Reports were circulating for the past few days that Afghanistan had issued an advisory warning to its citizens against travelling to Pakistan owing to "large-scale protests and even violence in some instances" as it expressed concerns over political stability inside Pakistan.
While shared by several people on social media, including some journalists, as "breaking news", the post went viral as nationwide protests struck Pakistan on the weekend against inflation and a hike in power bills. It raised concerns about whether the notification from Afghanistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs was real or issued recently.
The Friday Times investigated the reports.
The notification, a picture of which was being shared, contained the crest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the official name of Afghanistan under the Afghan Taliban's interim government).
The text of the notification, which is in English rather than Afghanistan's native Dari, read:
"IEA-MoFA statement concerning developments in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is saddened by the recent events in Pakistan, leading to large-scale protests and even violence in some instances.
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers political stability in Pakistan in the interest of the Muslim people of Pakistan and the broader region and hopes the sides demonstrate restraint and understanding.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has given necessary instructions to our offices in Pakistan with regards to the protection of Afghan nationals residing in Pakistan during these developments."
Is the notification genuine?
The notification that was being spread did appear genuine.
However, some incidents mentioned in the notification did not reflect incidents in Pakistan over the past week.
In particular, the notification referred to "large-scale protests and even violence in some instances".
Further, it pointed to the lack of political stability in Pakistan. It expressed hope that different sides would demonstrate "restraint and understanding".
While there have been protests and some violence in the form of protesters burning their power bills and pelting the offices of power distribution companies with stones, while in some areas, workers of power companies were manhandled, there were no large-scale concerted protests nor heavy violence.
Further on political instability, the country is currently under a caretaker setup as per the Constitution after the term of the assemblies ended.
An attempt to trace the notification on the official channels of the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed that no such notification had been posted on either the website of the ministry or on any of its social media accounts in recent weeks.
However, the notification continued to be shared by people on social media during this period.
Advanced means to trace the notification led to the original notification.
The original notification, which is identical in appearance and content to the one circulating on social media, is dated May 10, 2023, and was issued in the aftermath of the protests and violence witnessed on May 9.
IEA-MoFA statement concerning developments in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan pic.twitter.com/YfGdVsHnJH— Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Afghanistan (@MoFA_Afg) May 10, 2023
Large-scale protests accompanied by violence were witnessed on May 9 in the aftermath of former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan's brief arrest in Islamabad.
Widespread arrests of PTI officials and workers followed the violence. The party claims around 10,000 people were arrested.
Thus, the posts circulating are misleading as a notification from an older date is being used out of its proper context.