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Video of anti-blasphemy law protest falsely painted as one against Pakistan Army chief

Demonstrators gathered to protest case filed against prominent Shiite cleric

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Claim: A video shows a crowd of people participating in a protest against the Pakistan Army chief.

Fact: The protest had nothing to do with the Pakistan Army chief but was, in fact, against a prominent Shiite cleric being booked in a police case.

On 29 August 2023, singer and activist Salman Ahmad posted a video (archive) on X (formerly Twitter), showing a large crowd of protesters, alongside the following caption:

“احتجاجی جلوس میں وائسرائے جنرل عاصم منیر مردہ باد کے نعرے ۔
[Slogans of ‘Death to Viceroy General Asim Munir’ heard in a protest procession.]”

Ahmad, a rock guitarist who shot to fame in the 1990s, is a close aide of the former Pakistani prime minister and chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan.

Khan recently clashed (archive) with the Pakistan Army by levelling serious allegations against its current chief, General Syed Asim Munir, and his predecessor, Gen (r) Qamar Javed Bajwa, saying (archive) the military boss was “basically dismantling the future of this country to protect himself”.

The video was also posted by X user @ssgviews (archive) with a similar caption, which has been reproduced as follows:

“سکردو کی عوام کا خان کے حق اور عاصم منیر کے خلاف شدید پرامن احتجاج جاری
کس کس کو روکو گے
برباد کر رہے فوج کے ادارے کو عاصم
[The people of Skardu are continuing their very peaceful protest in favour of [Imran] Khan and against Asim Munir
Who will you stop?
Asim [Munir] is ruining the institution of the army.]”

Soch Fact Check has previously investigated posts by both @sufisal and @ssgviews.

Fact or Fiction?

Using reverse image search tools with keyframes from the video as input, Soch Fact Check came across two posts by the Facebook pages ‘LOG MEDIA’ (archive) and ‘امامیہ ٹائمز’ (archive). The accompanying captions are reproduced as follows:

“سکردو: انجمن امامیہ بلتستان کے صدر آغا باقر الحسینی پر ایف آئی آر کے خلاف سکردو بلتستان کے مختلف علاقوں میں مظاہرے، مرکزی جامعہ مسجد میں دھرنے سے علمائے کرام کا خطاب
[Skardu: Protests in different areas of Skardu, Baltistan, against the registering of an FIR against Anjuman-e-Imamia Baltistan President Agha Baqir al-Hussaini, Ulemas, or Muslim scholars, address the sit-in at Markazi Jamia Masjid, or Central Jamia Mosque.]”

According to this report (archive), protests erupted in different areas of Gilgit-Baltistan following the registration of an FIR — which is short for first information report — against Agha Baqir al-Hussaini, a prominent Shiite leader from Skardu, for “allegedly passing controversial remarks”.

Prior to al-Hussaini being booked, the report noted, “panic and unrest spread in the region after protesters in Chilas in Diamer blocked the KKH [Karakoram Highway] and the Babusar Pass road for three days demanding” his arrest for the alleged controversial remarks.

“The protesters have accused Agha Baqir of using “derogatory words” against religious personalities during a gathering,” Pamir Times reported (archive) on 22 August.

The protests were called off once the FIR against al-Hussaini was registered. However, other strikes were called into action to protest the registration of the FIR.

Soch Fact Check identified the location seen in the video as Markazi Imamia Jamia Masjid Baltistan, wherefrom the Muharram processions start. It is one of the places where the protests against the registration of the FIR took place.

Using a combination of user-submitted photos, Google Maps, and Google Earth, Soch Fact Check created the following visual, which allows readers to match the location with identifying elements in the viral video.

The identifying elements include “Markazi Imamia Jamia Masjid Baltistan” written on top of an arch over the entrance to the mosque, pillars nearby, and a dome in the background.

Among the chants heard in the video in question is “Yazidiyat murdahbaad,” which, when translated from Urdu to English, means, “Death to Yazidiyat!”

Yazidiyat may be defined as hatred towards the Prophet Muhammad’s family and injustice, the latter of which is relevant in this case as people were protesting against Agha Baqir al-Hussaini being booked by the police.

Virality

The X posts by @sufisal and @ssgviews have been viewed over 915,000 and 8,600 times.

Soch Fact Check also found the video posted here and here on X, where it gained more than 410,000 and 351,000 views, respectively.

Pakistan News, a verified YouTube channel, posted (archive) the false claim as well, garnering more than 115,000 views as of writing time.

Multiple accounts apparently leaning towards the Imran Khan-led PTI also posted the video here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here on Facebook.

Conclusion: The protests had nothing to do with the Pakistan Army chief but were, in fact, against a prominent Shiite cleric being booked in a police case.


Background photo in cover image: Ruhu Vazir


To submit an appeal on our fact-check, please send an email to appeals@sochfactcheck.com

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13 days ago

[…] We also found the image shared here and here, where it gained over 510,800 views and 16,300 views, respectively, as of writing time. The latter was posted by @ssgviews, a user who has shared false and misleading claims multiple times in the past. […]

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