News agency ANI and multiple mainstream news outlets falsely claimed that an ex- Pakistani diplomat Zafar Hilaly has admitted to 300 deaths in the 2019 Balakot airstrike. This claim that found mention in several news stories was based on a spliced video clip of Hilaly speaking to Pakistani channel Hum News in December, last year.
An excerpt from ANI's article titled 'Former Pak diplomat admits 300 casualties in Balakot airstrike by India,' reads, "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 uses a screenshot of the doctored video clip, that was earlier tweeted by @DfIlite in December 24, 2020, a day after Hilaly's interaction was uploaded on the official channel of Hum News on YouTube. DFI Lite is a handle that claims to be defence enthusiasts.
The same report by ANI was picked up by news outlets including India Today, NDTV.com, ABP news, Times Now, Republic, Wion News, Times of India, Live Mint , The Quint , DNA, Live Hindustan , Hindustan Times, Zee News , Swarjya , Moneycontrol, Odisha TV, Jagran, NE Now, Deccan Herald, One India , News 18 and Navbharat Times 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, Odisha TV and NE Now's articles 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 examined the full video available on the official HUM News YouTube channel (published on December 23, 2020) and found that Hilaly was criticising India's intention to kill 300 people but he claimed that they failed to do so. He goes on to accuse India of bombing a football field and making false claims of killing 300 Pakistanis during the strike. Hilaly also lashed out against the Pakistani establishment for meekly accepting India's claims and responding poorly to India's action on their territory.
India Today broadcasts parts of doctored video
In a news bulletin India Today used parts of the doctored segment of Hilaly to report about the admittance of Pakistan on deaths. Click here for the archive.
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.
He 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 surgicial strike, limited action (did not happen). O, see see, nobody was dead. Crows and 11 trees were killed. What is this?"
Doctored video has flipped screengrabs
BOOM found that the doctored video was mischievously edited and screengrabs of other panelists and the anchor have been flipped. The video also includes an image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi dressed in the Indian Army uniform, which is not there in the original segment. Below is a comparison of the same.
Zafar Hilaly clarifies on Twitter
In a tweet, Hilaly shared the original footage and clarified that he did not make any such claim about Balakot.
Hilaly also called out Times Of India for the article based on the edited video. BOOM has reached out to Hilaly for a comment, the article will be updated as and when he responds.
The Balakot airstrike was conducted on February 26, 2019 by India, in which warplanes crossed over the disputed region of Kashmir to attack a terror training center. The aerial strike was reportedly executed to avenge the Pulwama attacks that claimed lives of 40 soldiers on February 14, 2019. While India maintains that hundreds of terror recruits were killed in the strikes, Pakistan refutes the claim of the number of deaths.
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?