Social media based propaganda in Pakistan might have touched its lowest ebb after this episode of political mudslinging put up for public spectacle.
A fake notification, purportedly issued by the Information wing of religio – political party Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI-F) took Pakistani social media by storm, with the jolts being felt by mainstream media as well.
On Oct 6, 2019, some Twitter accounts allegedly affiliated with a political party shared a document complete with the party logo and official format that purportedly issued guidelines for JUI-F’s upcoming ‘freedom march’ and ‘lockdown’ of the capital city. While rest of the guidelines appeared ordinary and mundane, point number 6 sent Twitter into frenzy.
‘The participants of the sit in are directed to avoid sodomy without prior permission of their emir,’ the instruction read, ‘those who fail to comply will be driven out of the sit-in and their belongings will be confiscated.’
I can’t believe my eyes. According to point number six Maulana Fazal Ur Rehman have told his followers who are being prepared to attack Islamabad may have sex with each other subject to the permission from their squad leader. #شق_نمبر6 pic.twitter.com/rb0mtX1gL0
— S A R F A R A Z (@ImSarfrazAbbasi) October 6, 2019
While the JUI-F took longer than usual to contradict the notification, it spread like fire on social media, mainly Pakistani Twitter. Amassing huge engagements, the hashtag # 6نمبر _شق (Clause 6) became the top twitter trend in Pakistan.
ڈیزل والے دو دن ٹویٹر پر آ کر چھلانگیں مارنے لگے۔
یہ بھول گئے ہیں کہ ہم انہیں جواب نہیں دے رہے۔ ہماری توجہ بس مسلہ کشمیر پر ہے اس لئے یہ ناچ رہے ہیں۔
— Dr Farhan K Virk (@FarhanKVirk) October 6, 2019
A collage of some of the tweets sharing the fake notification
JUI-F leaders alleged that the hateful campaign was engineered and was run by cyber trolls for political reasons.
The content of these hundreds of thousands of tweets and retweets were highly derogatory and hateful. The Twitter users not only accused the leadership and supporters of the political party of engaging in sodomy but also dragged in their supporters from other political parties, journalists and members of civil society in the malign campaign.
Soon a forged application form to seek the Emir’s permission and a notice from Deputy Commissioner Islamabad warning the citizens of Islamabad against an onslaught a ‘wave of sodomy’ on the capital city also went viral.
However, netizens were genuinely worried when some cabinet members and elected representatives also fell for the propaganda.
Federal Minister for Science and technology, Fawad Hussain Chaudhry retweeted the fake document with a comment, saying;
“It looks like a protest of the Pink Movement of Amsterdam or San Francisco. Great ambition!”
MNA Aamir Liaqat Hussain shared the notification and likened the opposition party to the people of prophet Lut, which was doomed for refusing to give up sodomy.
“The night-long toil finally paid off. The hashtag is trending number 1”, The MNA wrote, “Congratulations to the opponents of the clan of Lut. O army of Lut! Get out of Islamabad!” He added.
When JUI-F’s refuted the notification, the MNA wrote:
“The Jamiat has refuted the notification, saying such ban is against human rights and ‘human urge’ in light of the 1973 constitution (a possible allusion to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman’s signature style of referring to the law). The compulsion of Emir’s permission for article six is a lie as when the mood strikes nobody cares for permissions’.
The JUI-F took strong exception to this trend, and has sent select individuals a Rs. 5 billion legal notice in damages for defamation.
Homosexuality is taboo subject in Pakistan as both social and religious morals debar it and view it as an ignominious digression from accepted social behavior.
Mainstream media have also criticized the hateful campaign against the political party.
— ZaraHatKay (@ZaraHatKay_Dawn) October 7, 2019
Like a number of previous hateful and defamatory campaigns, this one also has all the attributes of organized and engineered cyber trolling. The JUI-F and the Deputy Commissioner Islamabad have invoked law against the perpetrators; we hope to see them held accountable for their actions.