Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Curious Case of the Allegedly Fake Flogging Video

So, in the last few days, I was confronted by people who claimed that the infamous flogging video from Swat - you know, the one in which a burqa clad woman is held down by some bearded men while being publicly flogged and which caused immense disgust across Pakistan and the world exactly one year ago - had now been proved to be fake. Since I was clueless about any such news, they proceeded to inform me that not only had The News conclusively reported that the video was faked by an NGO (ostensibly to defame Pakistan and the righteous Muslims of Swat as well as to make it easier for the army to gather public opinion on its side for an operation against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP), but that even Kamran Khan had talked about the fakery on his programme on Geo.

I had to do a bit of searching to find the 'news item' referred to. There was a reason I had not seen it: it never appeared in the print edition of the Karachi paper (the one I get). I'm not sure if it actually appeared in the Islamabad and Lahore editions, but surprisingly, it was on the web - even though the web edition of The News is actually culled from the Karachi edition. Here is what the 'news item' was, in its entirety:

Video of girl’s flogging in Swat was ‘fake’

Monday, March 29, 2010
"PESHAWAR: A resident of Swat, who claims to have prepared the fake video of flogging of a girl in Swat, has termed it drama and revealed that he received Rs0.5 million for doing so before the launch of military operation ‘Rah-e-Rast’.
Before the operation ‘Rah-e-Rast’, an NGO financed preparation of fake video of flogging in which they portrayed the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members flogging a woman. The provincial government and Malakand Commissioner Syed Muhammad Javed ordered investigations and sought report from the authorities concerned.
After the successful operation in Malakand division, the law-enforcement agencies had arrested the children who were present in the video while a resident of Swat was apprehended by Kohat administration. The children and the arrested man revealed that the video was fake and said that it was made on the demand of Islamabad-based NGO which provided him Rs0.5 million.
Sources revealed that woman who was flogged in the video was also arrested and she revealed that she had received Rs0.1 million while Rs50,000 were given to each child. Sources said that the NGO produced the video to defame the country’s integrity and respect.
Sources stated that the law-enforcement agencies dispatched the report about the arrests of the culprits and proposed action against the NGO. They also said that the security agencies also apprehended the TTP workers who flogged the people."

Now, there are a couple or three points to note in this report, which should be glaringly obvious to any half-decent reporter or editor.

1. There is no byline.
2. The 'sources' are all anonymous.
3. Even the 'resident of Swat' who makes these serious claims is not identified.

These, ladies and gentlemen, are all straightforward clues that the 'report' is what is known in Pakistani journalistic parlance, as a 'plant' or 'planted story.' Obviously, at least one news editor came to the same conclusion and decided NOT to carry the story (i.e. the Karachi edition), which should give us some indication of how seriously it was taken. Now, who planted the story, how it was managed and with what motives, is up to you to judge. But there is no iota of doubt in my mind that the story deserved to be killed, at least until some serious questions were asked about its sources and credibility.

Of course, that has not stopped the assorted nutjobs going ballistic on various net forums about conspiracy theories involving the West, RAW, the army, NGOs and Westernized liberals. You can see a sample of their frothing at the mouth on Teeth Maestro's blog here and the Pakistan Defence Forum blog here. You may recall that the Supreme Commander of the Nutjobs, Aamir Liaquat Hussain, had even at the time of the surfacing of the video attempted to discredit the video on his show and in his Jang columns, while weasels like Ansar Abbasi  had simultaneously attempted to justify the barbarism (God, I'd almost forgotten why the man makes my blood boil!).

