Indian reports of ‘civil war’ in Karachi are false
Claim: Sindh Police and Pakistan Army exchanged fire in Karachi killing dozens of police men and army personnel.
Fact: There are no reports of violence between police and army personnel in Karachi, although Sindh Police’s high command has protested the alleged intimidation of IGP Sindh by the military.
In what seems to be a coordinated disinformation campaign based in India, multiple Twitter users are spreading false claims about an alleged ‘civil war’ in Karachi. On 20 October, numerous Sindh Police officers, including their high command, requested leave in protest due to the alleged military intimidation of Sindh’s Inspector General of Police. For now, IGP Mushtaq Mahar has decided to defer his leave, and ordered his officers to do the same, pending the conclusion of an inquiry into the arrest of Captain Safdar. This shocking turn of events was widely covered by Indian news media.
Civil War Claims
In light of this political context, some commentators went the extra mile and spread (to Karachiites obvious) disinformation about the aftermath of the IGP’s arrest. Indian news reports and social media posts claim that Sindh police and rangers exchanged deadly fire allegedly resulting in the deaths of 25 police officers and 5 army personnel.
Many piled on to the ‘civil war’ narrative by linking the blast at Maskan Chowrangi, Karachi suspected to be caused by a gas leak to the alleged violence between police and rangers. More recent posts even state that the military has taken over all police stations in Karachi. Such claims are spreading rapidly on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, to the amusement of many social media users who live in Karachi.
Sohail Jokhio, PRO to IGP Sindh told Soch Fact Check that all reports of police stations being taken over are fake. He further stated, “We are reporting some of these claims through the FIA. These rumours of clashes are false.”
Soch Correspondent, Fawad Hasan, was also at the site of the bomb blast after it happened, and reported that there were no clashes between the security agencies.
False ❌@SochVideos Correspondent @FawadHazan was at the #karachiblast site this morning. He can confirm there was no clash between army and Sindh Police. Paramilitary forces & police were working together to rescue people. Bomb Disposal Squad say blast was caused by a gas leak https://t.co/7x5L6YlEOW
— Soch Fact Check (@SochFactCheck) October 21, 2020
Moreover, the images attached to some of these tweets were either old pictures, or not from Pakistan at all.
One of the images depicted in the tweet above, of a tank moving in an urban area, can be found as early as January 2020 in online forums discussing the Syrian conflict. Other images showing the aftermath of a bomb blast are from a 2009 attack near MA Jinnah road, and another image used in this Tweet shows a car bomb attack in Peshawar in 2013.
The claims of deadly crossfire between the two law enforcement agencies originated from viral tweets by The International Herald, an India based digital media platform, which has shared inflammatory content calling Pakistan ‘a terrorist nation’ on its Facebook page in the past.
The ‘news organization’ first reported at 12:30 AM on 21 October 2020 that violent clashes between rangers and police had taken place due to the IG Sindh arrest, and first shared that certain police and rangers had died in crossfire.
The tweets from International Herald were not backed by any credible sources, since they only operate on twitter and do not have a website. Nonetheless, these Tweets were shared by Indian influencers the next morning on 21 October 2020, potentially reaching millions of people.
As these reports picked up steam on social media, the death count rose with every few re-shares, reaching ‘22 police and 13 rangers dead’ by the time it was shared by advocate Prashant Patel Umrao who has 188,000 followers on twitter. They were also picked up by news and tabloid websites due to their sensational content.
The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) held a rally in Karachi as a part of their plan to oust Imran Khan’s government on allegations of election interference. This was their second stop after Gujranwala. The PDM consists of 11 political parties, including the PPP, PML-N and JUI-F. They plan to end their tour on December 13, with a large gathering in Lahore, in the hope that the PTI government will not be able to withstand a 3 month-long protest against its legitimacy.
Following the PDM rally at Mazar-e-Quaid, a case was filed against Captain Safdar, husband of PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz, for allegedly violating the sanctity of the Quaid’s mausoleum. Bilawal Bhutto has publicly alleged that the Inspector General of Police, Sindh was woken up in the middle of the night and pressured to arrest Captain Safdar without the Sindh Governments knowledge. In protest to this alleged interference by political and military forces, numerous Sindh Police officers asked for leave on 20 October 2020. There were, however, no clashes between the Sindh Police and the Army.
In this political atmosphere it is possible, and likely, that supporters on both sides, as well as critics from neighbouring countries, may share misinformation and disinformation about this new movement.
Summary: Reports about a civil war in Karachi on social media being shared and re-shared by prominent Indian social media personalities are false. Deadly gunfire was not exchanged between Pakistan Army soldiers and Sindh Police Officers in Karachi. The PRO to the Inspector General Pakistan, Sindh says no clashes occurred at all.