Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif whose PML-N is contesting senatorial elections today, prior to the wider General Elections for the National Assembly, has come under fire for procuring the services of a foreign data mining company called Cambridge Analytica. Independent Pakistani judicial journalist Tayyab Baloch wrote the following about the significance of these revelations in a recent article in Eurasia Future that broke the story:
“As a roving reporter covering Pakistan’s Supreme Court, I have come to see first hand, the integrity with which the law and constitution are treated by the respected judges of the country. During the recent barrage of anti-Court propaganda from other sectors of the liberal and sensationalist media, I was called to the rostrum of the Supreme Court, where I spoke in front of the Chief Justice of Pakistan. During his questioning, he made enquiries regarding the fake news that is pervasive throughout Pakistan, regarding the integrity of the judiciary as a whole, as well as smear campaigns against individual judges. I replied that there is a calculated political plot against Pakistan and state institutions which is being coordinated by an international ‘data mining’ company called “Cambridge Analytica”. Due to the raucous atmosphere in the court room, I am not fully aware that the judge was able to ascertain my statement so I shall restate the crucial facts below.
While many of my colleagues told me not to raise the issue, I feel compelled to continue to raise this point, as it is crucial to unmask a foreign firm which is spreading propaganda designed to erode trust in important state institutions and by extrapolation, the state itself. Sadly, many of my colleagues in the journalistic profession have been duped into reporting fake news emanating from the carefully crafted deception campaign by Cambridge Analytica. Even many judges appear to be powerless to stop the barrage of propaganda emanating from Cambridge Analytica, let along the fact that Pakistani media Godfather, Mir Shakeel Ur Rahman, the owner of Pakistan’s biggest news media, is spewing this fake news to the detriment of national stability.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court has sadly failed to stem the tide of propaganda against state institutions, thus allow anti-state propaganda to become even more potent throughout the country. While many question marks are raised, the big data firm “Cambridge Analytica” is the supreme source of agitation in these matters. Further more, the foreign company has expert experience in changing the behaviour of its target audience. It was this firm that was campaigning in England against separation from European Union (Brexit). Cambridge Analytica also played a vital role in the victory of American President Trump against the political establishment and American media that supported Hillary Clinton. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta also hired this firm to secure his second term of Presidency in Kenyan election in 2017.
It has been further brought to my attention by an individual working for BOL and PAK TV, that Cambridge Analytica has been hired to run smear campaigns against their outlets. Cambridge Anayltica is allegedly working out of its Dubai office to smear BOL and PAK TV in cooperation with the owner of the Jang Group of Newspapers and GEO television which are owned by Mir Shakeel Ur Rahman (MSR).
BOL and PAK TV are projects of the Pakistan IT company AXACT, a rival of Jang and Geo. Furthermore, Jang and GEO have widely accused of being foreign agent entities in Pakistan with even the Pakistani army accusing these outlets of being a pro-Indian media group. Bol and Pak TV media group introduced an alternative patriotic Pakistani narrative but unfortunately MSR, who is the godfather of Pakistani media, continues to spread fake News against AXACT, BOl and Pak TV by publishing a fake news in NYT against them. Then, MSR used its connections in the Nawaz government to launch cases against the owner of AXACT, Shoaib Sheikh – all of which were based on untruths. Last week Shoaib Sheikh was arrested and as of today, he remains in jail. MSR and Nawaz are clearly conspiring against BOL, PAK and AXACT.
Now, Nawaz Sharif has also procured the services of this firm and has paid a big amount to do so. His aim, as always, is to resuscitate his political career, while keeping his party, the PML-N in power. Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from any public office by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on corruption charges. Now, he has hired a big foreign firm to slander the judiciary that barred him from office, in a calculated attempt to win back public sympathy at the expense of the integrity of state institutions.
In Pakistan, this firm is not only targeting the judiciary but also fuelling ethical conflicts by using the social and mainstream media. Nawaz has also instructed Cambridge Analytica to help promote his PML-N party throughout the current election cycle. Thus, we see how a powerful foreign company, perhaps better referred to as a foreign agent in this context, is being co-opted by a disgraced former Prime Minister and his party machine, in order to both discredit opposition parties as well as the very judiciary of the country which prohibited him from holding public office.
With both mainstream media and a great deal of social media spewing the falsehoods authored by Cambridge Analytica, one cannot but feel that sincere efforts to hold a legitimate election are in vain when a former Prime Minister is using a foreign company to meddle in the electoral process”.
Today, Tayyab Baloch attended a press meeting of Pakistan People’s Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and raised the issue of possible collusion between Nawaz Sharif and Cambridge Analytica. The following was asked and answered at the hectic session:
Tayyab Baloch: “Nawaz has hired foreign Data Mining Cambridge Analytica to meddle election and slunder Judiciary. What’s your take on it?”
Bilawal Bhutto: “If Nawaz did it, then it is against the sovereignty and integrity of the State. No one can be allowed to provide data of Pakistani citizens to foriegn firm. It is a crime against State. State Institutions have to act properly to prevent this foreign firm so that Integrity of Pakistani Judiciary and Its voters should be saved”.
With general elections scheduled for July of this year, Nawaz’s attempts to regain legitimacy after being barred from holding office by the Supreme Court, could have wide reaching implications, now that it is suggested he has resorted to foreign collusion in order to achieve his aims.