Fact Check: Exposing Anti-Pakistan Propaganda on Pak-Afghan Social Media

Thu May 30 2024
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LAHORE:  In recent years, the ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been marred by persistent border skirmishes and geopolitical tensions. Each flare-up at the border is accompanied by a surge in propaganda aimed at Pakistan, particularly targeting its forces, factcheckly.org reported. This report investigates into the orchestrated campaigns emanating from across the Afghan border, which seek to defame and undermine the reputation of Pakistan’s military. By analyzing the patterns, content, and effect of these propaganda attempts, the report aims to shed light on the series of disinformation campaigns and their implications for regional stability and bilateral ties between the two countries.

According to factcheckly.org, on 18 March, Pakistan carried out airstrikes inside Afghanistan in the southeastern provinces of Paktika and Khost. Taliban’s Ministry of Defense claimed they targeted a Pakistani military center along the border after what it said were air strikes carried out by Pakistan. The incident took place two days following a suicide attack targeted a military check post in North Waziristan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan. Seven Pakistani security personnel were killed in the terrorist attack.

Recent developments in Pak-Afghan ties have taken a tense turn after a series of fake news making rounds on social media across the border, targeting armed forces of Pakistan, and escalating existing tension between the two countries. Factcheckly.org has identified and debunked fake claims and disinformation that gained traction on social media following the recent Pak-Afghan border tension.

Advancement of Taliban in Pakistan

The Afghan accounts including ;خــالد کندهاری/ Hafiz Khalid,  د مولوی یعقوب(مینوال), عقاب افغان الحنفي, Uqab, مسلم کندزى𝐌𝐮𝐬𝐥𝐢𝐦 𝐊𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐨𝐳𝐢 shared a post that falsely claimed Taliban advancements against Pakistan Armed Forces after Pakistan retaliated by targeting banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) hideouts in Afghanistan’s Khost and Paktika provinces on March 18, 2024.  At the time of reporting, these social media posts collectively had over 25K views.

Fact Check

To verify the claim’s authenticity, a comprehensive fact-checking process was conducted. A reverse imaging technique was employed, exposing that the shared picture is actually from Marib, Yemen, and dates back to September 2021. Therefore, factcheckly.org confirms that the image circulating on social media, falsely claiming Taliban advancements against the Pakistan Army, is actually from Marib, Yemen, and dates back to September 2021. The misattribution of the photo and the inaccurate context undermine the credibility of the claim and also highlighted the significance of verifying information before conclusion.

Circulation of a Fake Official Letter

The Afghan accounts; Abduljabbar Omari, Najib Farhodi, Hamdullah and Basir Furogh, shared a post that falsely claimed Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif had written a letter to the country’s Chief of Army Staff informing him to sell Pakistan Navy warships to Bangladesh to tackle the economic crisis in the country.

Fact Check

To check the authenticity of these false claims made by the Afghan social media accounts, factcheckly.org began a fact-checking process. The team started by confirming the authenticity of Shahbaz Sharif’s official signature. It explored that the signature on the circulated letter did not match PM Shahbaz Sharif’s official signature. Factcheckly.org also verified the layout of official documents of the PM’s Office and found that the official format doesn’t match the letter shared by Afghan and Indian propaganda accounts.

Moreover, it found that the leopard’s logo used on the letter in the top left corner is from an Afghan propaganda account “Task Force Snow Leopard – Afghanistan” involved in circulating multiple fake letters and disinformation to defame Pakistan.

Factcheckly.org confirms that the circulated letter claiming Pakistan is selling navy warships to Bangladesh is completely fabricated and baseless. The discrepancies in the signature, the incorrect document layout, and the use of a known propaganda account’s logo as a source all indicate that this claim is absolutely false.

Did the Pakistan Army Bomb Civilians in Waziristan?

According to factcheckly.org, a viral video purportedly on X is shared with the caption “Today is 4th of Ramadan and 🇵🇰 army once again bombed and shelled innocent civilians in North Waziristan this evening. I checked myself, 5 people are dead and 15 are injured in Raghzai, WANA.” The false claim gained traction on social media; the claim accumulated over 100K views.

Fact Check

Factcheckly.org has followed an extensive fact-checking procedure to verify the claim’s accuracy. A reverse image search showed that the tragic incident took place in the Raghzai area in the South Waziristan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on March 4, 2024. It said that six people including two children, were killed following the roof of their room collapsed. Factcheckly.org rejected the false claims of social media account and disclosed that the incident took place due to a house roof collapse. This misinformation highlights the significance of verifying claims before sharing them to stop the spread of false narratives.

Police Brutally Beating Afghan in Pakistan

An Afghan social media account posted a video on X with the caption “The treatment of the Zionist police of Pakistan with the people, Do you still wonder why the Balochs and Pashtuns are fighting against the Pakistani system?” showing visuals of a person getting tortured by the Police officials. The social media post was reshared more than 200 times and had around 69K views while reporting. The same video was also shared by Indian propaganda accounts with a same caption.

