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Analysis: How Pakistani Politicians and Fake Accounts Drove Twitter Trends on Lahore's Rare Political Violence
Written by Shaheryar Popalzai On 19 June 2014 @ 22:07 pm | 1 Comment
In Citizen Media, Digital Activism, English, Feature, Governance, Law, Pakistan, Politics, South Asia, Technology, Weblog
In Pakistan's second largest city Lahore violent clashes  between police and supporters of a newly energized political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT)  resulted in eight deaths and left at least 80 injured.
Lahore is the capital of Punjab province, and political violence here is rare. It is also the home city of the country's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif; his brother Shahbaz Sharif is the province's chief minister.
Twitter users in Pakistan picked up on the incident immediately. Three different hashtags that specifically targeted the government soon spread.
This post analyses these hashtags, traces where they originated from and looks at how they spread.
The story behind the violence
Horrific photos of women and elderly supporters  of PAT being violently beaten by police quickly spread on social media, accompanied by tweets and posts from the party's chief from his home in Canada under the hashtag #StateTerrorism.
It is unclear who started the violence. In the wee morning hours of June 17, 2014, police attempted to remove security barriers placed outside PAT chief Tahirul Qadri’s home and the head office of a religious organization he also happens to head in a residential area of Lahore known as Model Town. Police say local residents had been complaining about the blocs disrupted their movement. The party claims it has a court order allowing them to have the barriers.
Mining for all three hashtags stopped at 9:30 p.m. Pakistani time on June 18, 2014.
As soon as police arrived at the head office, the official English-language account of the party's leader, which has just under 95,000 followers, began tweeting with the hashtag #StateTerrorism condemning the police and the ruling Sharif family. When police began to bulldoze the barriers, the rhetoric continued, including calls for an uprising as he has done many times before in recent years.
This is our first test, we will not bow our heads to them its only a matter of days we will bring the revolution. #StateTerrorism 
— Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri (@TahirulQadri) June 16, 2014 
In tweets that seemed to prophesize the unusual violence, he warned that he would not be responsible if any fighting broke out. His account published variations of the veiled threat before and after the clashes.
— Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri (@TahirulQadri) June 17, 2014 
His Urdu-language account, @TahirulQadriUR , which has 23,500 followers, would go on to send 152 tweets using the #StateTerrorism hashtag between June 17 and 18.
In the same time period, a total of 9,362 #StateTerrorism tweets were published on Twitter. The tweets had a total of 82,389 combined retweets.
At least 200 tweets were sent at 12 a.m. on June 17, before the violence in Lahore, with the hashtag peaking at 10 a.m., around the time the clashes broke out, with over 1,000 tweets.
Some of Qadri's tweets were retweeted hundreds of times, like this one:
— Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri (@TahirulQadri) June 17, 2014 
— Arslan Sherazi (@Arslan__Sherazi) June 17, 2014 
The text “Situation is very tensed on ground,they r doing heavy shelling”Several workers seriously injured. #StateTerrorism #Pakistan” was tweeted 11 times from accounts such as @abdullahabid786 , @abdulmajeedhnd , @abidmughal786 , @kkminhajian  & @majidhnd .
— Abdullah Abid (@abdullahabid786) June 17, 2014 
The #TalibanSharif  hashtag trying to vilify the ruling government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, even though the government is currently engaged in a war with the Taliban in the north, began appearing on Twitter in the morning of June 17, 2014. It was included in up to 1,247 tweets, and these tweets had a total of 2,866 combined retweets.
The hashtag was propelled by a massive network of fake accounts. The text “#Shahbazshareef is the culprit behind killing of #minhaj ul #Quran members.#Nawaz #shareef & his brother r #agents of #Dajjal#TalibanSharif“ was tweeted by 98 different Twitter accounts.
Most of these handles were the same except for the last few characters or numbers.
Out of the 98 Twitter accounts mentioned above, 68 had “gohar” in the handle and 48 were “AyeshaGohar” with the last few characters or numbers changed.
The AyeshaGohar accounts included Ayeshagohar7 , Ayeshagohar11 , AyeshaGohar12 , AyeshaGohar13 , AyeshaGohar24 , AyeshaGohar66 , AyeshaGohar124 , AyeshaGohar150 , AyeshaGohar410 , AyeshaGohar461  and others.
