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August 21, 2018

Tweet about premiers’ oath expenses: Rumors travel fast through social media


August 21, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The social media was abuzz with the comparative analysis of expenses incurred on the oath-taking ceremonies of past prime ministers of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and the amount spent on the swearing in of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A tweet by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Andleeb Abbas ignited the social media exchange by claiming a supposed deputy director of President House, Adnan, had provided her with the details.

According to her source, Rs7.6 million was spent when Yousaf Raza Gillani took oath as PM in 2008 and Rs9.2 million on Nawaz Sharif’s swearing-in, whereas a mere Rs50,000 had been spent on Khan's induction. “Only a matter of 500% less,” Andleeb tweeted.

Beyond Twitter and Facebook, this statistical insight was in hot circulation on Whatsapp, where screenshots of her tweet were being forwarded as received. As one of the recipients of her post, this correspondent checked with the spokesman of the presidency. His response revealed that Andleeb had posted fake news. “There is no deputy director in the presidency by this name (Adnan),” the spokesman said.

This correspondent then tweeted this clarification from the presidency. However, another page was soon after uploaded on the social media, showing contact details of the presidential staff. It highlighted a certain Adnan Majid. However, he is the director (coordination) of President House, rather than a deputy director, as asserted in Andleeb's original tweet.

Apparently, the intention of those sharing the new page was to discredit the presidential spokesman in the eyes of laypeople using social media, and to manipulate their inability to differentiate between the conflicting versions of the story.

This correspondent then approached Adnan Majid to check whether he was aware of the details of expenses incurred on the oath-taking ceremonies of the three prime ministers. He was shocked to learn he had been identified as the source of information to which he had no access or knowledge of. “I am in the coordination section, so how could I know these details? Had I been on the finance side, there could have been a possibility of knowing about this,” he told The News.

Andleeb was then approached to determine the true source of her information - only for her to disown it. “I don’t know. I can be wrong. I gathered it from Maleeha Hashmey (another PTI worker),” she said.

When Maleeha - probably the first person to tweet the fake news - was approached, she was surprised to learn that there was no deputy director at President House by the name of Adnan. She promised to revert after consulting the sources within the PTI who had passed on the spurious story to her, but has since chosen not to respond with a verified version of the facts.

This correspondent then checked with the Cabinet Division, which is responsible for administering the expenses incurred on the oath-taking ceremonies of prime ministers and ministers. Its version of spending on the swearing-in of Sharif, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Justice Nasirul Mulk and Imran Khan was the final nail in the coffin of the fake news propagated on the social media.While it was correct to state that Rs50,000 had been spent on the induction of Prime Minister Khan, the information made available to The News by the Cabinet Division revealed the claims of exorbitant expenditure on his predecessors was grossly exaggerated. Some Rs450,000 was spent in the case of Nawaz Sharif, not Rs9.2 million, while Rs400,000 and Rs36,000 were incurred for Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Nasirul Mulk, respectively.

In past, the PTI alleged Nawaz Sharif of Rs300 billion corruption. The PTI leader, who is now a minister, had repeatedly accused former PM of this amount of corruption. When The News tried to ascertain the veracity of this figure, the PTI leader turned out to be the man who made this calculation. He said that actually it was his personal accountant who made this calculation. He promised to return after checking with his accountant the methodology he used determine this figure of Rs300 billion but never answered.

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