A sustained disinformation and propaganda campaign by India and Afghanistan to sabotage the Afghan peace process and target Pakistan has been uncovered, showing the extent of the fifth-generation warfare.
According to data analytics conducted by the G5iO – a think tank studying the cyber world for data and analytics a concentrated campaign was launched on multiple social media platforms with the extensive use of bots, coordinated network behaviour and fake news pushed across multiple SM platforms.
The findings were echoed by the National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf who in a press conference said Pakistan was facing an onslaught of the Information war, through propaganda on social media accounts, and was being run from the office of the Afghan National Security Adviser.
“Pakistan is being blamed for its 20-year failure in Afghanistan,” he said and pointed that through the hybrid war Pakistan’s state institutions and the CPEC were being targetted. He said one of the targets was also to “put Pakistan on the blacklist of the FATF.”
He pointed that 3.7 million tweets were posted against Pakistan which trended for 1000 hours, in collusion with the Baloch separatists under the patronage of the Indian National Investigation Agency.
Moeed Yusuf said, “Afghan and Indian official state accounts have been taking part in the propaganda campaign through synchronized planning.”
Meanwhile, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa while chairing the Corps Commanders’ Conference said; “We have made every possible effort to facilitate Afghan Peace Process leading towards a negotiated settlement with utmost sincerity and will continue to do so.”
“Being a collective responsibility, all stakeholders have to play their part positively for enduring peace in Afghanistan which is pivotal for stability in the region,” the army chief said.
Pakistan has repeatedly pointed how India and several other countries were engaged in the fifth generation warfare (5GW) against it, a fact that came to the fore with the shocking disclosures made by the EU Disinfo Lab.
The G5iO pointed that the frequency and intensity of these campaigns increased dramatically over the last 3 months once, particularly after the announcement of the final withdrawal date of the United States of America and as the Taliban gained military victories.
We live in a world where online actions have offline consequences. We must stand united against disinfo & fake news that sabotage peace and prosperity around the world. Recent malicious propaganda against Pakistan by spoilers of peace has been detailed in this report by @IPRI_Pak https://t.co/7BAHcB1rTy— Moeed W. Yusuf (@YusufMoeed) August 10, 2021
The latest hashtag #sanctionPakistan has been used over 730,000 times, according to the data from a social media insight company, Talkwalker. Around 37 per cent of those tweets originated from Afghanistan.
The data collected from May 2020 to Aug 2021 indicates key narratives, networks and user accounts running disinformation operations. A comparative analysis focused on online hashtag activity with offline political and regional security events. It was noted that artificial activity was generated from accounts engaging in platform manipulation and was recently created to push inorganic content.
Despite efforts by Pakistan to maintain conciliatory tone relations with Afghanistan have soured over the past few months. Pakistan’s offer to Afghanistan for a Peace Conference earlier this month was rejected, while the Afghan diplomats were recalled by President Ashraf Ghani over an alleged abduction attempt of its ambassador’s daughter. Pakistan has refuted and termed it a staged attempt to malign the country.
With 8th province falling to Taliban,People of Afghanistan and people of USA must Question So called leadership of Afghanistan where 2 Trillion USD vanished that they received to build Afghan National Army? How come all ministers and generals became billionaires but— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) August 11, 2021
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry in a tweet said; ” With 8th province falling to Taliban, People of Afghanistan and people of USA must Question So-called leadership of Afghanistan where 2 Trillion USD vanished that they received to build Afghan National Army? How come all ministers and generals became billionaires but the People of Afghanistan are suffering due to poverty? Who is responsible for these sufferings? Corruption of Leadership drowns the nations and Afghanistan is an example of that..”
Key Narratives by Afghanistan, India on the anti-Pakistan campaign were to target and blame Pakistan’s security institutions, fan Baloch, Pashtun separatism, describe Taliban as sponsored by Pakistan, criticise the US government for abandoning the Afghan government.
A timeline of social media hashtags centred on state-run disinformation campaigns by both India and Afghanistan showed clearly the intent and the targets. The hashtags included #FreeBalochistan, #14AugustBlackDay, #CivilWarinKarachi, #KarimaBaloch, #HazaraGenocide, #SanctionPakistan.
The details of coordinated network activity show that most of these campaigns were built on common narratives being propagated by both India and Afghanistan and comprised of known state-linked accounts.
If you are Afghan or a friend of Afghanistan, speak up. Use whatever platform you have to support the Afghan call for ending the proxy war. Afghanistan is under attack and needs you the most now.#SanctionPakistan— Habib Khan (@HabibKhanT) August 9, 2021
Habib Khan an Afghan journalist has been one of the most vocal people on Twitter to use the hashtag and asked the Afghans to speak up.
The G5iO points that the hashtag #SanctionPakistan serves as a good example of the analysis mentioned above, as it has been used intermittently since June 2016 by Indian backed propaganda accounts.
However, this was changed in June 2021, when it was pushed mostly by the Afghan-backed accounts against Pakistan and tagged key accounts of top US, UN and EU officials for wider dissemination.
The same hashtag was artificially pushed on August 9 and 10 mostly by Indian and Afghan sponsored accounts to around 500k+ tweets; out of which 65% of the activity was artificially generated. The graph above shows clear spikes in such artificial activity.
Still over half of the content linked to the propaganda campaign is emanating from Afghanistan, the G5iO says.