Just to remind ourselves of the actual circumstances of the case at the the time (rather than the planted stories appearing now), you can read what Dawn had reported on 4 April 2009 via DawnNews, or take a look at TTP spokesman Muslim Khan accepting responsibility for the flogging here:

Small wonder, then, that human rights campaigner and filmmaker Samar Minallah, who helped to publicise the video in the media, has reacted with a blistering and eloquent rejoinder in the oped pages of The News and The Daily Times. After all, the planted story was squarely targeted at her. You really should read her piece fully. But what is really needed is for The News to issue a clarification about the unsourced report. If it stands by its story, it should tell us what its sources are. If not, it should issue an apology, not only to Samar Minallah but to all its readers. It's about time there was some accountability for the media too.


temporal said...

alllah na karay....kaisi baat munh se nikaltay hain aap?

It's about time there was some accountability for the media too.

ger aisa ho gaya then where would media stalwarts like hamid mir, ansari et all will disappear into?

Magnum said...

The Jang Group really has gone right-wing ballistic. And this is an understatment.

Momekh said...

Nice to bump into your blog.
The blood boiling that Ansar Abbasi induces, can you please tell me why? I thought he was one of the good guys? :/ :)

Anonymous said...

I can confirm that this turd appeared in the Lahore edition of The News, in the main book, left column, page 3.

When I called The News's Lahore bureau to check up on this story and to ask if they had anything to say about Ms Minallah's reply, whoever answered from the reporting section hung up on me.

Anonymous said...

p.s. The right-wing nutjobs in the Urdu press as well as the blogs mentioned (especially Teeth Maestro -- a very well disguised fundo apologist den), when presented with the Muslim Khan 'acceptance speech', now say that he too, like the rest of the Taliban, is an Indian-Zionist-Amreekan agent, so obviously he'd admit this to defame Islam and glorious Islamic values.

They're such tedious c**ts.

XYZ said...

@Momekh: Are you serious? Please click on the posts tagged by Ansar Abbasi on this blog (there's a key words link on the right hand side)and go through them to see what we really think of him. And did you see the clip I linked to?

@Anon124: Thanks for the info.

@Anon129: Actually I quite like Teeth Maestro's blog and no fundo apologist he. As any blogger can tell you, they can hardly be held responsible for the views of the commentariat. But agree with you regarding the tedious c**ts.

Tayyab Mahmood said...

CIA report into shoring up Afghan war support in Western Europe, 11 Mar 2010

This is secret memo of CIA Red Cell...
This classified CIA analysis from March, outlines possible PR-strategies to shore up public support in Germany and France for a continued war in Afghanistan. After the dutch government fell on the issue of dutch troops in Afghanistan last month, the CIA became worried that similar events could happen in the countries that post the third and fourth largest troop contingents to the ISAF-mission. The proposed PR strategies focus on pressure points that have been identified within these countries. For France it is the sympathy of the public for Afghan refugees and women. For Germany it is the fear of the consequences of defeat (drugs, more refugees, terrorism) as well as for Germany's standing in the NATO. The memo is an recipe for the targeted manipulation of public opinion in two NATO ally countries, written by the CIA. It is classified as Confidential / No Foreign Nationals.

TLW said...


Thanks for the little lesson in recognising a planted story.

I would like to add a fourth signal to recognise a planted story:

When someone says "Certain Agencies of the Government" when what they really want to say is the ISI, but cause they're from another faction of the security forces and don't want to screw over the ISI, but rather one specific action of the Invisible Soldiers Incorporated.

Basically, when a story tries to sound conspiratorial, you have to look at it as potential bullshit. Plus this the-video-is-fake-story simply never bothers to even name the NGO. Are they afraid of a libel suit? ;-)

I read the Samar Minallah article later and it says the same thing, i.e the unnamed Swati men and children remain unnamed and so does the NGO.

Is somebody trying to muddy the entire idea of the Swat operation? I would like to point out to whoever the mother fucker is who tried to plant the anti-flogging article, that your precious TTP are such psychotic, unstable fucks that they broke a sweet-ass peace deal in which the government handed over one third of Pakhtunkhwa to them and what the morons do, is move six days later into Buner.

BUNER. Tell the fuckers who planted this piece of crap news to burn that name into their minds and tattoo it on to their arms, because that is when the entire government machinery finally started to fucking move.

