New Delhi: The Lok Sabha elections 2019 was (not surprisingly) the top Twitter trend in Pakistan through all of results day Thursday, but the second topic hinted at a conspiracy gaining ground in the neighbour’s social media universe.
As results ushered in a second Modi government, thousands of Pakistani accounts were tweeting about India and its external intelligence agency Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) funding a Pashtun human rights campaign that the country has sought to crack down on.
The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) has often been accused by Pakistan’s powerful military of being backed by India and Afghanistan to destabilise the nation.
The PTM was founded last year as a platform for protest against extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and arrests of Pashtuns in Pakistan’s restive border areas with Afghanistan.
The areas were home to the Pakistan Taliban insurgency, which primarily comprised Pashtuns, and community members claim that military operations against the terror group have unfairly targeted them.
A flurry of tweets Thursday sought to propagate the military’s theory vis-a-vis PTM.
While the top Twitter trend for Pakistan on Thursday was “#IndianElections2019”, it was followed by an Urdu phrase: “#افغانی_بھگاو_ملک_بچاو”, which translates to “Remove Afghani, save the country”.
Approximately 50,800 tweets employed this phrase: This was a veiled dig at Pashtuns, who comprise the majority in Afghanistan, and, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “bore the exclusive name of Afghan before that name came to denote any native of the present land area of Afghanistan”.
The tweets were replete with allegations that PM Narendra Modi and R&AW were the masterminds behind the PTM.
‘The man behind the mask’
One tweeted image shows Modi pressing the trigger button on a man spitting fire — the red cap on the man’s head reminiscent of the one worn by PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen.
The text alongside Modi purports to quote him as saying “instigate the masses against the army”.
The image was accompanied by Urdu text that translates to “This PTM has Indian ATM behind it”.
— Rumesa Khan 🇵🇰 (@RumesaKhann) May 23, 2019
Another tweet had an image where Pashteen is shown removing his mask to reveal Modi’s face. The accompanying text reads “PTM has been fully exposed” and “Who is behind Manzoor Pashteen?”
This image alleged Modi was funding the PTM and its main leaders, with the text reading, “PTM leadership is foreign-funded and their main attention is to stop development work of FATA [Federally-Administered Tribal Areas]”.
— 🇵🇰محمدحنیف خان🇵🇰 (@hanifkhan762) May 23, 2019
Another tweet read, “We won’t allow RAW, NDS [Afghan intelligence agency] and their funded terrorist PTM outfit, to spread anarchism and terrorist activities in Pakistan.”
We won't allow RAW,NDS and their funded terrorist PTM outfit, to spread anarchism and terrorist activities in Pakistan.@peaceforchange @ImranKhanPTI @YasifChaudhry @MiaNaMateenPti @Shahid_shono pic.twitter.com/OLJFIZVrJh
— Dr.Mohammad Imran 🇵🇰 (@Mimranmadina) May 23, 2019
Yet another said “#PTM is terrorist group of #Afghani people backing by #RAW, #NDS, #CIA & #MOSSAD [sic]”.
Yet another shows two caricatures bearing colours of the Indian and Afghan flags conspiring to destroy Pakistan.
For latest updates on Election Results, click here