Speaking at a press conference the other day, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan lashed out at the social media for what he described as a vilification campaign against the judiciary and the army.
The source of his anger was a picture of the President, Prime Minister and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor with a caption that identified the Governor as the new Supreme Court Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, posted undoubtedly with the malicious/mischievous intent to cast aspersions on the independence of the judiciary at a time when an alleged corruption case involving the PM and his family is before the court.
The minister seemed to point the finger for the ‘campaign’ at two senior politicians, he said, that are ridiculing the country’s institutions as he went on to claim this was a gimmick for political point-scoring, and vowed to expose the elements behind it.
That shows the government sees the social media conversations as a serious alternative to mainstream media although they are used by all sorts of people: well-meaning individuals to express their opinions about whatever catches their fancy without a care for facts; governments for propaganda purposes – this government’s media cell does that all the time – foreign intelligence agencies to spread disinformation; and mischief-makers simply to have some fun. Just last month, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif embarrassed himself as well as the country by responding to what clearly was a silly report posted on a website.
It was headlined “If Pakistan send (sic) ground troops [t]o Syria on any pretext, we will destroy this country with a nuclear attack” while the text contained several mistakes, including the name of that country’s defence minister. It did not require much effort to figure out that it was a bogus story. First of all, there was the assumption that Pakistan could send its troops to fight on the side of the rebels supported by certain Gulf kingdoms close to this government.
The minister of course would have known that no such request had been made, and could not have been made after Parliament rejected an earlier demand for troops to fight in Yemen. Second, Israel is not so naïve as to brandish an unprovoked nuclear threat against Pakistan, that too for purportedly doing something its Western friends have already been doing in Syria through proxies. Israel itself would have loved to see the Syrian regime defeated.
Yet Khwaja Asif thoughtlessly took to the Twitter to make the counter threat, “Israel forgets Pakistan is a nuclear state too”, only to discover that he was dealing with a fictitious report when the Israeli defence ministry answered that “the statement attributed to fmr Def Min Yaalon re Pakistan was never said.”
The Interior Minister obviously has not learnt any lessons from that inglorious episode and still regards these forums as a reliable source of information.
He along with others in the government would be wise to ignore what goes on there. Instead of trying to control social media conversations – something impossible – they need to use traditional media conferences/press releases to tell their side of the story or to counter lies and half-truths the social media spreads. -Business Recorder