India's Goswami lampooned after claiming ISI agents are staying on 5th floor of two-storey Kabul hotel

Published September 20, 2021
A screengrab from Indian anchor Arnab Goswami's programme 'The Debate'.
A screengrab from Indian anchor Arnab Goswami's programme 'The Debate'.

Firebrand Indian television anchor Arnab Goswami was left red-faced when his "intelligence" regarding Pakistan Army's alleged presence in Afghanistan's Panjshir valley backfired, becoming the fodder of countless memes on Pakistani as well as Indian Twitter space.

Goswami, who is notorious for his war-mongering and aggressive journalism that supports the interests of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, made the faux pas when he claimed that Pakistan Army officers were staying on the fifth floor of the luxury Serena Hotel in Kabul — apparently to support the Taliban in their fight against resistance fighters in Panjshir.

The bellicose anchor's claim was quickly exposed, however, because the Serena Hotel in Kabul only has two floors — not five.

In his programme 'The Debate' on Republic World TV channel last week, Goswami had invited an Indian analyst as well as PTI spokesperson Abdul Samad Yaqoob — to represent Pakistan — in a discussion on what the channel termed a "big split" within the Taliban, who seized control of Afghanistan last month.

When Yaqoob challenged the claims Goswami had attributed to his sources in Afghanistan, the anchor went on the defence and claimed that his information had proven to be true, including that the resistance fighters in Panjshir had not given up and Pakistani forces were "retreating" from the valley.

Goswami then addressed Yaqoob and said: "You go and check today ... on the fifth floor of the Serena Hotel, I am telling you, please check, fifth floor of the Serena Hotel in Kabul, how many Pakistani army officers are there?"

Also see: Ex-Indian army officer shares picture from movie set as 'truth' about Pakistan Army's presence in Panjshir

He then doubled down on his claim, saying he could even provide the room numbers of the Pakistani officers.

"I can also maybe tell you what they ordered for dinner so don't question my intelligence sources," he continued. "We've got all our aerial surveillance on you people."

A day later, Yaqoob was back on Goswami's programme and countered the anchor's claim by saying: "What I got to know from my sources [is that] Serena has only two floors. There are no third, fourth or fifth floors."

A sheepish look hidden behind a forced laughter was Goswami's only response.

After the amusing exchange went viral on Sunday, netizens from Pakistan and India alike called out Goswami for making false claims, with the hashtags #ArnabGoswami and #ISIon5thFloor attracting thousands of tweets.

"Dear #ArnabGoswami this is Serena hotel Kabul I am still unable to find out fifth floor?" an Indian user tweeted, sharing a picture of the hotel's facade which showed only two storeys.

A receptionist at the Serena Hotel confirmed to Geo.tv that the property has only two floors.

Chinese journalist Shen Shiwei too exposed Goswami's claims by sharing images of the hotel.

One user rotated a picture of the hotel and mused that Goswami was perhaps counting its floors vertically.

Journalist Sumaira Khan shared a picture of pigeons at the Serena Hotel, writing: "#ArnabGoswami might be mistaking these pigeons at Serena with ISI guys."

PTI spokesperson Yaqoob himself joined the fun by sharing the cover page of a novel titled 'The Fifth Floor'. He captioned the picture: "Arnab's Intelligence Source."

An Indian blogger put it succinctly when he said: "No one does fake news with the confidence of Arnab Goswami — it's just that he's caught with his pants down this time."

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