is also repeated by Dr Raja Muhammad Khan in a piece that was published in both Pak Observer and Daily Mail on the same day. But this “Dr Khan” does not even get his facts right from the first two sentences. According to Dr Khan’s column, Raymond Davis, “now works for Xe, commonly known as the Blackwater”. This is false. It has been reported that Raymond Davis was once a special forces soldier who then worked for Xe and left some time ago. He now works for Hyperion Protective Consultants.

But this is not the only error in Dr Khan’s column. He raises the common talking point that the Embassy in Washington issued 400 visas to US nationals in two days, but he does not explain that the majority of these visas were issued for a state visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff and security before a July 2010 visit. According to the Embassy, these American officials were only in Pakistan for 2-3 days.

Dr Khan quotes the number per the Embassy that “approximately 3,555 U.S. diplomats, military officials and employees of allied agencies were issued visas in 2010”, but as it was explained last month, most of the US officials and contractors were only in the country for three months each, so the total number of US nationals in Pakistan would be 1/4 to 1/3 of the total number of visas issues during the year. This means that at any given moment there are probably 1,000 or fewer US officials in Pakistan.

This number should also be viewed in context. Since the 1980s the number of US diplomatic visas has been roughly the same. During the Cold War when the CIA and ISI were working together to support the Afghan mujahideen, the largest CIA station in the world was in Pakistan. During this time under Gen. Zia, as many as 780 US diplomats were listed in the Islamabad Diplomatic List. Dr Khan claims that “there have been no worthwhile voices on these expansionist designs of US in Pakistan from various circles”, but the truth is that there are no signs of expansionist designs.

In addition to the factual errors of Dr Khan, it is also curious that he concludes his article with the same smear that Ahmed Quraishi uses. Dr Khan says, “The broad criterion should be that, our personal relations and personal gains should not govern the national interests of Pakistan.” Was this some mere coincidence that both Ahmed Quraishi and Dr Khan are writing the same smears, or is this a case of talking points being provided to guide the writers?

It seems there is even more to the story. After some additional searching based on phrases used by Dr Khan, some very curious facts came to light.

On 28 February 2011 at 1:10PM the following comment was posted to an article on the website of Express Tribune by someone named ‘Abdul Rauf Hashmi’:

Who is Spying on Whom?
Let there be end to the era of special protocol for US spying network in Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan must investigate all those responsible for the flaws in the visa issuance process and reprimand them on their act. The broad criterion should be that, our personal relations and personal gains should not govern the national interests of Pakistan. The sovereignty, integrity and national pride of Pakistan should be kept in the forefront, while developing our relationship across the national frontiers.

The exact same paragraph appears in the column by Dr Khan today.

Let there be end to the era of special protocol for US spying network in Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan must investigate all those responsible for the flaws in the visa issuance process and reprimand them on their act. The broad criterion should be that, our personal relations and personal gains should not govern the national interests of Pakistan. The sovereignty, integrity and national pride of Pakistan should be kept in the forefront, while developing our relationship across the national frontiers.

Further searching reveals that this same article by ‘Dr Raja Muhammad Khan’ first appeared on the website Opinion-Maker.org, the website of “virtual Think Tank” named ‘O.M. Center for Policy Studies’ which chaired by Major Raja Ghulam Mujtaba.

Major Raja MujtadaMajor Mujtaba also serves as Islamabad Editor for VeteransToday.com, which is the website of one Mr “Gordon Duff”. Mr. Duff describes Major Mujtaba’s relations with the ISI in an interview of September 2010.

Well, I only knew one group in the world that I could con into reading (chuckling) 90,000 pages of documents. So, I called our editor in Islamabad, Major Raja Mujtaba and had him forward my request to Brigadier General Asif Haroon Raja who forwarded it to the head of Pakistan’s ISI, and the ISI assigned a group of analysts who, going through the 69,000 pages of documents — I would almost rather have Brigadier Raja on the phone with us here — and that can be arranged and probably should.

Another connection to propaganda and intelligence agencies is the fact that former ISI chief Gen. Hamid Gul is on the Editorial Board of Directors of this website VeteransToday.com which Major Mujtaba is also an editor.

But one does not even have to go that far. Just look at the Board of Advisors for Major Mujtaba’s own ‘Think Tank’ called “Opinion Maker Center for Policy Studies.”

  • Dr Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema of National Defense University who founded Defense & Strategic Studies department in Quaid-i-Azam University
  • Mr Tarik Jan author of books including Universalizing the Abrahamic Tradition, Towards the Universal Islamic State, and the editor of Pakistan’s Security and the Nuclear Option
  • Dr Tahir Amin of Quaid-i-Azam University
  • Brig Asif Haroon Raja
  • Maj Gen Parvez Akmal (Retd)
  • Maj General Muhammad Tahir (Retd)
  • Dr S. M. Rahman is Secretary General FRIENDS founded by General Mirza Aslam Beg
  • Mansoor Malik who worked on F-16 Aircraft Weapons System for PAF
  • Col Bakhtiar Hakeem
  • Air Commodore Khalid Iqbal

Also, who else should show up on the ‘About Us’ page of Opinion-Maker.org but Ahmed Quraishi himself. Perhaps there is no coincidence that he and Dr Khan have reached the same conclusion?

According to his bio on this website, Mr Quraishi “has been commissioned for public policy outreach projects as a consultant, serving mostly government clients in the larger Middle East region”.

UNKNOWNBut all of this information only raises further questions. Who is this “Dr Raja Muhammad Khan”? His bio on the Opinion-Maker.org website says he is Associate Professor with National Defence University Islamanad. Now he is also writing for websites with links to military and intelligence officers. Was this investigated by Jang Group when they published over 20 stories by him since 2009? The same question must be asked of The Nation which has published columns by him as well. Why did these newspapers not inform their readers of the author’s associations?

It also raises the question whether journalism has become the favourite retirement hobby for our military and intelligence officers. It seems that there is virtually no end to the number of “Think Tanks” that are paying retired officers to write ‘analysis’ that ends up spread in newspapers and websites. Also, who is funding all of these websites and newspapers that are proliferating throughout the country? Surely all of these Generals are not donating their time for free.

Unfortunately, the answers to these questions must wait until another day. But one thing is clear, Pakistani media is infested not only with conspiracy theories, but with propaganda rings that seek not to inform but to manipulate. As long as this is the case, media freedom is only an illusion.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave Comment

?>