New Delhi: India, Israel and top Afghanistan government officials are some of the key “players” named in a Pakistan report that seeks to look into “anti-state” social media hashtags that are “detrimental to the national security of Pakistan”.
The “Anti-State Trends Deep Analytics Report (2019 to 2021)”, released Wednesday by the Pakistan government’s Digital Media Wing under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, comes two days after a social media campaign against the country’s “proxy war” in Afghanistan started trending.
Based on hashtags and Twitter activity, the report accuses Pakistani dissident groups of colluding with “foreign hostile actors” to propagate fake news about Islamabad and malign its image.
Avi Scharf, the editor at Israeli newspaper Haaretz’ English edition, has been named in particular for his alleged role in perpetuating “fake news” about government-to-government contact between Pakistan and Israel, which do not share diplomatic relations.
Founded in 1918, Haaretz is a leading, globally respected newspaper.
“At this time — Trump Administration had just started working with their allies in the Middle East discussing the modalities of normalizing ties with Israel,” it adds.
The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), an organisation that campaigns for rights of the minority Pashtun community, “amplifies any voice that works against the state of Pakistan”, the report states, adding that “dissidents with questionable motives/background, Baloch Sepratist, Sindhi Sepratist, Hostile Foreign Governments (India & Afghanistan) and any actor that wants to malign and ridicule the state institutions of Pakistan are working in unison with PTM”.
Other players identified in the report are opposition parties such as the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of former PM Nawaz Sharif, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, the Qaumi Watan Party, and the Awami national Party (ANP).
“Various domestic and international groups work in unison to dissuade and discredit the state institutions of Pakistan,” adds the report. “The impact of having players whose staple of online presence is maligning the state institutions of Pakistan should be mitigated at every level and for that purpose it is important to understand and dissect their DNA.”
Accusations against Israeli newspapers
One of the tweets by Scharf flagged in the report refers to an article in Israel Hayom — a Hebrew daily — suggesting a former aide of PM Imran Khan visited Tel Aviv.
According to the report, “Avi Scharf and his publication Haaretz has tried many times especially ever since this govt took charge to substantiate some sort of contact by the current PTI administration with the Isareli govt”.
The report also alleges that articles by Israel Hayom that “hint” at Pakistan-Israel ties are boosted by Haaretz’ English web desk and then shared widely by Pakistani journalists and dissidents. It subsequently offers a graphic of what it describes as the 7-step “modus operandi” employed by Haaretz to “disseminate fake news in Pakistan.
Reached for comment, Scharf said: “From the 15 pages about me [in the report], it looks very amateurish.
“Haaretz and Israel Hayom do not cooperate on anything. I have no contact with their reporters,” he added.
Scharf has also pointed out that the report cites his tweet about a Pakistani government plane landing in Amman, but still mentions the place as “Oman”.
Amman, the capital of Jordan, is a border crossing away from Israel, while Oman is a country in the Middle East located miles away.
Other Twitter users also joked that Pakistan’s IT ministry doesn’t know the difference between the two.
The former aide who reportedly visited Israel for a meeting with their intelligence agency has denied the claim since it was first made last December. The Pakistan foreign office has also rubbished such reports.
Indian Wikipedia admins, NIA links ‘helping’ dissidents
The first section of the report deals with the Twitter activity of dissident outfits like the PTM, referring to them as a “pressure group”.
There is “a team of Wikipedia admins (mostly Indians)” who are helping PTM members and other dissident groups build their online image. It calls out Wikipedia user “Kautilya3” for creating pages for Baloch separatists and PTM leaders.
“Baloch sepratist propaganda revolves around fake news which maligns the state of Pakistan — portraying it as an authoritarian state which treats Baloch as subjects,” it states. “This is in line with the Indian propaganda — they provide the boost to these hashtag trends by publishing articles on content farm sites that comprise of the talking points propagated by tweets and hashtags.’
It further alleges that Indian IP addresses with links to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) have helped propagate hashtags like #StateKilledUsmanKakar, #StateKilledKarimaBaloch and #RapistArmyInBalochistan.
Karima Baloch, who campaigned for an independent Balochistan, was found dead in Canada last December, while Usman Kakar was a senator who died after sustaining a “suspicious” head injury at home this June.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)