— Ayesha Gohar (@ayeshagohar11) June 18, 2014 
There were other multiple accounts as well, such as AbidGohar (@AbidGohar1 , @AbidGohar3  and @Abidgohar34 ), nusratgohar (@NusratGohar1 , NusratGohar8 ), and YasmeenGohar  (yasmeengohar7  and yasmeengohar9 ).
The tweets peaked about 11 a.m. around the time of the violence and spiked two more times afterward.
The following had the most retweets for the #TalibanSharif accounts. They happened to belong to Twitter accounts of rival political party workers PTI:
— Awab Alvi (@DrAwab) June 17, 2014 
Strongly condemn the cowardly act by #TalibanSharif  govt against the peaceful protestors of Qadir sahib.Shows the mindset of those ruling us
— Ali Zaidi Inqalabi (@AliHZaidiPTI) June 17, 2014 
— Awab Alvi (@DrAwab) June 17, 2014 
Gullu Butt was a man identified damaging cars  during the violence. He was detained, and on his way to his first court appearance was attacked by a mob outside the court. He was later given a brief sentence.
Tweets linking him to the ruling PML-N  popped up soon after he was seen smashing vehicles. Mainstream media have also labeled him a PML-N worker and a goon used by dirty cops.
The #GulluButt hashtag saw a total of 1,149 tweets and 1,234 combined retweets.
A politician from Karachi city, where there is a history of political violence, tweeted:
— HaiderAbbasRizvi N.I (@HaiderRizviMQM) June 18, 2014 
This Twitter user quotes a popular TV pundit saying Gullu Butt was hired by the government to take out Tahirul Qadri's son:
— Syed Saim A. Rizvi (@saim_riz) June 17, 2014 
Immediately after the violence, the Punjab government filed official charges against 3,000 workers of Qadri's party. In turn, Qadri's people have formally filed charges against the Punjab government. Opposition parties  are united in their condemnation of the ruling government's handling of the situation.
The prime minister's brother and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has vowed to resign  if he is found responsible for the violence.
Article printed from Global Voices: https://globalvoices.org
URL to article: https://globalvoices.org/2014/06/19/pakistan-lahore-violence-police-tahirul-qadri-sharif/
URLs in this post:
 Image: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152533071971789&set=a.10150089191721789.300028.288600046788&type=1&theater
 violent clashes: https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FPanjtanPointdotcom%2Fposts%2F10152533075261789%3A0&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNFiL0eXaCljMmXlnNyeajfg1vIyJg
 police and supporters of a newly energized political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT): http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-30998-Eight-killed-in-police-PAT-clash
 #StateTerrorism: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23StateTerrorism&src=typd
 #TalibanSharif: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23TalibanSharif&src=typd
 #GulluButt: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23GulluButt&src=typd
 Horrific photos of women and elderly supporters: https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fushah641%2Fposts%2F606962139417171&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNHYjWTMHf5oGcoBmavvbI1LZoF6Hw
 #StateTerrorism: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23StateTerrorism&src=hash
 June 16, 2014: https://twitter.com/TahirulQadri/statuses/478675060568248321
 #Pakistan: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Pakistan&src=hash
 June 17, 2014: https://twitter.com/TahirulQadri/statuses/478803434582200320
 @TahirulQadriUR: https://twitter.com/TahirulQadriUR
 Image: http://cf.datawrapper.de/pvlCT/1/
 June 17, 2014: https://twitter.com/TahirulQadri/statuses/478803910899953664
 Image: http://cf.datawrapper.de/2F8Io/1/
 @auoazain: https://twitter.com/auoazain/status/478854078072487936
 @Hassan23Zohaib: https://twitter.com/Hassan23Zohaib/status/479212812913242113
 June 17, 2014: https://twitter.com/Arslan__Sherazi/statuses/478845093458112512
