PTI, bot accounts spread misinformation as donations stand at Rs 2.17bn

The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) on Tuesday tweeted that latest figures received by finance minister Asad Umar for donations in the joint Prime Minister and Chief Justice fund for Bhasha Dam in the last three days were ‘mind blowing’.

The tweet read, “Some numbers on the overseas funds collected for #DonateForDams project have been communicated directly by @Asad_Umar himself. And they are mind blowing . Be prepared for a super pleasant surprise. “Pakistan is about to change. The #DamsFund is just the beginning of it” says AU.”

Also on Tuesday, a screenshot circulated on Twitter showing PTI official Facebook page posting a status, again citing finance minister Asad Umar, as claiming that the inflow of donations in the Dam Fund in the last three days was $75 million.

While the tweet was visible until late on Tuesday night, the party’s Facebook timeline showed no post similar to the one in the screenshot, suggesting that either the post was deleted fearing backlash, for obvious reasons that the figure was way off the mark; or because the screenshot was a hoax.

Either way, the party has yet to issue any clarification.

Earlier, a bot Twitter account attributed to Pakistani-American businessman Shahid Khan emerged with a similarly preposterous claim about a donation to the Dam Fund, suggesting that some PTI twitter users maybe undertaking a campaign to generate hype for the endeavour, perhaps in a bid to persuade overseas Pakistanis to generously donate to the fund.

The problem is that the hype falls flat in the face of reality, as conveyed by the figures released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

As of September 10, the donations received in the fund stand at Rs2.17 billion, or $18 million, only a very small fraction of these donations are from outside of Pakistan: around Rs107 million, or $0.89 million. The remaining Rs2.06 billion is from inside Pakistan.

The estimated cost of Diamer Bhasha Dam is between Rs1,200 billion and Rs1,400 billion.

Published in Daily Times, September 12th 2018.