I just made the mistake of watching the video of those Geo idiots talking to Muslim Khan. Is it forbearance or professional attitude that is preventing them from swearing at that fuck of a spokesman or are they just scared that he is a "better Muslim" or some other Maulvi spewn shit?

TLW said...

Oh great Tayyab, you just came along to bloody wikileaks right now? Really you discovered wikileaks now? That site has been up since 2007, and has been screwing over western power brokers for the last two years and only now when this western left wing propaganda ties in to a Muslims-are-getting-killed-everywhere talking point does the wikileaks get a blurb in the Pakistani blogosphere.

Do you know that something like this would not work in Pakistan because when our government kills someone extrajudicially, they bury the paper work with them. Something like wikileaks only works in countries where paperwork is held in value.

Aside from that, their work on Trafigura and the Icelandic Kaupthing bank has been excellent.

Tayyab Mahmood said...

TLW .. i am following this site since 2008....& posted abstracts thinking its relevant....

dear TLW you know the famous incidents captured on video where our "Great Army" thrash old suspected Taliban in Swat...& when Punjab police beta the hell out of suspected criminals with "Chittar". Problem with our society & media is that we don't follow the story till the end & are haste nation. love to speak truth, only selective, for our purpose.

TLW said...

i am following this site since 2008

Which one Cafe Pyala or Wikileaks?

where our "Great Army" thrash old suspected Taliban in Swat

Oh yes, I do. It was good to see somebody besides liberals, progressives, journalists, sub-nationalists and lawyers come under the army's gun.

And if you're looking for any sympathy for the army, you've come to the wrong person.

when Punjab police beta the hell

Who's this son of the Punjab police?

out of suspected criminals with "Chittar"

Really, the Pakistani police beat the crap out of their suspects? You don't say? And did you know people hook their own wires on electricity poles in our cities and steal bijli without paying the bill? I hear it's called kunda. It's so, so shocking to find out that Pakistani's can behave like this.

Yes; Very Shocking.

Problem with our society & media

There are a Hundred and Eighty Million problems with our society and media.

is that we don't follow the story till the end

Because there's a million bloody illegal things happening in our country everyday. We DON'T have to add the fucking West, or the Middle East to our plate of problems.

are haste nation

Does this mean we'll win the 100 metre sprint in 2012?

love to speak truth, only selective, for our purpose

This is a human trait. Just watch the clip XYZ added to their post in which the Geo anchors don't stop for a second to act like goddamn humans and chew that phucker Mullah Mussel Khan out.

Screw wikileaks until it finds a list of everybody missing in Pakistan. Until then let those dead Iraqi's be on the conscience of every American and Brit. They are not our concern.

Our concern is all of Pakistan and those parts of Afghanistan run by our proxies.

TLW said...

Oh and dear all Cafe Pyala-wallah's. If you're interest has been piqued by this talk on wikileaks, you can go to my blog and under Raw News, please have a look around at Cryptome (pronounced Crip-Tomb, with the B silent), a site that unlike wikileaks, publishes Everything that passes through it, rather than wasting time on advertising itself, and has been truly harassed by US authorities. You'll find the picture series, "Afghanistan Wartime Architecture" fascinating, as well as a partial list of MI6 people posted to Islamabad.

There is also a website listed there called Project Censored which ties into what Tayyab blathered about the Pakistani media not following stories till the end. The reason for this is simple. There are a million stories that pop up in Pakistan and space is limited to follow all off them. So as many Pakistani news reporters have said, they have to follow the latest news and a triage system forces them to drop stuff they can't follow through. Project Censored reverses this to its logical conclusion and follows those stories that get buried, digs them up and follows through on what happened.

It follows the most important stories of the year that get buried by the Western press.

And of course there is the Daily Censored, a daily version of the annual Project Censored.

Teeth Maestro said...

