‘Pakistan among countries that may be involved in foreign interference in Canada’ | World News - Hindustan Times
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‘Pakistan among countries that may be involved in foreign interference in Canada’

Apr 02, 2024 01:11 PM IST

This has emerged for the first time in documents submitted to the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions, which is headed by Justice Marie-Josee Hogue

Toronto: The Canadian government has cited Pakistan among the countries that may be involved in foreign interference in the country.

A Canadian flag flies in front of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. (REUTERS)
A Canadian flag flies in front of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. (REUTERS)

That has emerged for the first time in documents submitted last week to the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions, which is headed by Justice Marie-Josee Hogue.

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The undated document was prepared by Canada’s Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force and provided to the head of Elections Canada Stephane Perrault.

The document, cited by the outlet National Post, noted that while China was the principal concern in this context and “outpaces” other countries, “challenges remain” in dealing with the others, including Pakistan.

However, most of the information related to Pakistan was redacted in the version of the submission that was seen by the outlet.

It stated that countries like Russia and India had “not yet demonstrated a significant threat to the election process”. India’s focus, it added, was on countering “perceived threats” within Canada.

Such allegations aren’t new. In August 2018, then Pakistan consul-general in Toronto Imran Siddiqui was caught on tape threatening a Canadian journalist. Referring to Tahir Aslam Gora, the head of the multi-cultural TAG TV network, the diplomat purportedly says such journalists will have to cooperate “if they want to survive”.

A one point of the conversation, which takes place in Urdu and English, Siddiqui refers to Gora and says: “We are working on a treatment.” He uses the Urdu word ‘ilaaj’ or treatment to refer to dealing with Gora and says this is not being done overtly.

Referring to journalists perceived to be anti-Pakistan, Siddiqui is heard saying: “Journalists have freedom, they can say whatever they want…We too have the freedom to do whatever we need to.”

He adds, “There is a treatment and it is being done…the treatment is being done slowly as the thing has spread.”

Responding at the time, Howard Anglin, who was deputy chief of staff to Canada’s former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, had said Justin Trudeau’s government “should have the guts to expel the diplomats involved, as the other governments have done when Pakistani diplomats crossed legal/diplomatic lines”.

That allusion, a source who was involved in the process, said was to a serving Pakistan consul-general in Toronto being asked by Ottawa to leave the country during Harper’s tenure for allegedly “meddling” in Canada’s internal affairs. That diplomat was not named and he was not expelled or declared persona non grata but told to exit Canada at the earliest.

The Public Inquiry included India within its ambit in January. It “requested that the Government of Canada’s collection and production of document” should include “include information and documents relating to alleged interference by India related to the 2019 and 2021 elections”.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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