In a first, a worker of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) United Kingdom (UK) wing has stepped forward with damning allegations against a key person of the Usman Buzdar administration, Azhar Mashwani.
In a video message, Arslan Mushtaq, who was appointed as the deputy head of PTI UK Twitter in September last year, has accused Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Buzdar’s Focal Person on Digital Media Azhar Mashwani of telling him and others to run smear campaigns against critics of the PTI government and Aurat March participants among others.
“I lead [PTI] UK’s Twitter. What do you do there? Have you not told us to run campaigns against people such as [journalist] Amber Shamsi and [Ahmad] Waqass Goraya? Did you not use to tell me what to tweet against Aurat March participants? Did you not use to send me voice notes, telling me what message to send in which groups?” Mushtaq asked as he confronted Mashwani in the video message.
He went on to accuse the Punjab CM’s aide of seeking retweets and help to make videos against political opponents such as Maryam Nawaz of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) go viral.
While the announced sequel of the video message has not yet been released, the claims are doing rounds over the social media, leaving users asking if campaigns against critics were “government-approved”.
Twitter users in Pakistan have time and again been left shocked to find that most of the top trends on the popular microblogging site included such cuss words against journalists, activists and government critics, which cannot be reproduced here.
Recently, a hashtag calling for the arrest of journalists briefly became the top Twitter trend in Pakistan, deepening concern over a shrinking space for dissent in the country.
Many users accompanied such tags with a composite photograph of prominent journalists and TV anchors, some of whom regularly criticise the government led by Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan.
Women journalists have especially been targeted time and again. Months ago, the routine had prompted a group of well-known Pakistani women journalists and commentators to seek protection against what they termed “vicious attacks” directed at them through social media, allegedly by people linked to the ruling PTI government.
While Baloch’s claims add weight to what several targets of online trolls seem to always have believed, the same have been rubbished by those he accused.
Speaking to The Current, Mashwani called Baloch a “pathological liar”.
“It’s funny that a pathological liar and imposter’s statement, who was exposed by me, is being quoted against me. That too without any evidence,” he said.
Terming the claims as “totally baseless and ridiculous”, Mashwani has also not shied away from tweeting his side of the story.
In conversation with The Current, Mohammad Kamran, the PTI’s social media head, said that an episode transpired on Twitter Sunday night between Mashwani and UK deputy head Baloch.
“They had a fight in private, which led to a public fight on Twitter. Some things were said that were not true. The fight was settled and they deleted their tweets but as you know, once something goes on social media, it will be questioned. An inquiry against our deputy lead Baloch has been called by Overseas head Zeeshan.”
Kamran further said he would send the case to the disciplinary committee. “It is our internal matter that will be heard by our disciplinary committee and then any needed action will be taken against whoever is at fault,” he added.