XYZ - I think you have a valid set of arguments - but i continue to question that whosoever released the real or fake video seemingly used the opportunity to twist a national sentiment - and push for a more favorable war in Swat - my opposition is to the fact that we were used. I in a way dont see a consipracy when Samar stumbles across the video - imagine for a moment that o come across a video of a women being lashed. as a womens rights activist what would your first reactoin be - talk to the person who gave you the video. short of actually going to swat you or I ma release it to the public, maybe saying here is the video - you decide !!!

The main culprit even if it was fake - goes to the person/agency who orchestrated this drama. YES the drama was 'real' only the flogging was light-handed.

All I ask if it was fake then lets get to the bottom of this and not waste 3 yrs for a UN investigation to tell us oh it was real/fake

@Anon - LOL @Fundo Apologist ;) ive still gotta figure that one out, fundo??? - apologist??? LOL ;)

takhalus said...

the turning point in launching the swat operation wasn't the video solely it was more Sufi Muhammads rejection of the SC's authority and the attack in a well known journalist said to me.."Punjab matters..the war had crossed attock"

PS get back to more serious issues, the smearing of poor Samar's name and the death threats against her are nothing compared to shoania

Anonymous said...

I think the 'fake video' story was released by the Online news agency, and appeared in The News' Lahore edition as well as a number of (mainly Urdu) papers. It had nothing to do with The News' Peshawar Bureau, which is headed by the respected Rahimullah Yusufzai, and is generally known for its credibility.
Ps: it would be worthwhile for Cafe Pyala to look into the workings, ownership and funding of Online. Quite a number of planted stories seem to find their way to this news agency

Rabia said...

it's not impossible that the military establishment used people like Saleem Safi and Samar Minallah to build up popular support for the Swat operation. If it's true it's probably the only smart thing they've ever done.

TLW said...

Can't you people fucking even believe your own Goddamn eyes??? Do you need Shahid Masood to hold your hands every step of the way???

Stop questioning reality, this video is real. And if people associated with the Pakistani establishment dispute it, then for sure it's definitely real.

TLW said...

it's not impossible that the military establishment used people like Saleem Safi and Samar Minallah to build up popular support for the Swat operation

It's impossible that our military would do something like this. This was only emphasised because Samar Minallah, like many liberal types was probably getting really scared of how things were out of control. So if somebody was sitting on this tape they let it loose. Or that Pak liberals were getting so scared that the government had signed a surrender like Nizam-e-Adl regulation that they went searching for the absolute worst thing that the Taliban could do. And the Taliban being (thankfully) an unstable and psychotic bunch amply demonstrated their brutality.

Tayyab Mahmood said...

It's impossible that our military would do something like this. This was only emphasised because Samar Minallah, like many liberal types was probably getting really scared of how things were out of control.
3) The outbreak of the Afghan Civil War at the fall of the Soviet Afghan Regime.
Resolved by the PPP by sponsoring the rise and consolidation of the Taliban regime.
You Blog
Wow, are you a mouth piece of ISI / Army that you know for certain? And for Liberals in Pakistan are concern, they are neocon liberals. A true liberal will never support WARs (in Afghanistan & Iraq) & killing of civilians at the cost of terrorist. These fuckin Taliban were brain child of so called Liberals (PPP Government in 1996) supported by Center Right (PML-N in 1998) & then Musharraf supported / nourish them to scare Americans that if American throw him out of Power these Taliban will unleash in the border region of Pakistan & Afghanistan. Only Asma Jhangir criticized Pakistan Security Forces extra judicious killing in FATA and Swat Areas.
Yes, Pakistan needs to stop Fanatics, both religious & Imperial Liberals.
This post 911 Foreign Policy of “Are you with us on against us” was being control & implemented by our “Great Army” with the help of these pro imperial liberals and fueled by religious extremist.
Did 9 years of WAR in Afghanistan make this world a safer place? Why can’t the American Army trace the ALqaeda top leadership? How much more time you want?
American should leave Afghanistan & People of Afghanistan should Get a chance to chose their democratic setup without any foreign intervention (is it Pakistan, Indian, USA, IRAN etc.)

