Noshki, Panjgur attack: Lack of authentic information from Balochistan 

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Sarah Atiq
BBCUrdu.com, Islamabad


The news of an attack the FC headquarters in the Noshki and Panjgur areas of Pakistan’s Balochistan news spread like wildfire on social media.

Locals and journalists from Balochistan have shared a number of videos. 

Baloch separatist organization Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) quickly released a press release before the government could issue a statement regarding the attack. The organization brazenly claimed the responsibility of the attach and said in their press release that they have started an operation against the security forces. 

The Pakistani military’s public relations department, the ISPR, confirmed the attacks last night, while the federal and provincial interior ministries provided details of the attack the next day, including reports of casualties. Contradictory statements emerged.

The day after the attacks, ISPR confirmed the deaths of seven military personnel, but Balochistan’s interior minister put the number at 12.

The government has shut down internet and mobile services in Noshki and Panjgur, making it difficult for the media to access ground realities.

The security situation in Balochistan was alarming but surprisingly there was no news about it on the front pages of national papers. Local media did not give much coverage of the attacks. People complained about this on social media.

The news ‘black out’ from any authoritative source has made it difficult to confirm the claims of the parties. 

People are only receiving information the BLA. 

This is not the first time that official confirmation and release of details of the attack in Balochistan has been delayed so much.

News of the deaths of ten soldiers in an attack on a military post in the Ketch area of ​​Balochistan on the night of February 25, just days before the attacks in Noshki and Panjgur, began circulating on social media.

On January 26, the Baloch separatist organization Baloch Liberation Front released details of the attack and claimed responsibility, while official sources confirmed the news on the night of January 27, about 30 hours after the incident.

Journalists from Balochistan lament that when they contact local authorities for information regard the attack they were surprised to know that they did not have any details. 

Journalist said they had been asked not report any news unless ISPR issues releases a press releases. This tells us how grim is situation in Balochistan.

At a time when no information was being received from local people and officials and it was becoming difficult to communicate, the BLA was constantly sharing information through its telegram channel in the form of video, audio and press releases. ۔ And we saw that soon this information started to be shared on social media.

Statements issued by the BLA refuted ISPR’s claim that the attack in Panjgur had been foiled and claimed that the BLA attackers were still present at the FC headquarters.

The BLA also released audiotales claiming to be from the attackers inside the FC headquarters, who were alerted to the latest developments.

This information was being released by BLA in three languages ​​English, Balochi and Urdu. In addition to the number, names and photos of the attackers, full details of the attack, dubbed ‘Operation Ganjal’, were also shared on media and social media.

At the same time, various accounts on social media, where images, maps and satellite images of the area were shared, a lot of misinformation was also shared. When the BBC did a fact check on some of this important information, some important points came to light.

The market for misinformation on social media heated up during the attack
The BLA claimed to have shot down a military gunship helicopter in Panjgur.

After which several social media accounts shared such videos in which it was claimed that these videos were aimed at a Pakistani army helicopter.

But the video is actually from February 2020 , when a Syrian helicopter was shot down by rebels.

Similarly, the second video of the helicopter being shot down was shared from the Twitter handle of the local Indian media. This video is from November 2020, when a Russian helicopter was shot down by the Azerbaijani army near the Armenian border .

The pictures circulating related to this news are also of a Pakistani army helicopter that crashed in 2015.

News also circulated on Twitter that Major General Bilal Safdar, head of FC South, had been killed in the attack. His name was given by some Twitter users as Major General Saeed.

However, military sources denied the allegations, saying that not only were the reports of his deaths false, but also that the pictures and names circulating on social media did not belong to the head of FC South. At the moment, FC South Major General Kamal Anwar Chaudhry is the one who is ‘goodbye’.

It is noteworthy that many accounts sharing false information on social media have stated their location in India.

Pakistan’s recently released National Security Policy acknowledges that Pakistan is also threatened by misinformation spread by domestic and foreign elements. Which will improve communication and exchange of information at the national level.

However, Balochistan, Pakistan’s most sensitive province in terms of security, is still called the ‘information black hole’, a place from which no information comes out. And the lack of credible information during recent attacks has reinforced this claim.

According to a United Nations report on Fake News, one of the reasons for the spread of misinformation is the lack of information from credible sources such as the media and official sources.

While the Panjgur and Noshki attacks have been plagued by delays and contradictory statements from government sources, information from the militant group has continued uninterrupted from moment to moment until the news of the end of the Panjgur attack first reached the BLA and It was later released by government officials.