A report released by ANI to all mainstream Indian news outlets claiming that former Pakistani diplomat Zafar Hilaly had ‘admitted to 300 deaths in the 2019 Balakot airstrike’ turned out to be fake news.
On January 9 this year, social media enthusiasts were shocked to learn from various Indian online news outlets that the former Pakistani diplomat Agha Hilaly had appeared in a TV show on a Pakistani TV channel. In the show, he was reported to have admitted that a airstrike by Indian jets on Balakot on the Pakistan side of Kashmir on February 28, 2019, had resulted in 300 casualties, quoting top government sources.
The news may have been part of just another day in the life of Indian media which is constantly engaged in Pakistan-bashing and stops at nothing to revile their neighbour. The recent revelations by the EU Disinfo Lab demonstrate how the Indians do it – and have been doing for the last 15 years.
However, what was really outrageous was the fact in the January 9, 2021 news story that a very senior Pakistani diplomat who had died 20 years ago (in 2000), was being referred to as the person who had appeared in the Pakistan news show. (This was Agenda Pakistan on Hum News presented by Amir Zia.)
Knowing that, Amir Zia, is a highly respected journalist, he couldn’t have been the one who pulled Mr. Agha Hilaly out of the grave to do the news show with him. Obviously, this was the work of the Indian media who are so adept in the business of news gathering that they can even extract a long-departed person with confidence and never have the need to do any fact-checking.
The news was run by the digital platforms of such respected Indian news outlets as NDTV, The Economic Times, Republic, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Deccan Herald, Business Today, CNBC TV 18 and many others. However, credit must go to the Indian media that they have the wherewithal to quote even dead people without any shame.
A point of embarrassment and dishonour for the Indian media came when the news outlets realized that the person who appeared in Agenda Pakistan was not the long-dead Agha Hilaly but his son Zafar Hilaly, who is also a retired ambassador and they quietly removed the story.