1.​Recently, a self-proclaimed master data analyst from Pakistan, Shoaib Taimur (@Shob2) claimed in his tweets that the trending hashtag #CivilWarInPakistan had been pushed by Indian handles and was trending in Pakistan primarily due to India’s role.
2.​In that context, he has also given details of some accounts which are apparently Indian in nature & have been created in 3-4 months period, some as recently as 20 days. This narrative is now being peddled by their political leaders including the PM of Pak & almost all media anchors in various news channels to pacify the apprehensions of common Pak citizens bedazzled by the recent rampage of gruesome photos & videos on all social media platforms.
Prelude to the Trending Campaign in Pakistan
3.​Before going further, it is highlighted that the twitter hashtag #CivilWarInPakistan was first trending in India for around two days before it went viral in Pak. Based on the available data, it is apparent that after protests broke out in Pakistan on 12/13 April 2021, the #CivilWarinPakistan was started in India by some Indian handles probably riding on the tide of their anti-Pakistan feelings.
4.​The hashtag was then picked up by people in Pakistan, wherein, it spread like wild fire due to rampant violence on the streets of some major cities in Pak and subsequent banning of TLP. Evidently, while the hashtag might have been started by Indians, the trending of the same in Pakistan can only be attributed to the participation of its populace due to their apprehensions on civil war like situation in their country.
Baseless Claims
5.​The contention of the individual seems absurd, as it simply indicates that any hashtag campaign can be easily launched and made trending in a country from a geographically different location. Furthermore, it questions the authenticity of how Twitter determines a trending topic. So, let us analyze the tall claims of Shoaib to establish why they seem baseless & most importantly what might be the motive behind the attempts to create such sensation.
6.​Twitter algorithm which decides what is trending in a country and for a specific Twitter user is practically not available in public domain. However, it is a fact well-known that it incorporates several parameters using AI to decide what’s trending in a given geographical location. It is not so naïve that it can be fooled by impersonation or changing one’s location by using VPN to hide the IP address as the algorithm also looks into followership, participation and interests of a participant.
7.​A tech-savvy person might argue that it is technically possible to make a hashtag trending on Twitter using software bots. Although this may seem feasible, but it entails enormous IT resources including cyber-attack capabilities at a mega scale to effectuate the entire process.
8.​ Mr Shoaib Taimur has included a beautiful “filtered network graph of the trend” showing handles that were tagged & then subtly put a disclaimer, “Some people were tagged and were not part of it”. I bring this discussion after going through the tweets of some of these handles. Let’s take @CestMoiz for example, a handle that never participated in this hashtag but figures just below Imran Khan in the above image. The same is the case with @voice_minority, @ifazilabaloch, @meddytweets etc. So, from where do these handles emerge in this image? Answer is simple, these handles have been critical of the innumerable fallacies of State of Pakistan and have been creating significant nuisance for Pak, its mil-tablishment & deep state on the social media. Needless to say, that highlighting such handles in a benign manner adds due legitimacy to this propaganda story.

9.​It is common knowledge that Pakistan has always been involved in launching various anti- India Twitter campaigns through its state-run agencies, but has failed miserably in getting any traction in India. On the contrary, anything trending in India has been time and again picked up by the Pakistani public, making it a trending hashtag in their country. In February 2020 when there was unrest in Delhi, what was trending in Pak; here’s a screen-shot of 25 Feb 2020. No great shakes in guessing what would have been in top trends during the ‘Farmers’ Protests’ in India in Jan this year. Still for the benefit of our uninitiated friends in the west who can’t fathom simple facts without proof, here are screenshots of Pak trends during that time.

10.​In this episode, Pak took advantage of the hashtag #CivilWarinPakistan, which trended in India a day or two prior to trending in Pakistan. It took details of some Indian accounts which took part in this trend & portrayed it as being used for trending the same hashtag in Pakistan subsequently. Since both the hashtags were similar, though differentiated in time & space, it appears to public that Indian accounts did trend a campaign in Pakistan. Further, once this campaign was trending in Pak, some Pak based pro-establishment Twitter accounts changed their names to resemble Indian profiles & started criticizing the PTI Govenment & even supported TLP in that campaign. Those accounts were then shown as Indian accounts further adding credibility to the claim of Mr Shoaib Taimur. As stated earlier also some random Indian accounts which are generally anti-Pak were also used to buttress their claim. To the credit of Pak establishment, their citizenry has bought this argument.

11.​The TLP protest has shaken the roots of Pak bringing the entire nation to a standstill showing the level of religious intolerance existing in the country. TLP has not only become an internal security threat, but is also hurting Pakistan’s international image and its relations with the world. And Pakistan without fail has followed its tested procedures in times of distress as it has always done in the past- blame it on India.
12.​Ending on a happy note – I’m sure even the ‘good’ agencies within India would be surprised at how potent they are seen to be by their adversaries! #CivilWarInPakistan has been trending in the country only due to the emotions, involvement and participation of its fearful citizens. Trying to find a scapegoat in India to settle its internal matters will only make things worse for Pakistan. It’s high time that the neighbouring nation understands this simple truth
Siddharth Sharma

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