Fake news generated by India led to the shock cancellation of New Zealand cricket team’s tour of Pakistan, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Wednesday, describing the plot as part of a fifth generation hybrid warfare against the country.
Addressing a joint news conference along with Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid in the federal capital, Chaudhry said that India had been hatching conspiracies against Pakistan but like the past it would fail to weaken “our standing” at the international level.
New Zealand abruptly abandoned their first tour of Pakistan in 18 years, minutes before the opening the first One-Day International (ODI) in Rawalpindi on Friday, citing unspecified security threat. Chaudhry revealed that the tour was cancelled on the basis of a fake Facebook post and a fake email.
“Fake news was generated by India to scuttle the tour,” Chaudhry told reporters. The threatening email was generated from a secure service Proton mail and Pakistan has requested Interpol for assistance in further probe,” he added.
Pakistan unveils systematic plan to sabotage #blackcaps tour - #fake FB post of ex TTP threatens not to go for #NZvPAK— APP 🇵🇰 (@appcsocialmedia) September 22, 2021
Indian paper warns abt #terrorist attack
2nd threat email sent from Indian mobile phone on SIM issued by Reliance JIO @fawadchaudhry @ShkhRasheed #APPNews pic.twitter.com/eGSJbCK4xR
According to the minister, a Facebook post was circulated on August 19 from a fabricated account in the name of Ehsan Ullah Ehsan [a former spokesperson for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan] on social media, asking New Zealand Cricket Board and the government not to send their team to Pakistan.
The post had warned that a plan had been made to target the New Zealand team. Based on the fake post, Abhinandan Mishra, a bureau chief of Indian newspaper Sunday Guardian wrote an article two days later and claimed that the New Zealand cricket team might face a terrorist attack in Pakistan.
Mishra was also found in contact with former Afghan vice president Amrullah Saleh, Chaudhry said, adding that projection of the threat by the publication of an article by the bureau chief of an Indian newspaper based on a fake social media post suggested an orchestrated campaign to scuttle the tour.
The minister further said that the wife of New Zealand player Martin Guptill received an email on August 24 from the email ID: [email protected], threatening to kill Martin Guptill on the tour. The email ID was not associated with any SMN, he added.
Interestingly, the email account was generated at 01:05 am, on August 24 and the email was sent on the same day at 11:59 am, Chaudhry pointed out. It was obvious that the email was generated purposefully as no other activity was found from the same email. Despite all the tactics, the minister said, the New Zealand tour was not cancelled and the team arrived in Pakistan on September 11 and 12 via two chartered flights.
The team attended practice sessions at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium on September 13 and 14 but no threat alert was reported.
The two teams, New Zealand and Pakistan, again carried out practice in the evening on September 16.
However, on September 17, New Zealand team and the government expressed concern over the reported credible threat and cancelled the tour unilaterally without sharing details of the threat.
Chaudhry said that on September 18, 2021, Interpol Wellington informed Interpol Islamabad about receipt of a threat email by the New Zealand Police from [email protected] at 06:25 am NZ time (23:25 pm Pakistan Standard Time on September 17), and requested for investigation.
LIVE #APPNews : Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting @fawadchaudhry and Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmad addressing Press Conference #Islamabad @ShkhRasheed https://t.co/9BFIVp4GCn— APP 🇵🇰 (@appcsocialmedia) September 22, 2021
He added that the [email protected] was generated at 18:10 hours, September 17 (UTC); 2310 hours PST. “That email was sent 15 minutes after the ID was created and it was generated for a specific purpose,” the minister said.
He further revealed that the email was sent from an associated device in India using VPN, showing the IP address or location of Singapore. The device RMX 1971 (Realme), he continued, used 13 email IDs and except of Hamza Afridi, the 12 other email IDs had Indian/Hindi names.
Hamza Afridi was purposefully used to malign Pakistan, which hinted at the involvement of Indian agencies, he said, adding that the subject mobile phone was launched in August 2019 in India and the Reliance Jio SIM was registered on that mobile phone on September 25, 2019, indicating a single user.
He said that the social media co-relation and exploitation revealed that the possible user of this email ID is an Indian Omparkash Mishra from Mumbai.
However, he added that timing and text of the threat email suggested that this threat was not the reason for cancellation of the tour but was issued just after the cancellation to malign Pakistan and substantiate the security concerns of New Zealand and other touring countries.
He continued that Abhinandan Mishra wrote another column on September 18 titled “Threat of Kabul Airport-like attack led NZ to cancel Pak tour”. Chaudhry added that the involvement of Indian media and intelligence agencies in a systematic campaign to malign Pakistan based on a concocted and orchestrated social media campaign indicated mala fide intent.
He told reporters that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) would contact the Interpol and Proton mail for provision of detail about [email protected]. “The FIA is in contact with the Interpol for details of email IDs and Pakistan will also request other cricket teams to share security related concerns, if any.”
He said that Pakistan was sure that the same agencies were behind this email ID which sent the threat mail form Hamza Afridi account. “The Indian disinformation campaign based on false threat alert led to unilateral cancelation of tour by New Zealand.
This is a very serious trend,” he said.
“The ICC [International Cricket Council] must take notice of these nefarious and malicious acts of Indian nationals, otherwise it will adversely impact the ‘Gentleman’s Game’ for many years to come,” the minister emphasised.
He said that Pakistan had learnt that a similar threat had been sent to the West Indies Cricket Board from another concocted email ID [email protected]. “We are in the process of investigating, however, it is interesting to note that nobody in knowledge of Urdu can spell ‘ehsan’ as ‘ehshan’.
“This spelling mistake in the ID reflected concocted involvement of Indian hands.”
He said that during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, the information reached there at a time when Prime Minister Imran Khan was to make his speech to the regional group. After the speech, the prime minister was informed about the New Zealand’s decision of abandoning the tour.
Imran was requested by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ramiz Raja to call his New Zealand counterpart to assure her about security of the players. The prime minister told the New Zealand’s prime minister that cancellation of the tour would result in people’s frustration and anger. “But she insisted that she had critical information about the plot to attack New Zealand cricketers.”
The minister further said that the British high commissioner had categorically stated that no change in green advisory for Pakistan had been made. However, he stressed that if the UK government had no objection, the England Cricket Board had no right to cancel the tour. “Reference to fatigue factor was a frivolous plea by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).”
He said that PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja, the foreign ministry and the interior ministry would take up the issue at all concerned forums. The minister thanked the cricket fraternity, including international players and cricket lovers from all over the world for supporting Pakistan.
Meanwhile, The FIA Cyber Crime Wing Islamabad filed the first information report (FIR) against the person and facilitators, who sent threatening emails to the New Zealand Police under the relevant sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA).
It was learnt that the Pakistani authorities had completed a preliminary investigation into the information shared by Interpol about the threatening email sent from the [email protected]gmail.com account.
The FIR said that the purpose of sending the threatening emails was to sabotage the relations between the two countries, create a climate of fear among the government and the people. Further investigation was expected after the registration of the case.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM APP and SALEH MUGHAL)
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