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Toolkit controversy: Pakistan's ISI was working through Pieter Friedrich to manufacture dissent in India: Here's how

The Delhi Police did a press conference on Monday on the toolkit and uncovered the role of ISI sponsored propagandist Pieter Friedrich in the case, an individual whose name also appeared in the toolkit. Responding to the questions on his anti-India campaign asked during an interview by an Indian media outlet, Friedrich seemingly read a prescribed script.

Toolkit controversy: Pakistan's ISI was working through Pieter Friedrich to manufacture dissent in India: Here's how

The toolkit controversy, followed by the Disinfo Lab report titled ‘The Unending War: From Proxy War to Info War Against India’, has unveiled the sinister plan of Khalistanis and has brought to light the Pakistani players fuelling the propaganda campaign against India amidst the ongoing farmer protests.

The Delhi Police did a press conference on Monday on the toolkit and uncovered the role of ISI sponsored propagandist Pieter Friedrich in the case, an individual whose name also appeared in the toolkit. Responding to the questions on his anti-India campaign asked during an interview by an Indian media outlet, Friedrich, instead of factually responding to the questions, seemingly read a prescribed script and said – “Indian security forces today are infiltrated by and operating as agents of the Nazi-inspired RSS paramilitary.”

During the press conference, the Delhi Police stated that Indian security agencies have been keeping an eye on him since 2006 when his connections with a prominent ISI operative got uncovered. Facts presented in the report by Disinfo Lab substantiate apprehensions of Delhi Police that the toolkit was an important part of the anti-India conspiracy by the Khalistanis, based in the Western world.

The report has also brought to light the name of the US-based Khalistani Bhajan Singh Bhinder alias Iqbal Choudhary, who was Pieter’s puppeteer. From the report and background search of Bhinder, we observed that Bhinder initially had the notion that the South Asian society, especially the population in the Indian subcontinent, sees white people with much more credibility and there was always a greater probability for the Indians to buy pro-Khalistani propaganda peddled by an individual with a Western accent and white skin colour.

Bhinder’s search ended in 2006-07 when he was able to find a Christian missionary going through extreme adversities, desperately looking for a blue collared job. He readily agreed to Bhinder’s demands without paying heed to the nature of the work, all in return for getting a meagre compensation. Additionally, Bhinder also lured Pieter by promising to protect him in the limelight as an ‘expert activist'.

The stage was set, and the first task allocated to Pieter was to launch an anti-Gandhi movement across the world as an initial step of hitting India’s soft power. In order to add legitimacy to Pieter’s campaign and credibility to his image, several proxy organisations were floated by Bhinder and the company in the US. The most prominent organisation out of these was the Organization for Indian Minorities (OFMI), set up in 2007. However, the organisation was itself an oxymoron, as Disinfo Lab report has noted, “OFMI was purportedly set up for the cause of minorities in India – but had no Indian or even Indian-origin minority in it.”

In the meanwhile, both of them kept waging a war to malign Gandhi’s image and names of the duo kept emerging as the main perpetrators behind every incident of vandalising Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in the US.

In addition, Pieter was also entitled to a significant amount of authority in a similar ISI funded organisation, Sikh Information Center (SIC) – an outfit that was working on a larger plan involving terror as well as propaganda warfare strategies against India. It was also found that Bhinder even set up a fake publishing house in the same year, i.e., in 2007, just to publish booklets masquerading as books in the name of Pieter. Amidst all these, Bhinder kept receiving handsome funds for sponsoring Pieter’s activities.

An analysis of the Disinfo Lab report, as well as few other resources by Zee News, revealed that Pieter was overburdened with work by Bhinder as he was tasked to work on multiple propaganda operations – each to be discharged by Pieter using a different name. Pieter’s parallel involvement in several campaigns at one time, using different names underlines that he later emerged out to be a tricky imposter. In this regard, the report puts forward –

“In a rather peculiar manner, Pieter changes 3-4 names during this time, writing books in various aliases, and also appearing at various events in different names. In one stance, in a letter to an organization (targeting India) Pieter has used more than one name as representative of different organizations just to add credibility to it.”

The report further reveals – “Pieter been changing his names more often than he changes his DP - a total of four times! With each name, Pieter seems to have acquired a different role – starting from Pieter Fredrich as a Christian Missionary to Pieter Singh as Khalistani activist to Patrick J Nevers as an author.”

The entire ISI ecosystem helped Pieter to gain popularity, which ranged from floating fake news websites with the sole objective of publishing Pieter’s articles as well as getting his social media accounts followed by the ‘influencers’ based across the world and his content amplified by the ‘amplifiers’. Highlighting the strategy of Bhinder and Pieter, the report comments – “In the process to build credibility and then hijack the narrative of every possible genuine ground protest to suit their agenda. And they have a singular agenda – to tarnish India’s standing in the world.”

