It isn’t typically a army spokesperson doubles as a nationwide celeb, about whom web memes are made and whose identify tendencies on Twitter.
However Pakistan’s Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor is one such particular person. As he leaves his submit after three headline-grabbing years, reward and criticism have poured in in equal measure.
The switch was anticipated however it got here days after an unseemly social media spat with TV anchor Sana Bucha, which raised eyebrows about his conduct.
His successor will discover the departing director-general of the Inter-Companies Public Relations (ISPR) fairly an act to observe. Gen Ghafoor’s late-night musings on Twitter offered loads of controversy and copious fodder for Pakistan’s twitterati.
Topics for dialogue might seem random – he irked India by praising Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone for attending anti-government protests in Delhi. However he might simply as simply submit about burn ointment, butchers or stray canine.
Combative tweets from his private account previously few days confirmed how he sought to regulate the narrative for the world’s sixth largest military.
The overall continuously sparred with retired Indian army officers or journalists on Twitter; at different instances he would “troll” Pakistani journalists and people who criticised the nation’s army.
Earlier this week he locked horns with Sana Bucha after she tweeted criticising the army. Ms Bucha retaliated by reminding him “to indicate some class” however that was met with a thinly veiled warning that she ought to “make a alternative”.
Quickly after the alternate, a development began on Twitter abusing her, which Ms Bucha stated had occurred earlier than.
“They drag in my household, my mates and even distant acquaintances. As a lady, the struggling is extra as a result of they suppose it is simple to suppress her into submission,” she advised the BBC.
Pakistan, which has a historical past of coups, has had much less and fewer house lately for critics of its highly effective military. Ms Bucha thinks the ISPR ought to be extra cautious about its conduct on social media, contemplating civil-military relations.
The official place of the ISPR is that the DG “can tweet from his private account in a private capability”.
However not everybody within the high brass agrees. One retired senior army official thought there ought to be “no private account”.
“At such a senior submit, degree and place, there’s nothing private,” he advised the BBC. “In army PR, one shouldn’t be reacting to each problem, remark or incident. It ought to solely be when it’s instantly affecting the organisation or when there’s a demand to take a place.”
One other former military common, Ghulam Mustafa, thought utilizing social media in a private capability to “defend on-line assaults on the Pakistani military” was justified. However he did concede that “at instances, the DG ISPR’s response in a private capability hasn’t impacted very positively”.
In line with strategic communications specialist and former journalist Aniq Zafar, officers utilizing their private accounts will all the time be seen to be projecting the narrative of the establishment they work for, so no disclaimer works.
“People in management positions ought to be quite cautious in the usage of social media, cautious in number of phrases and cautious in choosing which fights to struggle,” he advised the BBC.
Amid hostilities between Pakistan and India in 2019, the departing spokesman’s provocative tweets invited criticism from each civilian and army circles.
However his techniques earned grudging reward from the Indian military’s nationwide cyber safety co-ordinator in December.
“After they conduct narrative warfare, as an example within the case of Kashmir, the message they ship to Europe is that human rights are being infringed. So, they appear to have received their act collectively,” stated Lt-Gen (retd) Rajesh Pant, India In the present day reported.
Asif Ghafoor will even be remembered for his emphasis on “fifth Technology Warfare” in his quite a few press conferences and tweets, which he stated was being waged in opposition to Pakistan on social media and wanted a strong defence.
No army skilled has settled on what defines “5GW” however it primarily means non-combat, asymmetrical warfare by which non-traditional instruments are used.
Final April, Fb eliminated 103 teams and accounts, which it stated have been linked to ISPR staff.
Twitter additionally suspended accounts of many Pakistani customers final yr, allegedly for tweeting criticism of India’s authorities over Kashmir, which each international locations dispute.
Gen Ghafoor took to Twitter many instances to guarantee customers that requests had been made to the social media large to look into the matter and urged his greater than 450,000 followers to behave. “Keep put accountable… preserve adhering to Twitter guidelines, likewise personal,” he tweeted in October.
A former brigadier, Farooq Hameed, advised the BBC the ISPR’s position had developed over the time because of the altering nature of social media platforms.
“The DG ISPR is performing a nationwide responsibility through the use of his official and private Twitter account on social media to undertaking threats and challenges to Pakistan’s nationwide pursuits,” he stated.
However the retired senior army official who thought there ought to be no private account was not satisfied.
“The military ought to by no means be seen within the lead on issues of nationwide coverage, diplomacy or home points. Let the federal government defend the armed forces in opposition to native or exterior criticism.”