What’s happening over Karachi?’ This was the Twitter buzz in Pakistan Tuesday. As with every question in Pakistan, the first answer has to do with India. Some thought that it was the Indian dushman trying to repeat a Balakot-style ‘misadventure’ from 2019, while others believed that brewing a cup of tea was in order. Let’s not blame the rumour mills. After all, the airstrike in Balakot had also come on a freaky Tuesday.
These are simply ignorant speculators. If at all, the blame should be on the top office.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has been waiting for a false flag operation by India, for over a year now. In May, the PM mentioned the possibility of an Indian attack twice within a span of five days.
Similarly, last December, Khan was sure that an attack was coming and shared the threat. Before that, on Independence Day, he had hinted that a Balakot-style attack was coming Pakistan’s way. Since Balakot strikes and the dilution of Article 370 in Kashmir, the ‘attack’ paranoia has engulfed the government of Imran Khan.
Last year, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi even predicted the attack’s dates: between 16 and 20 April. He sounded most certain, just not on the year of the supposed attack. Railway minister Sheikh Rasheed went ahead and predicted an India-Pakistan war in October and November of 2019. Glad we all came out of that ‘war’, unscathed.
However, the speculation: will-they-attack-us or will-they-not is now a real thing. Should India worry that war expectations are high, or has Pakistan been successful in giving performance anxiety to its favourite neighbour?
Rumour clouds over Karachi
So, what happened exactly? As if we ever find out in any India and Pakistan shenanigan. The movement of some fighter jets and an alleged blackout in Karachi made for a curious activity in the skies. This was enough to start the rumour mill on social media that Indian Air Force (IAF) planes were identified near the Line of Control. Some also claimed it was a failed Indian attempt to enter the Pakistan airspace, because the IAF was chased out. But that would be a case of mistaken identity: PAF jets and not IAF. Something remained amiss.
#PAF Fighter jet "JF17 Thunder " & Mirage" patrolling over #Karachi and boarder areas of Sindh after formation of Cowards Indian jets was identified near LOC (#Sindh, #Pakistan)#Airstrike #India #IAF #SurgicalStrike #IndianArmy #PakistanAirForce pic.twitter.com/iO17VExvPK
— Salman Mansoor (@salmanzit) June 9, 2020
— Aziz ur Rehman (@azizr1994) June 10, 2020
No official statement was made by the Pakistan Air Force over what prompted the unprecedented movement in Karachi skies.
During the 2011 Abbottabad raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, it was the live tweets from residents that first reported us of the activity over the city’s skies. Live tweets are fast becoming the first draft of history.
Karachi rumours were enough to keep the Twitter ‘borders’ hot for a couple of days. But, what we all have learnt post-Balakot is that nothing can keep borders hot like the cup of tea served to Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
☕️ waiting! 🤣 pic.twitter.com/OnjIs8mU54
— Faisal Iqbal🇵🇰🏏فیصل اقبال (@FaisalIqbalCric) June 10, 2020
That Pakistan would retaliate (and how) was a given and there were no two opinions about it. How can we forget the surprise India was given on the fateful 27 February day last year, which the future generations would know as the ‘Surprise Day’.
No one can stop the rumour mongers. Social media army went on to claim that Pakistan had shot down its own F-16 during the blackout in Karachi. The cloud of disinformation turned thick and Dawn had to clarify that the news report being circulated with its name was fake.
Amid all the hullabaloo came a sane observation. Flaunting the bravery of Pakistani awam, the post claimed it was foolish of India to think that it can scare them. When coronavirus couldn’t scare Pakistanis, how could India with its toys like MiGs and Mirages?
Jo qoum Corona se nahi darr rahi ,yeh uss ko apne khiloney le kar daraney aye thay,bhai Biryani khaney ka itna hi shouk ha toh baato,hum china k haaton bejwa dein ge. #Karachi
— hmmm (@Greaattt_) June 10, 2020
— Subtle_sarcasm (@firkibaaz17) June 10, 2020
But then every country sees its national interest first. There was chatter that since the petrol disappeared from filling stations all over Pakistan, going after IAF wasn’t a good idea, as of now.
Gen Bajwa was angry when I told him IAF reached Karachi last night he immediately ordered PAF to reach Mumbai
But I told him Jet fuel is Rs 3000/L & we've to spend Rs50 lakhs on fuel of 2 Jets with that amount we can have free Biryani for 2 months
He agreed & cancelled the plan
— 🇵🇰Zaidu🇵🇰 (@TheZaiduLeaks) June 10, 2020
It appears that what happened over Karachi will remain over Karachi, after all.
What's happening in #Karachi??
Karachi wale: pic.twitter.com/vhySUateDV
— Riot-su (@kankeneeche) June 9, 2020
Will Pakistan go into a frenzy with the hashtag #IndiaWantsSurpriseAgain every time two or more jets hover in the sky, even if they are its own? Perhaps such instances serve as means of much-needed distraction from the real problems of Covid-19, disastrous economic situation, locust attack and now, the shortage of fuel.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.