Government ministers on Thursday pointed to the absurdity of Indian media's claims — being shared via their Twitter accounts — that a "civil war" had broken out in Karachi and called on the social media giant to take notice.
Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari said it was unfortunate that Twitter was "deliberately ignoring" Indian media's fake news on Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office (FO) also took notice of the "malicious and fabricated news reports and propaganda campaign" in the Indian media.
"Such attempts by the Indian media on the behest of the Pakistan obsessed BJP-RSS regime are reflective of a particular, though familiar, mindset," said FO spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri during his weekly press briefing.
"Needless to say the Indian media continues to hit new lows," Chaudri said, adding that the Indian media and the government would be better advised to focus on the "protests and unrest currently under way in India".
For its part, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has approached Twitter asking it to "take immediate action against accounts spreading false information against Pakistan".
"In the wake of current smear campaign of spreading false and baseless information targeting Pakistan, its cities and institutions, PTA has stressed upon Twitter to effectively block handles involved in the campaign," the authority said in a press release.
On Wednesday, several Indian news outlets including India Today, Zee News, CNN18 and India.com reported a "civil war-like situation", a day after an inquiry was ordered by Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa into the circumstances surrounding the arrest of opposition leader Mohammad Safdar in Karachi.
Some reports cited another source, the International Herald, as saying that clashes had been reported in the country's financial hub between the Sindh police and the army. A fake video was also being circulated on Twitter, claiming to show the alleged clash.
CNN NEWS18, which is a partnership between India's TV18 and CNN International, also shared a similar video on Twitter, which went as far as to claim that "a martial law has been imposed in Sindh". However, the media outlet soon deleted the video from its timeline but shared other ones which put forward more outlandish claims.
What actually happened
The reports stemmed from Tuesday's events when Sindh IGP, at least two additional inspectors general, seven deputy inspectors general and six senior superintendents of Sindh police decided to go on long leave in protest over the Oct 19 siege of Inspector General House. Soon after, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari asked COAS Javed Bajwa to order an institutional probe into the circumstances surrounding the arrest of PML-N leader retired Capt Mohammad Safdar.
In an attempt to woo back the “demoralised” and “shocked” police force, the PPP chairman along with the chief minister and provincial ministers visited the IG residence later in the night.
A little while later, the police officials announced they were deferring their leaves as COAS Bajwa had taken notice and ordered an immediate inquiry. Despite Indian media reports, there were no clashes or riots, just a very busy day at the newsroom.
'Indian media propaganda at its peak'
The absurd claims made by the Indian media compelled ministers and politicians to call on Twitter to take notice of the misinformation.
"Indian media in hyper drive with fake news on Pakistan and unfortunate that Twitter is [deliberately ignoring it]," said Dr Mazari.
Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi said the Indian media propaganda was at its peak and was being fuelled by the PDM "circus".
"Both social and economic indicators of Pakistan are showing positive signs. The artificially manufactured food inflation is being brought under control as well. Pakistan is on the rise under Prime Minister Imran Khan," he said.
The chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir, Shehryar Khan Afridi, said Indian media is "deeply involved in a fake, fabricated and malicious propaganda campaign" to malign the country's state institutions.
"Twitter needs to take action against Indian social media accounts who are involved in nefarious attacks of fake news against Pakistan."
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman termed Pakistan's internal dissent a sign of its "political health".
"That democracy is never one person or view; that when freedoms are curtailed people push back; that when constitutional rights are under threat, the brave speak out. Indian trolls need to get a life and look to their own," she said.
Pakistanis poke fun at claims
Fuelled by the outrageous claims made by the Indian media, the hashtags 'CivilWarinKarachi' and 'CivilWarinPakistan' started trending on Twitter as Pakistanis shared their own spin on the hyperbole in the form of memes.
Additional reporting by Naveed Siddiqui