 @abdullahabid786: https://twitter.com/abdullahabid786/status/478767813264302081
 @abdulmajeedhnd: https://twitter.com/abdulmajeedhnd/status/478767813109108737
 @abidmughal786: https://twitter.com/abidmughal786/status/478767814388355073
 @kkminhajian: https://twitter.com/kkminhajian/status/478767814396755968
 @majidhnd: https://twitter.com/majidhnd/status/478767814417731584
 June 17, 2014: https://twitter.com/abdullahabid786/statuses/478767813264302081
 Image: http://cf.datawrapper.de/WP5sG/1/
 Ayeshagohar7: https://twitter.com/AyeshaGohar7
 Ayeshagohar11: https://twitter.com/AyeshaGohar11
 AyeshaGohar12: https://twitter.com/AyeshaGohar12
 AyeshaGohar13: https://twitter.com/AyeshaGohar13
 AyeshaGohar24: https://twitter.com/AyeshaGohar24
 AyeshaGohar66: https://twitter.com/AyeshaGohar66
 AyeshaGohar124: https://twitter.com/AyeshaGohar124
 AyeshaGohar150: https://twitter.com/AyeshaGohar150
 AyeshaGohar410: https://twitter.com/AyeshaGohar410
 AyeshaGohar461: https://twitter.com/AyeshaGohar461
 #Shahbazshareef: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Shahbazshareef&src=hash
 #minhaj: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23minhaj&src=hash
 #Quran: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Quran&src=hash
 #Nawaz: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Nawaz&src=hash
 #shareef: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23shareef&src=hash
 #agents: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23agents&src=hash
 #Dajjal: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Dajjal&src=hash
 #TalibanSharif: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23TalibanSharif&src=hash
 June 18, 2014: https://twitter.com/ayeshagohar11/statuses/479156906519298048
 @AbidGohar1: https://twitter.com/AbidGohar1/status/479156905617530882
 @AbidGohar3: https://twitter.com/AbidGohar3/status/479156905730772992
 @Abidgohar34: https://twitter.com/Abidgohar34/status/479156905865003009
 @NusratGohar1: https://twitter.com/NusratGohar1/status/479156908708728832
 NusratGohar8: https://twitter.com/nusratgohar8/status/479156908784250880
 YasmeenGohar: https://twitter.com/YasmeenGohar
 yasmeengohar7: https://twitter.com/YasmeenGohar7
 yasmeengohar9: https://twitter.com/YasmeenGohar9
 #Irony: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Irony&src=hash
 pic.twitter.com/h30Jhfs3WT: http://t.co/h30Jhfs3WT
 June 17, 2014: https://twitter.com/DrAwab/statuses/478947384115081216
 June 17, 2014: https://twitter.com/AliHZaidiPTI/statuses/478815055014678529
 #MANvsWILD: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23MANvsWILD&src=hash
 #WHODUNNIT: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23WHODUNNIT&src=hash
 June 17, 2014: https://twitter.com/DrAwab/statuses/478941134346260480
 identified damaging cars: http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dawn.com%2Fnews%2F1113770%2Fgullu-butt-sent-on-14-day-judicial-remand&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNFRV-D260x7CKpZ3HEE6w1bQyKJuw
 PML-N: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pakistan_Muslim_League_(N)
 Image: http://cf.datawrapper.de/VzCyY/2/
 #GulluBUTT: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23GulluBUTT&src=hash
 pic.twitter.com/7p77bXGvl0: http://t.co/7p77bXGvl0
 June 18, 2014: https://twitter.com/HaiderRizviMQM/statuses/479074168189624322
 #GulluButt: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23GulluButt&src=hash
 @ShkhRasheed: https://twitter.com/ShkhRasheed
 @MAnwarMQM: https://twitter.com/MAnwarMQM
 pic.twitter.com/d4edThsEfu: http://t.co/d4edThsEfu
 June 17, 2014: https://twitter.com/saim_riz/statuses/478946032105963521
 Opposition parties: http://www.dawn.com/news/1113810/opposition-demands-withdrawal-of-case-against-qadris-son-supporters
 vowed to resign: http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dawn.com%2Fnews%2F1113813%2Fpolice-asked-to-nominate-nawaz-shahbaz-in-lahore-killings-case&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNEzfTTALBdpfNYBeTUzoXgtDRMh2A
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