Pakistan’s claims regarding a concerted propaganda campaign being run to poison bilateral ties with Afghanistan and to sabotage the peace process were vindicated yesterday with the release of the G5iO study. As part of this study, G5iO undertook data analytics to deconstruct coordinated disinformation and info-ops being conducted by certain quarters in India and Afghanistan to further the cause of spoilers and to prolong the ongoing conflict.
The report outlines the extensive use of bots, coordinated network behaviour and fake news being propagated from sources linked to Afghanistan and Indian state machinery. A lot of this is not surprising, but the manner in which the frequency and intensity of these campaigns were modulated according to the different stages of the peace process is interesting to note.
The propaganda on Twitter escalated significantly over the past three months once the US announced its final withdrawal date and the Taliban started racking up victories on the battlefield. The narratives fabricated by this network targeted Pakistan’s armed forces, attempted to fan ethnic nationalism, spread fake news regarding FATF and of course blamed Pakistan for the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. The ludicrous #SanctionPakistan trend was apparently first used in 2016 by Indian propaganda accounts, only to be revived in 2021 as part of a coordinated campaign being run from Kabul.
It is extremely unfortunate to see such a vicious and misleading campaign being used to malign Pakistan, despite its sincere efforts to help Afghanistan and its people. Given how chaotic the situation is with rising violence in Afghanistan, it is imperative to counter such disinformation. NSA Moeed Yusuf rightly stated that online actions can have serious real-world consequences. There is a need for a united stand against such info-ops that aim to sabotage peace and prosperity around the world. The malicious propaganda by those wanting to derail peace efforts in Afghanistan now stands exposed.