Factcheckly.org revealed that the incident actually took place in Hayatabad, Peshawar when two armed men were arrested by police during a day-light robbery following they tried to enter a house with the intention to rob.

The viral claim seems to have been shared with the intent to provoke outrage against police in Pakistan and to fuel sentiments of rebellion among certain ethnic groups. Factcheckly.org confirms that the viral video depicting the atrocities of the police in Pakistan on citizens is completely misleading and false.

Taliban Shot Down Army Helicopter

A video viral on X with the caption “BREAKING: Afghan forces shot down Pakistan Army Helicopter in Kurram. The false video was widely shared by Afghan and Indian propaganda accounts. The false claim gained traction on social media, especially on X (formerly Twitter), the claim was shared and gaining upwards of more than 346K views.


ALSO READ: The Battle for Truth: Debunking Anti-Pakistan Propaganda from Pak-Afghan Social Media

Fact Check

Factcheckly.org followed a comprehensive fact-checking process to verify the claim’s authenticity. A reverse imaging technique was employed, exposing that the shared video dates back to May 2016 from Kurdistan, Iraq. According to reports a leftist militant group fighting with Turkey, posted a footage purporting to show a fighter downing a Cobra attack helicopter with a man-portable air-defense system in the mountains of southeastern Turkey.

Factcheckly.org observed that the viral claim appears to have been shared with the intention to incite tension or disseminate misinformation and fake news between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The accounts involved in sharing this misleading video are well-known for their anti-Pakistan narrative.

The report confirms that the shared footage does not depict Afghan forces shooting down a Pakistan Army helicopter. The video is from May 2016 and shows an incident involving a leftist militant group in Kurdistan attacking a Turkish helicopter. Therefore, the claim alleging the shooting down of a Pakistan Army helicopter by Afghan forces is completely false.

Pakistan Army Burying a Man Alive 

A video viral on X allegedly showing visuals of army personals burying a man alive. The video gained more than 12.8K views. Factcheckly.org has followed a reverse imaging technique to verify the claim’s authenticity, exposing that the shared video dates back to April 2012 from Syria and the person was a rebel against President Assad’s government. The viral claim appears to have been shared with the intent to spread misinformation, fake news and incite hostility against the Pakistan Army by falsely attributing the video to them.

Factcheckly.org confirms that the shared video, while real, is completely misrepresented and the claim that the Pakistan Army buried a man alive is completely false.

Factcheckly.org concluded that disinformation campaigns targeting the Pakistan Army, mainly orchestrated through Afghan social media accounts, have several deep implications. Persistent propaganda attempts erode trust in the Pakistan Army and other national institutions. As false narratives gain traction, public confidence in the military’s integrity and effectiveness diminishes, potentially destabilizing national morale and cohesion, the report said. Propaganda also exacerbates existing tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, fueling hostility and mistrust. This strain on bilateral ties can also hinder diplomatic efforts, cross-border cooperation, and regional peace initiatives. It added that the spread of disinformation also polarizes society, deepening divisions along political, ethnic, and sectarian lines. This division can also lead to increased violence, social unrest and undermining efforts to promote stability and unity within Pakistan. It maintained that false information can also provoke unnecessary chaos and panic, posing direct threats to national security. Misinformation regarding military operations, border incidents, or internal security steps can lead to misguided public responses and strategic miscalculations.

Experts and research suggested to develop and enforce robust laws and regulations to address the creation and dissemination of false information, especially targeting cross-border propaganda. They recommended to executive penalties for elements and entities involved in spreading disinformation.

They also recommended to launch national initiatives to improve media literacy among the citizens to prevent spreading of disinformation. The experts also suggest to educate citizens on recognizing and critically evaluating sources of information, understanding the impact of disinformation, and responding effectively the false narratives.

Factcheckly.org recommends to establish stringent fact-checking protocols to ensure the accuracy of information. It recommended to run public awareness campaigns to educate audiences about the dangers of disinformation and fake news. Similarly, there is need to use various media channels to reach diverse demographic groups effectively to stop the spread of disinformation.

Factcheckly.org recommended the citizens to adopt an approach to critically consume Information on different media sources. It added that steps to be taken to encourage individuals to verify sources, cross-check facts, and be wary of emotionally and sensational charged content. There is also need to promote responsible sharing practices on different platforms of social media.

Experts asked the users to share verified information and report suspicious content to platform moderators while foster a culture of constructive talks and open-mindedness. Engage with differing viewpoints with respect and avoid spreading unverified content that can incite to polarization.

By implementing these suggestions, media outlets, policymakers, and the public can collectively combat the spread of false information, mitigate the impact of propaganda campaigns, and strengthen the resilience of Pakistani society against disinformation and fake news.

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