Pakistan’s report exposes PTM, India of maligning country

Shahid AslamSpecial Correspondent - Lahore

12th Aug, 2021. 07:58 pm

LAHORE: In a first, Pakistan has launched a report on anti-state trends involved in maligning and defaming the country, its institutions and the army through over 800 websites.

The social media campaign against Pakistan and its institutions was being spearheaded by the Indian news agency, ANI and supported by some local parties.

Deep Analytics Report” on “Anti-State Trends” prepared by Digital Media Wing of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is a comprehensive 135-page report covering “Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), political parties, Indian and Fake News Nexus” and dissects what it terms anti-Pakistan trends from 2019 to 2021.

The report has reviewed Pakistani trend panel for over 670 days and it highlights that for more than 125 days, the PTM ran trends maligning the state institutions of Pakistan.

The PTM accused Pakistan Army of rape, murder, genocide, war crimes, massacres, torture, land grabbing, corruption, enforced disappearances and running death squads to kill Pakistanis.

Earlier in December 2020, an EU DisinfoLab had debunked a network of over 750 Indian-backed websites spread across 119 countries, which were operating to undermine Pakistan for the last 15 years within the European Union and the United Nations.

The EU DisinfoLab’s investigation, called the Indian Chronicles, revealed that the Srivastava Group launched and backed the operation, while Indian news agency, ANI boosted it.

The nefarious campaign against Pakistan was started in 2005 and continues to operate as New Delhi wanted to use the network to discredit Pakistan and China.

Going through the recent report prepared by Pakistan and shared with the media by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain and National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf, revealed that the Indian National Investigation Agency always helped PTM trends by actively engaging with and using their hashtags. PTM also used hashtags that were trending in Afghanistan and India, which were against Pakistan and got it to trend in Pakistan.

According to the report, PTM had initiated 150 trends against Pakistan in the last two years, consisting of 3.7 million tweets, which adds up to more than 1,000 hours of work. It had also actively supported Baloch activism and on August 14, 2020, with the hashtag #BalochistanSolidarityDay, which trended and received massive support from India with around 150,000 tweets posted with the hashtag by Indian activists in a day.

The government teams analysed Twitter trends from June 2019 to August 2021.

“It transpired that India led the top trends against Pakistan and the biggest player, which helped India with Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) and its activists,” the report reads, adding that the representatives of the Afghan government were also part of such activity.

Moreover, the report reads, a few other trends under hashtags #PTMExposedFakeTerrorism, #DaSangaAzadiDa and #BalochistanSolidarityDay had over 200,000 tweets backed by India, while other trends were also started under titles such as #Tyrant Pakistan Army, #Army behind target killings, and #Pakistan Army Kill Pashtuns to defame Pakistan. These trends were initiated by PTM and supported by India, it stated.

A new hashtag #SanctionPakistan was now being trended, which had at least 800,000 tweets, of which 20,000 were from PTM.

Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh, NSA Rehmatullah Andar and Defence Minister M Bismillah also participated in these campaigns, the report noted.

The report also highlighted that there were several instances of misleading tweets like on the occasion of the death of Baloch activist Karima Baloch in Canada, when it was alleged that #StateKilledKarimaBaloch but Canadian police later confirmed that she died because of natural causes.

PTM had circulated 20,000 tweets on Karima Baloch’s death using that hashtag to target Pakistan, the report said, adding that India had used its vast network of websites to give credence to fake news-based trends by PTM and Baloch separatists.

According to the report, the Indian TV channels had recently uploaded multi-hour videos, propagating that Pakistan was not safe for women by quoting Noor Mukaddam case, ignoring the fact that the alleged murderer of Noor was already arrested and facing trial.

Another hashtag #RapistArmyinBalochistan was trended but it later the news turned out to be fake. Majority of the tweets were contributed from India and some from the US to this particular trend, it was observed in the report.

Similarly, the report also highlighted that a trend was also created, alleging that former special assistant to the prime minister Zulfi Bukhari had visited Israel. “The trend was titled #ZulfiImranBajwaIsraelitikon, and it was created by the Israeli group Haaretz, and more than 10,000 tweets were made on it.

According to the report, whether knowingly or unknowingly, representatives of the JUI-F and PML-N had also tweeted under the hashtag created to spread misinformation.

It has also been stated in the report that after analysis and a thorough investigation, the trends showed that foreign elements had huge contributions in spreading anarchy within Pakistan.

“When Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) started tweeting under a campaign, they got 400,000 tweets in 15 hours with a huge chunk of it coming from Ahmedabad, India,” reads the report, adding, that a hashtag #ExposeProQadianiMinisters had attracted around 122,000 tweets, a majority of them posted by elements based abroad.

The report further observed that five top themes used by elements involved in the propaganda included discrediting the Pakistan’s institutions, especially Pakistan Army, fanning sub-nationalism, targeting China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), keeping Pakistan on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list and blaming the country for all the chaos in Afghanistan.

According to the findings of the report, a “targeted, deliberate and conscious” disinformation campaign was being constantly run by social media accounts in neighboring countries [India and Afghanistan], some of which were linked to the state apparatus, in order to defame Pakistan in the international arena.

The report further explained that there is a team of Wikipedia admins (mostly Indians) who are actively working to build an image of notable PTM members by publishing their profiles.

In any conflict zone there are isolated events but they hardly make it to Wikipedia but Indian admins actively document events that PTM term as state atrocities.

According to the report, Baloch separatist accounts— PKMAP and PTM accounts— worked in unison with hostile Afghan accounts to trend #SanctionPakistan. Similarly, PTM associated journalists and activists tweeted for more than six hours with 200 tweets per min to get this hashtag trend in Pakistan

The report further highlighted that a concerted effort was made to malign Pakistan by blaming a natural death on the state institutions of Pakistan. “The major players were Pakistani locals (PTM and Baloch separatist) and accounts with Indian IPs (NIA linked) supported by Baloch separatist elements with big Twitter accounts in different parts of the world. Boost was provided by VOA Deewa digital assets, an American tax payer-run news outlet which is used to fan Pashtun nationalist propaganda in Pakistan.”

This tacit support led to the banning of VOA Deewa and REFRL in Pakistan but despite the ban they have doubled down on working in unison with PTM, it said.

“American authorities should be alerted to the malicious use of a US government-affiliated accounts which is used to spread hostile propaganda against the Pakistani state institutions.”

On the other hand, the report observed, various political parties of the country were also supporting anti-state trends to further their political agendas. “Whenever there is a court appearance or the noose of accountability tightens around the PML-N leadership they activate their social media cells.”

As the analytics reflects – in order to further the political agenda to give more traction to their narrative – the easiest way to get into headlines is casting aspersions on the state institutions. The accusations can range from allegations of corruption, interference in the executive matters to downright murder.

These political parties, the report observed, often propagate a trend in unison and work in cohesion to trend for longer and reach a wider audience. “Their prime targets while trending an anti-state narrative are the judiciary and armed forces which is a clear violation of the Constitution of Pakistan.”

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