@Teeth Maestro. .. Good response. These neocon Liberals will not understand. They just started their romance with liberalism.

Anonymous said...

@Teeth Maestro: you still can't digest the fact that the video's real, and that the Taliban DO indeed flog, rape, and murder women (for honour, of course! These are brave warriors of Islam!). Disappointing.

"Fundo" and "apologist" should make sense now, to readers of the thread at least.

fKazi said...

Why are we even surprised? In fact one wonders why this story didn't come in The News much earlier.

monis said...

even if the video is fake, it worked. does the Jung group want the Taliban to take over Pakistan? shitheads.

TLW said...

All you need are the last 20 seconds

Tayyab Mahmood said...

by Frédéric Grare:
The risk of an Islamist takeover
in Pakistan is a myth invented
by the Pakistani military to
consolidate its hold on power.
In fact, religious political parties and militant organizations are manipulated by the Pakistani
Army to achieve its own objectives,
domestically and abroad.

Frédéric Grare.
From 2003 to 2005, he worked
as counselor for cooperation
and culture at the Embassy of
France, Islamabad.

abira said...

I used to think of you guys as a credible news critique - but in this piece you show that you are steeped in the dominant narrative about the war, and unnecessarily sarcastic. Imagine for a moment that consent/apathy/or roaring applause the operation which this video (fake or not) generated for rah-i-rast. Now imagine that there are worldviews besides fundoos and jamatis who take an anti operation feminist stance - that this operation has resulted in human rights violations of a kind that would send chills -- HRCP reports that there were 249 suspected extra-judicial killings from July 30, 2009, to March 22, 2010, saying most of the bodies were found in Swat..and that security forces were behind them.

Proving that the story is unsubstantiated is not useful. Countless emails and articles have already cited to Muslim Khan claiming responsibility. what is more useful is an understanding of what happened in Swat (and for that matter in Waziristan, Bajaur and now Orakzai) that the military does not want televised?

remember only selective atrocities are presented for public consumption. And no this does not make the video fake, just your analysis.

lurking in ambush

zubair said...

Hasan Zaidi Sahib!! I think I know you. Last year we have interacted on the phone. I also reacted to news about the fakness of the video. Here is the article I got published in the Daily Times on this. The link is:\04\05\story_5-4-2010_pg3_6

XYZ said...

@TLW: Thanks for the link. Will look it up.

@Teeth Maestro: Surely, in today's mediacentric world, you cannot pretend to be shocked or surprised if people "use an opportunity" to turn sentiment their way. Why should that even be a question in your mind? The only real question is whether the opportunity presented is manufactured or coincidental.

@Anon400: Thanks. Will look into it. Of course, Online is also the 'wire agency' that received the Daniel Pearl video but in and of itself that may simply indicate shady contacts rather than more sinister connotations. This story, on the other hand, was seemingly simply a provocation. If anyone has more *credible* inside info on Online, please do write to us at our email address.

@Tayyab Mahmood: As Chairman Mao said "Combat Liberalism" ;)

On a more serious note, I hadn't read the Grare piece earlier but will do so. Skimming through it, it seems I generally agree with its thesis. However, it is about 4 years old and I hope it is not claiming that the army exercises complete control over the jihadi groups. A similar misinterpretation of Pakistan's relationship with the Afghan Taliban movement led to all sorts of nasty surprises for the West in Afghanistan post-9/11. Will only be able to offer more once I read the piece.

@abira: So sorry for not living up to your preconceived expectations.

You write: "Imagine for a moment that consent/apathy/or roaring applause the operation which this video (fake or not) generated for rah-i-rast." AND "Proving that the story is unsubstantiated is not useful."

Er, ok. I should probably point out that we haven't proved anything, only questioned it. Or that that's kind of the point of this blog, questioning what appears in the media. But regardless, please carry on with your rhetorics.

