LAHORE - A day after the start of nationwide operation Raddul Fasaad there was a ‘blast’ in DHA, the nature of which could not be identified till the filing of this report. All hell seemed to have broken on social media with political and social activists using the sad incident to spur their own agenda or goals.
These people remained active the whole day to settle political scores. It was all very sickening. Rumour mills were going full steam, which led to a lot of confusion and panic. It seemed as if some people were simply going berserk just as it was some kind of ‘fun’ and not tragedy.
The first message that sent chills down the spine was from an unknown source but was shared in most of journalists Whatsapp groups on secure accounts. The message read “Attention to all....!!! Due to terrorism wave; Decision has been taken by the authorities to shoot at site the one not stopping at any sort of barrier or checkpost erected by any agency. No inquiry etc of any sort will b conducted later. Inform your drivers and near/dear ones.” Such and other messages led to panic like situation across the city.
Leading the charge was none other than Junoon veteran singer Salman Ahmed. He continued his tweet fake news campaign that spread panic. “Ppl in Islamabad, Pindi and Lahore guard yourselves, stay indoors & be safe. This is V reliable intel..” “Dozen terrorists have entered Lahore, Pindi and Islamabad areas. Military will shoot first and ask questions later. REMAIN SAFE”. “For all the trolls who don’t want to take protection pls free to roam the streets of Lahore, Islamabad and Pindi. God be with you.” Then he went on to challenge the Punjab CM and government. “I challenge @CMShehbaz @GovtOfPunjab to prove my Army intel wrong. They are misleading the ppl & putting their lives in danger.”
The PTI leader Imran Khan and ministers in the government were all making political statements while the blast in city sent shock waves among the society. Many channels gave equal coverage to blast and political statements being delivered outside Supreme Court. Khan who usually tweets on all occasions preferred to just tweet about the Supreme Court case, whose verdict has been reserved. He did not tweet his condemnation of Lahore blast. His last condemnation tweet came for Charsadda tragic incident.
Then there was urgent request for blood at Ganga Ram Hospital where no injured had been brought. It was a fake request by one Mehdi Raza. People out of sympathy retweeted it.
Police, Punjab government and people in the government continued to urge people not to believe the fake news being circulated. It seemed as if planned propaganda was being spread. Some colleagues received calls from abroad from their loved ones who said they had heard about the series of blasts in Lahore at Zahoor Elahi Road near FC College and at Davis Road. Even if there was madness in spreading fake news there were new methods involved using social media and new applications on cellphones. It was disgusting to see young people making selfies at the scene of tragic incident.
After the DHA blast many WhatsApp messages quoting intel sources spread like wild fire. People forwarded these messages to their families and loved ones fearing for their safety. The fake news using ISPR name was creating confusion. ISPR has given clarification in this regard. “Of late there are fake messages being circulated on social media from ISPR side. These messages carry fake threat warnings or emergency contact numbers etc. It is clarified that ISPR communicates only through official website/accounts on twitter/fb. Nothing is shared through WhatsApp. All are suggested not to circulate fake messages without cross checking it on official ISPR website/accounts.
PEMRA has issued notice to 31 TV channels for airing fake news of blast in Gulberg. The race for breaking news broke all records as all major channels got lured by social media quagmire.
There needs to be high level inquiry by joint investigation teams of intelligence and investigative agencies to find out the sources of these messages. Everyone can be traced in the brave new world of technological advancement.