Updated January 19th, 2024 at 19:12 IST

Pakistan resorts to misinformation warfare in attempts to save face after Iranian missile strikes

Pakistan has initiated a propaganda campaign, spreading misinformation on social media, including fake news about an Indian Air Force helicopter crash.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
Representational | Image:Republic
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Islamabad: Pakistan has engaged in an all-out propaganda war while it deals with the embarrassment of failing to secure its airspace from Iranian missile strikes, which struck ‘terrorist targets’ in the Balochistan province. Pakistani social media accounts have increased their propaganda outlet, pouring in false news against Iran, as well as India. Notably, Pakistani Twitter handles were caught reporting fake news of IAF Mi-17V5 crash. The false narrative claims that an IAF chopper carrying Air Marshal Pankaj Mohan Sinha, Commander of Indian Air Force’s Western Air Command, crashed near Mathura.

A tweet by Pakistani handle ‘@IntelPk_’ made the false claim stating, “His condition remains unknown, and internet services in the area have been suspended.” The tweet carried a photo of a crashed IAF chopper attached. However, upon detailed examination, Republic was able to verify that the photograph is from November 18, 2021. The image in question is from the IAF chopper crash which took place at Rochham helipad in Arunachal Pradesh.

Meanwhile, another Pakistani handle reported that the Indian Navy’s ship, INS Visakhapatnam was struck by a drone attack. “Major damage to the ship being reported,” the tweet by ‘@MAbdullahGul’ read. However, Republic’s previous reports are a testament to what actually happened in the Gulf of Aden. INS Visakhapatnam, deployed for anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden, responded to a distress call from the Marshall Island flagged MV Genco Picardy. The vessel had come under a drone attack at 11:30 PM on January 17, 2024.

Acknowledging the distress call, INS Visakhapatnam intercepted MV Genco Picardy at 12:30 AM on January 18, 2024. With 22 crew members on board, including 9 Indians, the distressed vessel reported no casualties, and the fire was under control. Indian Naval EOD specialists promptly boarded the vessel, inspecting the damaged area and rendering it safe for further transit. 

Pakistani propaganda an attempt to save face? 

The latest propaganda campaign by Pakistan stems from the profound development of Iran's recent air and missile strikes against targets in Pakistan's Balochistan province, and Pakistan’s retaliatory airstrikes nearly 50 Kms inside Iranian territory. The exchange have opened a new and challenging front for Islamabad, adding to existing tensions with India and Afghanistan. This strategic shift marks a significant escalation, demanding careful consideration of the geopolitical landscape and potential consequences. 

Speaking with Republic, Captain (Retd) SB Tyagi, Chief Councilor at ICISSM, debunked Pakistani propaganda. “Pakistan has a history and tendency proven time and again to get into psy-ops after it gets hit. Not actually being in a position to take meaningful ground action against adversaries, it gets into hyper-jingoism and malicious and false propaganda,” Captain Tyagi stated.

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“We have seen its reactions or rather the lack of them after the Balakot air strike and Brahmos missile going off by mistake from India. These two incidents left the Pakistanis red-faced and severely humiliated in front of the world community and its credibility crash-landed along with its fragile economy,” the retired officer of the Indian Army told Republic. 

Notably, what must have hurt Pakistan more than the Iran attack is the fact that the Indian Foreign Minister was in Tehran on the day of the attack, Captain Tyagi pointed out. “Unable to take any retaliatory action it is now spreading rumours involving Indian defence establishments,” he said. 

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Meanwhile, Iran's decision to launch targeted strikes in Balochistan elevated the complexity in an already intricate regional scenario. The history of accusations against Jaish-ul-Adl, a group responsible for cross-border attacks, has been a persistent source of tension between Iran and Pakistan. The recent strikes, reportedly ordered by Iran's Supreme Leader, targeted Jaish-ul-Adl bases in the Balochistan province.

The incident has raised pertinent questions about the motivations behind Iran's move and the potential fallout. However, previous incidents, including a 2021 surgical strike by Iran to rescue two kidnapped Iranian soldiers and a 2018 suicide bombing by Pakistani terrorists, which killed 27 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) troops, indicate the longstanding nature of the conflict and the challenges in finding a lasting resolution. 

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Published January 18th, 2024 at 22:59 IST