PTI and the fight against Rumors and Disinformation

Like always I went to my village to celebrate EID this year. It’s always fun celebrating EID at village. About two and a half months had passed since the May 11 general elections of Pakistan. The villagers had voted heavily in favour of PTI. It was my first visit to village after the elections. My excitement was two fold, one of course was celebration of EID at village, and second was to talk to people about post election situation and their opinion about working of PTI government so far.

The performance of PTI in May 11 elections, especially in this village was more shocking because a woman Minister of Awami National Party belonged to this village and in the last five years she had given special attention to her home village. Once while talking to Mr. Imran Afridi, the minister’s husband, he told me he hoped a clean sweep in the surrounding four villages and especially his wife’s home village. His clean sweep claim was based  on their spending on the villagers in the five years ANP government. From time to time they would give out common household use items to the villagers. He looked quite confident. However, on the election day, the tally of votes were almost equal and despite PTI’s weak presence in the village and weak organizational structure overall, the party got overwhelming number of votes. PTI voters had celebrated their victory with great zeal and spirit.

Since it was my first interaction with villagers after elections, I was more interested in knowing their point of view about PTI’s performance so far. While talking to them, I sensed somewhat uneasiness and disappointment in their attitude towards PTI. After listening to their opinion, I realized most part of their disappointment was based on some malicious rumors and disinformation spread by ANP officials and workers present there.

One person told me, “What has Imran Khan done for us? The electricity situation is worst, even the power voltage is very low now.” Another one added, “Imran Khan has increased the flour prices to an unbearable height.” He was promptly followed by another one saying, “Almost all prices are out of control now. Is this the change?”

Listening to them I realized they were misinformed. I thought, wait a minute, electricity, flour price, or any other price is not in Imran’s control, Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s government controls it.

Unpon hearing them I suddenly asked one person in a bit angry tone, “Why the hell did you increase the prices and why can’t you control power outages?” He looked surprised and told me he had nothing to do with those things. I then said, “The way you don’t have any part in these price hikes and power outages, Imran Khan has nothing to do with them in exactly the same manner.” Nawaz Sharif’s federal government is in control of these things. After that I tried to explain them the difference between Federal government and Provincial government and their working and responsibilities after 18th amendment. I, in an honest way, tried to explain them the working and responsibilities of both federal and provincial government.

After that I inquired them if they knew about different projects and plans started by the PTI government, such as hydral electricity generation projects, Online FIR, proposed educational reforms, Right to Information Bill, Right to Services Bill, computerization of land records and many more. The unanimous reply was, “NO”. This led me to the conclusion that  PTI government lacked an effective system to rightly educate people about the government’s performance and future projects in the pipeline.

There are thousands of villages in KPK. These villagers do not have access to social media and most of them are uneducated. There must be a coordinated mechanism to rightly and timely inform them about the working of the government performance. Otherwise, the flood of rumors and disinformation will flush all the good work that the PTI government do, down the drain.

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