I am speechless over the oil tanker incident. It was indeed very unfortunate but so did the one which happened almost 5 years ago, in July 2012, when a man was burnt alive on blasphemy account. But it is downright disgusting to link the two separate incidents to further your religious believes or social motives. Here is an account of how a fake news got developed and mass spread on Facebook and how easy it is to fall victim of such news stories because they are being shared by someone you know in person and you keep on sharing the news without ‘knowing’ the news in-person.

From a few days following social media post has been circulating like wildfire. It has traveled from one account to another, from one group to another, from one page to another while making equal rounds on whatsapp and twitter as well.

Whereas the truth is that these two incidents happened at least 30 Km apart and there is no generalization one can make out of these drastically different accounts.

Generally, I do not buy such stories and try to steer clear from news pushing a certain motive or proving a certain ideology. But for this particular news seeing them using “خدا کی بے آواز لاٹھی” I could not keep myself from getting involved and investigate how it all started.

On 27th June, 2017 at 8:08pm, Waseem Altaf first time posted about these incidents in following post. It was written in English with a disclaimer at the bottom saying that the author is a man of science, asking people not to drive any metaphysical conclusions based on this article.

According to Waseem, local clerics are to be blamed for both incidents on using loudspeakers; for prompting people to steal petrol and enticing crowd to take law in their own hands. I am not contesting these claims but I have seen reports suggesting that in the oil tanker incident, loudspeaker was used to keep people away from petrol and not to prompt them to steal it. But let’s not get into these details in this post.

From there, this news story was picked up by Hussain Yasir who translated it in Urdu in this post very next day on June 28, 2017 at 6:56pm.

Although the translation is on the spot but there is one mistake which was enough to fire the fuel. That mistake can not be an honest mistake. It was a deliberate one. A person with even basic knowledge of English would never translate “Not very far from” to “عین اس جگہ کے قریب”. For people who does not understand Urdu, “عین” means “Exact”. So if you translate it back to English, it would read as “Close to exactly that location” instead of “Not very far from”. So this particular translation was enough to change the story altogether and give it new meanings to further the religious or social motives of many which did become the case later.

Hussain Yasir’s post was not the one which was the reason of mass spread of this fake news. It was not only until one of our esteemed CSP officer Sohail Zafar Chatta posted the Urdu translation on their profile from where it was shared more than 2000 times given his credibility being a senior (and responsible?) officer from Police.

You can also see how there is more Urdu text added at the bottom of the post and this did not stop there. People added more Urdu text before and after this post furthering their own beliefs and motives. especially the start of the post with “خدا کی بے آواز لاٹھی” somehow makes it religious responsibility of a certain sect to spread it everywhere to tell the other sect of hidden power in their beliefs while some are using it to warn people of “mukafat-e-amal” aka; as you sow so shall you reap.

Once this post has made to such a massive level, the original author “Waseem Altaf” did another post as clarification of his previous post but that can only act as a saving grace for the author himself among his followers as it would never reach to similar audience. So technically and socially that clarification post has failed to undo the rampant lie it has caused. Point to ponder is that “Does a suggestive disclaimer at bottom is good enough to get away with the consequences of the thought you just have shared on your social media profile?”

To date, Hussain Yasir did not feel such need of clarification or apology for deliberately giving wrong translation.

DPO Sohail Zafar also felt the need to share the above clarification on his timeline but probably failed to realize that he is the one who acted as a catalyst in spreading this fake news and added the credibility it needed for such a massive ride. Just to share the numbers again for the sake of understanding the scale his post has achieved, so far, apart from over 2000 shares that post has received it has been shared thousands of times with full text with an added line at the top to make it look more authentic that says “سابق ڈی پی او شیخوپورہ سہیل ظفر چھٹہ کی ٹائم لائن سے”. To me that  amounts to have an apology on its own but in reality, there is not much Sohail can do now to undo the help he already has given in spreading the lie. And yes, no clarification can wash the stain of endorsing this translation mistake by giving it space on his timeline.

One can only hope that people with such a following on social media will act more responsibly. I will end this article now with an ‘edited’ quote from Spider Man movie. “With great social media power, comes great publishing responsibility”.

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