On 17 November 2023, a verified X handle People Talk Shows posted that Pakistan was exporting 155mm shells to Israel propagating that blood of Palestinian Citizens is on the hand of Pakistan and armed forces.
The post also shared some pictures terming the aerial rout of the plans carrying ammunition to the UK.
However, the online flight tracking websites show that these pictures are fabricated from the actual flights from Pakistan to the UK that were carrying out evacuations of a few thousand designated Afghan refugees after both the governments agreed to evacuate 2000 Afghan immigrants. These immigrants have been living in Pakistan since 2021 after the withdrawal of US troops and the UK.
The same day, an Indian TV channel WION aired a video package and published a news story on its website with reference to the same X handle. On 21 November 2023, another X handle Conflict TR, which is active from Turkey, posted the video by WION which was seen by more than 1 million X users. However, after the trending of the content as an effort by the Indian embassy to malign Pakistan, the post from Conflict TR has been deleted. Indian media took an opportunity to breed more propaganda out of this news. Indian Daily Live aired a special program with guests making repetitive claims that Pakistan was supplying arms to Israel. Similarly, there are dozens of X handles from India that have constantly talked about this news.
Moreover, a website namely Indian Defense Research Wing published a news report titled “Pakistan-Manufactured Shells Bound for Ukraine Diverted to Israel” stating that diversion of Pakistan manufactured ammunition to Israel highlights the complex dynamics of global arms trade. However, no credible source or media outlets have verified this news nor any defense or security analyst have talked about this development. Thus, the news story, starting from an X handle and culminating into a few video packages, brings about the idea of disinformation and use of online space to polarize the public opinion of a society.
At first hand, Pakistan has been cautious on the ongoing Gaza Conflict. The official stances by the foreign office, the prime minister office and the statements by the relevant ministers are calculated and align with the policy of Gulf States at large on the conflict. There have been protests all across Pakistan in solidarity with the Palestinians chanting anti-American slogans. This is not unique as the religious sentiments in Pakistan on the Palestine-Israel conflict are not new and share a history of resentment.
The news report by the Indian channels and social media campaign in Muslim countries seems an attempt to polarize the public opinion in the Middle east against Pakistan. The social media campaign in Turkey on the next day of this news break followed by multiple stories in Indian media show a symbiotic link of information warfare and Indian media’s opportunism to frame Pakistan against the ground realities. The pattern of propaganda is not new. In 2020, a Europe based organization EU Disinfo Lab unearthed a network of the networks comprising of fake NGOs, media outlets and people who had waged an information war against Pakistan since 2005. The report not only revealed that modus operandi of the Indian Chronicles but also exposed the people involved behind the project. Ultimately, the entire ecosystem of fake news and propaganda was directly and indirectly linked with the Indian government led by BJP.
In contrast to what has been propagated in the news, Pakistan has been vocal for the two states solution of Israel-Palestine conflict with clear statements from the president to the caretaker prime minister of Pakistan have been asking the international community to break a ceasefire among the warring parties. Similarly, Pakistan has participated in the recent Islamic summit on 11 November wherein the caretaker prime minister of Pakistan participated and held meetings with the leaders of Muslim World. On the other hand, the Pakistani public has been feeling the pain of Palestinian people. Different political parties and religious political groups have staged large protests and shown resentment on social media websites.
Propaganda efforts, at the part of any foreign state, to use a humanitarian crisis as an opportunity to wage a war of optics against its adversaries is the new low. India’s foreign policy calculus has included propaganda warfare as a tool to belittle its adversaries where it has adopted all the active measures. International community in general and Arab World in particular need to keep a check on what Indian media and its lobbies in other countries have been doing against other states. Though the under-discussion news has not borne fruits for India any such attempt in future needs a collective and robust response.