No, Pak ex-diplomat didn’t ‘admit’ Balakot strike killed 300, but nearly entire Indian media fell for ‘news’

A report carried by ANI and nearly all mainstream news outlets claiming that ex-Pakistani diplomat Zafar Hilaly had ‘admitted to 300 deaths in 2019 Balakot airstrike’ has been revealed as fake news

The tweet posted by ANI
The tweet posted by ANI

NH Web Desk

A report carried by news agency ANI and nearly all mainstream news outlets claiming that a former Pakistani diplomat named Zafar Hilaly had ‘admitted to 300 deaths in the 2019 Balakot airstrike’ has been revealed as fake news after a fact check carried out by BOOM. The ‘news’ was based on a spliced video clip of Hilaly speaking to Pakistani channel ‘Hum News’ in December last year, says a report carried on the its website and reproduced by The Wire.

Alt News has also reported in its website that the ‘news’ was fake.

An excerpt from ANI’s article titled ‘Former Pak diplomat admits 300 casualties in Balakot airstrike by India,’ read: “In an embarrassing development for Pakistan, a former Pakistani diplomat Zafar Hilaly admitted on a news television show that 300 terrorists had died in the Balakot airstrike on February 26, 2019.”

The article also used a screenshot of the doctored video clip tweeted by a handle that claims to be used by ‘defence enthusiasts’.

The same report by ANI was picked up by nearly all mainstream news outlets, which claimed that Hilaly, in an ‘act of massive embarrassment for Pakistan’ divulged that the Balakot airstrikes had killed 300 in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan. Republic World and other media outlets also feature the doctored video clip mischievously edited from the segment of Hum News, in which Hilaly appears to say that at ‘least 300 people were killed’.

BOOM said that it examined the full video available on the official HUM News YouTube channel which was published on December 23 last year and found that Hilaly was criticising India’s intention to kill 300 people but he claimed that they failed to do so.

“We found the segment of Agenda Pakistan with Amir Zia, which was uploaded on YouTube on December 23, 2020. From 4 minute 16 second mark, Hilaly can be heard speaking. Zia introduces the panelists of the show and states that Hilaly joins him from Karachi, via Skype. Hilaly counters claims about the legitimate target being attacked by an Indian strike,” the BOOM report says

In the original video, Hilaly says: “We should not acknowledge such a term. This is a very powerful aspect that you have raised, lexicon of diplomacy, the language that is used. Surgical strikes, meaning, as you said, limited target. Why limited? You came and according to you, one madrassa, and your intention was to (attack) a madrassa, according to you, where 300 kids were studying, you had to strike there. This means, you had the intention of killing 300 people. 300 people!”

Hilaly then goes on to say, “They were not there, it was wrong, it did not happen, so this means, we (Indian warplanes) strike a football field. Is this even justified? What you did India was an act of war. What India had done, by crossing the international boundary, is an act of war, where they had planned to kill at least 300 people. And incidentally since they did not die, they bombed the football field. Our target was different, it was the high command. That was our legitimate target, because they are men of the military. So why didn’t we attack there. Because we subconsciously accepted that surgical strike, limited action (did not happen). O, see see, nobody was dead. Crows and 11 trees were killed. What is this?”

In a tweet, Hilaly shared the original footage and clarified that he did not make any such claim about Balakot.

He also tweeted: “The extraordinarily extent to which the Indian Govt has gone to cut, splice and edit the tape of my Hum TV appearance suggests their desperation to prove what they failed to do, namely, lend credence to Modi’s lies about Balacot and his farcical claims.”

In another tweet, he said: “The Times of India has an item based on the cut, spliced and edited tape of my Hum TV talk. Lacking first hand proof re Balacot, Modi is desperate for 3rd party confirmation for his lies and, not finding any, is doing a terrible job making it up.”

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    Published: 11 Jan 2021, 11:16 PM