You continue: "what is more useful is an understanding of what happened in Swat (and for that matter in Waziristan, Bajaur and now Orakzai) that the military does not want televised?"

Why don't you enlighten us as to what happened in Swat, Waziristan, Bajaur and Orakzai? But before you do, do also let us know the sources of your information and whether it is based only on HRW reports or whether you have ever been to these areas yourself.

You also say: "And no this does not make the video fake, just your analysis."

Um, ok if you say so. But what 'analysis' are we talking about here? I though all I did was point out why one particular story seemed planted rather than genuine. It seems your issue is that even fake stories should not be taken to task if they help advance your political point.

@zubair: Thanks for sharing the link to your piece. Are you the same guy who wrote articles last year in The News about the Taliban in Swat? You may, however, have got the wrong blog for your friend.

Abira said...

Dear XYZ:

The Ums and the Ers, the okays, accusations of rhetoric, and other lapses into insecure sarcasm and contempt for readers only distract and detract from your argument. So lets stick to the content, and its implications.

The issue is not questioning that you aptly done in your piece - the disingenuousness of the questioning stems from the fact that rah-i-rast paved the way, unwittingly or not, for an operation that displaced thousands and killed many militants and civilians. Now here is a report that states that more than 200 people were summarily executed, some subjected to torture such as being dragged behind vehicles. Asma Jehangir and the HRCP have also substantiated these claims.

Fake stories should be taken to task - but this is a story about that should not be de-contextualized from the rest of what happened in Swat. A swift and brutal army operation - the reality of which never saw the light of day, and which affected tons of civilians - many of whom lost family members. And like operations elsewhere, we mostly heard from ISPR sources about the numbers of militants killed.

And now we have sources citing torture and extrajudicial killing by the Pakistani military. (We heard similar stories in fall of 2009)

These will never be televised, while we debate endlessly the authenticity of a video --and build a liberal discourse that legitimizes our own political opinion - roughly equivalent to - barbaric Taliban must go, as no other solution is practical - And only bigots like Aamir Liaquat question the video as they secretly nurture a desire for taliban to be in power.

This is the liberal discourse that you are adding to.

All this while we (not just you) ignore the deeper implications that we can not allow, in 2010, blanket murder and torture in the cover of dark under the pretext of clearing the country of taliban -- however repugnant we may personally find their politics.

The entire narrative of this war is questionable - from the reporting on civilian deaths to the involvement of the US, to the supposed adequacy of a bombing operation in order to deal with an insurgency.

See ICG report by Samina Ahmed.

No, I have not investigated these myself or visited the area - I am not a journalist. I am a lawyer and if I had clients who were suing the government for torts of wrongful death, and civil rights violations, I would visit.

Sadia said...

Just an observation, one of the sources says that the accused was arrested from Kohat and another one claims that they were arrested from DI Khan. There have been no detailed accounts on who made the payment, which NGO was it? Such serious allegations have not been investigated and one mere story which does not cite any references is being used to spread misconceptions as the Taliban themselves claimed responsibility of this act on the national TV.

Fawad said...

well when this video was published did our beloved blogger and liberal leaders and media confirmed authenticity of this video?

Does any one have proof that this video wasn't fake?

ali hamdani said...

It is sad to see the people who claim this to be fake. Taliban are known for their cruelty and they have abused women in their areas for a lot of time now. We should speak against actions such as this. Taliban popularity even in Pakistan has take a major dip in the recent years because videos such as this has exposed their real face.

TLW said...

Bad news PyalaWala's;

Like a vampire with bullet wound, this filthy story has risen back from the dead:

Now I know why I always suspected this Sana Saleem.

Guys I think your blog is being trolled for news fodder by the above ground journalists.

And this stilted news handout, seems to eerily resonate with that News report you quoted.

Cafe Pyala, I think we need to "deal" with Dawn Blog, and this vapidly confused Sana Saleem.