An expert whom we spoke to argued, “The hatred towards Gandhi and the attempts to malign his image to weaken India’s soft power uncovers the strategy of ISI to jeopardise Indian interests abroad. Also, it is important for the Indians to realise that the Pieter-Bhinder duo, along with other anti-India elements are not attacking the regime in power in India, but the country as a whole. More than launching propaganda warfare, the toolkit incident reveals that it was a comprehensive plan to create instability, further leading to manufactured civil unrest and bloodbath in India.”

“It reminds me of Edward Herbert and Noam Chomsky’s flagship work ‘Manufactured Consent’. By using the power of social media and fake mass media outlets and adopting a similar propaganda model as argued in the book, the Khalistanis were working on a massive-massive plan to ‘manufacture dissent’ in India. It is unfortunate to note how Indian users submit themselves to the disinformation campaigns and readily accept the messages peddled by Pakistani elements”, he elaborated.

In the subsequent years, the scope of Pieter’s work kept on expanding as Bhinder and the company began to allocate more and more campaigns to him. A street-smart guy himself, he was quick to learn the art of propaganda and soon began to demand pay raises from his masters, ensuring a better lifestyle for himself with the passage of time.

Going ahead from the anti-Gandhi crusader campaign, he now began to play on the front foot to attack India according to the K-2 (Kashmir-Khalistan) plan of action, hitting India’s territorial integrity every time. On the broadening of his area of work, the Disinfo Lab report comments – “This elaborate design and planning was driven by singular motive – to target India’s interest. This is tried to be accomplished in four major ways: i) Targeting idea of India – non-violence & Mahatma Gandhi – replacing it with an alternate image of ‘fascist India’;  ii) Targeting India’s territorial integrity – working towards K-2 design;  iii) Targeting India’s interests abroad by working against Indian origin American politicians, and iv) Whitewashing Pakistan’s sins – clean chit to Pakistan (ISI) in Kabul Gurudwara Bombings; and questioning Pulwama attack.”

Haling himself coming from a large family of pastors, Pieter was later able to employ a couple of his family members, who previously worked as Christian missionaries, in OFMI with none of them having any idea on India or South Asia – what a diversion! The most prominent staff of OFMI coming from Pieter's family is his brother-in-law Steve Macias.

In the course of changing names, Pieter adopted yet another new name in 2015 to spit venom and express his radical anti-Hindu sentiments. Pieter created the account Friedrich Pieter on January 9, 2015, but changed its name on December 17 from “Pieter Friedrich” to “Singh of Judah”. On the content posted by the handle, the Disinfo Lab report argues, “It was clear that Pieter was running the account, as it posted a video of himself, using profane language against Hinduism and the RSS of India at the World Hindu Congress that he attended in 2018.”

Sharing company documents, the report has also highlighted that Bhinder was operating his businesses, owned by the puppet – Pieter Friedrich, as Bhinder himself was blacklisted by the Indian government. However, he began taking over the ownership of the company as soon as he was removed from the blacklist of the Indian government in 2011. The list of companies run by Bhinder with Pieter’s help, and in some cases in his name, include- Safety Net Transpo, OFMI.org, Sovereign Star Publishing, etc.

A counter-terror expert argued that the report explains that proving himself well ahead of his masters’ expectations, Pieter went ahead to collaborate with radical Islamist organisations based out of the US including the Indo-American Muslim Council (IAMC) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), only to bring together anti-India elements help each other to attack India. The report has also strengthened the apprehensions of the diplomatic experts that Pieter and Bhinder were directly being sponsored by the ISI and supported by the Pakistani diplomatic offices in the US, as the report has highlighted that Bhinder shared a bonhomie with Pakistani Consulate General Abdul Jabbar Memon and was a well-recognised face in Pakistani diplomatic offices.

Another very important finding of the report was that besides covering up Pakistani misadventures, Pieter has also been successful in sabotaging the election campaigns of pro-India leaders in the US. The target of Pieter and Bhinder included leaders like Tulsi Gabbard, Sri Preston Kulkarni, Ami Bera, Sonal Shah, Padma Kuppa, Raja Krishnamoorthi and several others. During numerous campaign events, Pieter along with his aides like Zahra Billoo (a Pakistani radical), has successfully interrupted the event and defamed Gabbard.

These revelations highlight that the emergence of Pieter Friedrich’s name is just the tip of the iceberg and looking at his supporters and ‘amplifiers’ in India, the scope of security agencies should not be restricted to the toolkit but encompass a broader area to find out the sleeper cells pro-Khalistani elements and unearth all the supporters helping the ecosystem knowingly or unknowingly.