Pakistani columnist shares fake letter claiming American NGO is funding Opposition parties

Letter claims NGO advised against sending Pakistan an invite for a democracy moot

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Claim: Pakistani columnist Orya Maqbool Jan shared a screenshot of a letter that indicates the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an American non-governmental organisation (NGO), is providing monetary support to opposition parties in Pakistan to work against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Fact: The alleged letter from the NED is forged. It has several digital errors and its authenticity has been denied by the NGO itself.

On 19 March 2022, Orya Maqbool Jan shared pictures of a letter he claimed were from the NED, an American NGO working to promote democracy in other countries. The letter suggests that the NGO is providing monetary assistance to the opposition parties in Pakistan.

Orya Maqbool Jan, whose claims have been investigated by Soch Fact Check in the past, wrote the following caption in his tweet:

“یہ وہی امریکی ادارہ ہے جس نے یوکرین میں روس نواز حکومت کا تختہ الٹنے کے لئیے اپوزیشن کو فنڈ مہیا کئیے ۔ اب اس نے پاکستان کی اپوزیشن کو کس طرح مدد کی ہے ۔ یہ ہے دستاویزی ثبوت
[This is the same American organisation that provided funds to the opposition to overthrow the pro-Russian government in Ukraine. How has it now helped the Pakistani opposition. Here is the documentary evidence.]”

The letter, which details the ongoing political situation in Pakistan, discusses reasons for advising against issuing an invite to the country for participation in the Summit for Democracy event.

The columnist’s tweet immediately went viral, receiving more than 16,000 likes and over 9,000 retweets. The pictures were also shared by numerous people and pages on Facebook, as well as in public groups.

Fact or fiction?

The NED has confirmed that the viral letter in question is fake multiple times; first, in a now-deleted tweet from 1 December 2021, when it said, “This is disinformation – the letter was clearly falsified (wrong logo, forged signature, typos) & no such document was ever sent,” and the second time, on 21 March 2022, when it shared a news article alongside.

Moreover, Soch Fact Check analysed the contents of the letter and found at least 19 errors in the document.

There are multiple spelling and grammatical errors, such as:

  1. The logo of the NED used in the letter is an old one; the organisation unveiled its new logo in May 2021.
  2. The date on the letter should follow the American date format and so should be be October 26, 2021, rather than 26 October 21.
  3. Charge d’Affaires is abbreviated as CDA, not CdA, as it appears in the letter. 
  4. Addresses for headquarters of any organisation usually do not state ‘Headquarters of the [name of the organisation]’ as in the forged letter; instead, either the word ‘headquarters’ is completely omitted or it is written in the line below the first line of the address. 
  5. In the letter, there is no space between the ‘d’ and ‘A’ in the word Charge d’ Affaires 
  6. Proper nouns are preceded by ‘the’; therefore, the letter should say the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, rather than just Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan.
  7. The correct phrase is Summit delegates, not Summit delegations, as is written in the letter. 
  8. The word democratic is misspelt in the letter (‘democracratic’).
  9. The letter should read, “the number is ‘upwards of…’” not ‘totaling upwards $8, 000, 000’.
  10. There are typically no spaces between digits in monetary figures; therefore, the letter should read $8,000,000, not $8, 000, 000.
  11. The indefinite article ‘a’ is missing in the phrase ‘With focus on the general elections in 2023’.
  12. The spelling of PML-N Deputy Secretary General’s name is Attaullah Tarar, not Tarrar, as is written in the letter.
  13. The indefinite article ‘the’ is not used before a province’s name; therefore it should be Provincial Minister of Balochistan for Finance, not Provincial Minister of the Balochistan for Finance, as the letter incorrectly states.
  14. The letter appears to contain British English spellings (such as with the word ‘mobilise’) rather than American English spellings which use ‘z’ instead of ‘s’.
  15. The word ‘ground’ is misspelt in the letter in the sentence, “The groud was fertile for the propagation of right-wing extremist ideas.”
  16. The United States or its abbreviation, the U.S., is preceded by the definite article ‘the’, and so the letter incorrectly states, ‘targeting U.S. and India’.
  17. A journalist’s name is spelt incorrectly in the letter. The correct spelling is Ansar Abbasi, not Ansar Abbasim.
  18. The letter should read ‘does not recommend inviting Pakistan’, rather than ‘does not recommend to invite Pakistan,’ which is grammatically incorrect. 
  19. When using a single word from their names in official correspondence, organisations use the definite article ‘the’ before the singular word; therefore, it should be ‘the Endowment’, not just ‘Endowment,’ as in the letter. 

The letter was also flagged on Twitter as a “fake document” by Michael Kugelman, the Deputy Director of the Wilson Center’s Asia Program.

Virality

According to a CrowdTangle analysis using the search term, “امریکی ادارہ یوکرین روس نواز حکومت اپوزیشن فنڈ پاکستان مدد دستاویزی ثبوت [American organisation Ukraine pro-Russian government opposition fund Pakistan help documentary evidence],” over the past 30 days, there were more than 90 related Facebook posts that gained 831 interactions.

The oldest post over the past 30 days was shared on 19 March 2022 in ‘Karachi Property Sale buy & Rent’, a public group with over 105,500 members.

Soch Fact Check used another search term — “National Endowment for Democracy Pakistan” — for the same time period and found more than 560 interactions across 33 posts.

One of the most viral posts was shared by Facebook page ‘Defenders of Pakistan’, receiving close to 400 reactions and being reshared over 350 times.

The letter and screenshot of Orya Maqbool Jan’s tweet were also shared in pro-government Facebook groups such ‘IMRAN KHAN FANS CLUB’, ‘پاکستان تحریک انصاف’, ‘Imran Khan – pti – Pakistan’, and ‘Imran Khan Lovers’.

Conclusion: The letter allegedly written by the NED and shared in a post by journalist Orya Maqbool Jan is forged. It has multiple errors and the organisation in question, National Endowment for Democracy, has confirmed that the image in question is fake.

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