Two of Pakistan’s leading newspapers, The News and The Express Tribune, on Friday apologised for carrying a story that used fake US diplomatic cables to brand Indian generals “genocidal” and accused New Delhi of sponsoring militants. The apologies came after Britain’s Guardian newspaper, which has the leaked cables’ database, said the Pakistani newspapers had “exploited the WikiLeaks for propaganda purposes” and that it failed to locate any of the “incendiary allegations about India.”
The story claimed on Thursday that the cables showed Indian spies were supporting militants in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region of Waziristan and the southwestern province of Baluchistan. The newspapers reported that the US diplomats thought of one Indian general as “incompetent” and a “geek”, and of another as “self-obsessed, petulant and idiosyncratic” and “barely tolerated” by subordinates. It likened another to late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic “with regard to butchering Muslims through war crimes” in Kashmir.
The two papers carried apologies on their front pages and blamed an Islamabad-based wire service for the hoax. “The Express Tribune deeply regrets publishing this story without due verification and apologises profusely for any inconvenience caused,” said the daily, a partner of the International Herald Tribune. It said the report ‘WikiLeaks: What US officials think about the Indian Army’ was “not authentic”.
The News said it had run the wire service’s report with the confidence that it was genuine and vetted before release. “However, several inquiries suggest that this was not the case,” it said. It said the wire service’s owner and some editorial staff were also unclear about the story’s source. “(They) said they would investigate the matter at their end,” it said. “On further inquiries, we learnt from our sources that the story was dubious and may have been planted.”
The daily said the fake report had “originated from some local websites, such as The Daily Mail and Rupee News, known for their close connections with certain intelligence agencies”.
However, The Nation, a daily known for its anti-India views, showed no regret for carrying fake reports and instead wrote an editorial titled “India’s true face” that criticised India on the basis of the fake report.