Former leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) who are currently part of the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) on Wednesday accused former prime minister Imran Khan and his party of allegedly misusing Rs. 870 million in state funds to hire “trolls” and “influencers” for anti-state social media campaigns.
Addressing a press conference, IPP Information Secretary Firdous Ashiq Awan alleged Rs. 870 million was spent by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to project the PTI chairman and target state institutions. Claiming 800 “fake” accounts were propagating against institutions, she alleged that PTI’s “fake narrative” had been built on the back of state resources. She also slammed the PTI leadership for polluting the minds of youth with such narratives that were against the national interest.
Demanding legal action against the PTI chairman and former KP chief minister, the former PTI leader alleged propaganda campaigns were directly linked to Khan. Recalling her time in the PTI, she claimed Khan had formed a media cell in KP to ensure he was always a “top trend” on social media and to further the PTI’s political goals.
To a question, Awan claimed she had been unaware of this issue while in the PTI because she had already distanced herself from the party when it started targeting institutions.
Awan’s allegations were echoed by another IPP leader, Fayyazul Hasan Chohan, who served as a minister in the PTI-led Punjab government. Claiming he had personally witnessed the hiring process of “trolls,” he alleged that Khan would personally review performance reports of the social media team from Faisal Javed, Iftikhar Durrani and Arsalan Khalid. He further claimed to Geo News that the KP government had hired these individuals in 2021 against the Annual Development Fund once Khan realized his government’s days were numbered.
The PMLN, similarly, demanded action against the PTI for “misusing” state funds to hire social media “trolls” tasked with targeting politicians and journalists.” In a press conference, spokesman Attaullah Tarar said the PTI should have used party funds to pay for these individuals’ services, alleging that these accounts had been used to target state institutions. “The PTI will be made accountable for this amount,” he claimed.
The statements of the IPP and PMLN leaders were seemingly validated by a series of posts on X, formerly Twitter, that shared “evidence” of the PTI-led KP government using Rs. 870 million of taxpayers’ money to form and operate a social media team to highlight Khan and spread propaganda.
According to the documents shared on X, 1,109 people were hired by the KP government in 2021 through advertisements in newspapers promising internships. The recruitments were justified as a means to promote “progress and initiatives” of the KP government and spread awareness at grassroots to promote “national unity,” it alleged.
However, the PTI denied the allegations. In a posting on X, the party said that one social media influencer from each of the 1,166 union councils of KP were hired by the provincial government. “The PTI had nothing to do with their hiring,” it said. “The information department had also made it clear that all those influencers had no links with PTI or any particular party or mindset,” it added.
According to the PTI, if the project had any “flaws,” then authorities should initiate an investigation against then-chief Mahmood Khan, who left the party after the May 9 riots.