#BalakotAirStrike & #SurpriseDay: Pakistan’s ‘hashtag war’ against India on Balakot anniversary
Four years after the Balakot strike and India-Pakistan air combat, the dog-fight seems to have entered cyberspace more vigorously. While the Pakistani side is belligerent in its propaganda, with even some politicians and wings of its military establishment busy spinning victory narratives, India has maintained a composed and subdued posture.
Two hashtags #BalakotAirStrike & #SurpriseDay emerged from Pakistan on Monday and remained active throughout the day. Thousands of tweets were shared on these two platforms, with many containing incendiary comments, provocative videos, mocking of Indian war hero, Wing Commander Abhinandan, Indian Air Force, false claims, uninvestigated information, and propagandist glorification of Pakistani armed forces.
Along with the hashtags #SurpriseDay and #BalakotAirStrike, few more hashtags like #TeaIsFantastic, #WorldsBiggestTeaParty started trending from Pakistan to mock Wing Commander Abhinandan.
Here is a fast look at some of the tweets fired from some Pakistani handles claiming the day solely as their own.
- Pakistan Strategic Forum (PSF) is an independent Pakistan National Policy and Defense Research Agency that claims to have been run by a team of researchers & analysts covering various topics of national significance such as Geo Politics, Defense, and Economics. Contrary to its claim of independence, the think tank is operated by Pakistani Army-affiliated professionals. Its Twitter handle (as reported earlier by DFRAC) continuously peddles anti-India propaganda.
On February 27, the PSF tweeted that Indian media had itself admitted to one of IAF’s key jets (Suk-30 MKI) being shot down by one Pak fighter plane in a February 27 flare-up.
Later, India refused that its Sukhoi jet was shot down, and even the media report (in this case, a video broadcast of India Today) was reportedly withdrawn.
- In another re-tweet, the handle shared Falcon Strike Syndicate @FalconSyndicate’s animation on the Operation Swift Action (Pakistani name for its air action). It showed how Pakistani F-17 conducted operation inside Indian territory. The tweet read: “Animated chronicle of PAF Strike on 27 Feb, 2019. No 16 MR Sqn JF-17 Thunders were tasked to pound targets inside Indian Army garrisons in Punch Sector using pre-programmed REK bombs. Indians never disclosed the location of impact points to avoid humiliation.#BalakotAirStrike.”
- Hoorulain Farhat @HoorulainPK, a seemingly Pakistan Army-linked Twitter user, shared a video of recent sectarian tension in Indian Punjab saying that “it’ll soon spread to whole of India.” The tweet actually attempted to start a #KhalistanMovement narrative on Twitter. Surprisingly, despite clearly violating the Twitter norms of sharing information, it was still online till the writing of this report. It read like this: “These will soon spread from Punjab to entire #India #Khalistanis will be our new neighbours #KhalistanMovement #Khalistan #FantasticTea #SurpriseDay.”
- A rabidly propagandist Twitter account operating from Pakistan is Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor Fans (Official) @AGFanOff. Its name suggests it is operated by hired guns of Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor, who was head of the ISPR at the time of Balakot airstrike in February 2019. It tagged popular Indian defence analyst Major Gaurav Arya and mocked Wing Commander Abhinandan with hashtag #teaisfantastic. It’s actually text was: “Happy Surprise Day @majorgauravarya. Thanks @peaceforchange for giving the opportunity to Pakistan to celebrate the #SurpriseDay on 27 February every year. #TeaIsFantastic #27Feb2019 1:26.”
- An account running in the name of Sehba Musharraf, wife of late Pakistani dictator Parvez Musharraf, too took part in making #SurpriseDay popular. She shared a picture of a cake that depicted the wreckage of an Indian jet and an Indian pilot lying by its side. The tweet read: “Happy Surprise Day ✨ #PakistanArmy #SurpriseDay #PakistanFirst #PakistanAirForce.”
- Dawn, the most renowned and trustworthy Pakistani newspaper and portal, ran a detailed timeline report on “Balakot air combat”. Its restrained and detailed reportage presents all sides of reports, without taking any side.
Source: Dawn Report
- In another case of enthusiastic tweeting, a verified user named Rizwan Ghilzai (Student of Arshad Sharif) @RizwanGhilzai tweeted: “February 27. Operation Swift Retort. When the nation’s heroes Wing Commander Noman Ali and Squadron Leader Hasan Siddiqui gave a real surprise to the enemy. #SurpriseDay.”
- A noted journalist Altaf Khan on his Twitter shared a video of his programme on the fourth anniversary of the air combat. In this video, he said that India sought to malign image of Pakistan ahead of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s visit so that Pakistan could be portrayed as a country unfit for business investment. His tweet read: “#Throwback to when our pride was intact and we could not only look the enemy in the eye but even retaliate in a befitting manner…#BalakotAirStrike #SurpriseDay”.
- Many Pakistani leading media channels like ARY News ran hashtag #teaisfantastic to mock Indian war hero Wing Commander Abhinandan.
- An unknown Pakistani user @salihakibatain shared picture of arrested and bleeding Wing Commander Abhinandan, saying it was the best memory of the Surprise Day. The comment said: “One of the Best Memory of Surprise Day #BalakotAirStrike #TeaIsFantastic #IndianSurgicalDrama #PakistanArmy.”