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Old article on Azerbaijan polls reshared as recent ahead of Pakistan elections

Article originally published by The Washington Post in 2013

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Claim: The Washington Post recently published an article titled, “Oops: Azerbaijan released election results before voting had even started.” Pakistani users have linked the alleged rigging hinted at in the article’s headline to the 2024 general elections.

Fact: While the article is authentic, it is not recent, as The Washington Post published it in 2013.

On 2 February 2024, Facebook user ‘Muhammad Umer’ posted a screenshot of a news report with the headline, “Oops: Azerbaijan released election results before voting had even started.”

‘Muhammad Umer’ wrote the following caption:

“یہ تو ہم سے بھی آگے چل رہے ہیں 😃😃

[They [Azerbaijan] are way ahead of us]”

The date of the article in the screenshot appears to be obscured on purpose, indicating that the user is passing it off as a recent news story.

Ahead of the 2024 general elections in Pakistan, slated for 8 February, Soch Fact Check has observed an influx of false and misleading claims that may impact public opinion and voter behaviour.

2024 general elections

The pre-poll political landscape in Pakistan is characterised by distinct circumstances for former prime minister and founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan, and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Supremo Nawaz Sharif, amid the shadow of alleged military interference.

“Concerns are mounting among analysts and sections of the political class that the coming vote might rank near the top of the list of most manipulated votes even in the country’s chequered democratic journey”, Al Jazeera wrote recently. It added, “Critics point to the crackdown by state authorities against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its charismatic leader, Imran Khan, as evidence of widespread rigging that could deny the former prime minister and his party a shot at a fair contest.”

On 30 January 2024, Khan was sentenced (archive) to 10 years in prison for “leaking state secrets”, a case in which he was accused of making public a “cypher,” or classified cable, sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the US last year that he claims (archive) that the document “was proof of a conspiracy by the Pakistani military and US government to topple his government in 2022 after he visited Moscow just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”.

A day later, on 31 January 2024, the PTI founder and his wife, Bushra Khan, popularly known as Bushra Bibi, were sentenced (archive) to 14 years each for “illegally selling state gifts” in a decision that came just days ahead of the 2024 general elections.

The former PM has been incarcerated since 5 August 2023 and was consequently disqualified from contesting elections.

On the other hand, Sharif — who has held the prime minister’s post three times in the past — returned (archive) to Pakistan in October 2023 after staying in London for years. He had left for the UK in 2019 on medical grounds (archive) after being handed a seven-year jail sentence over corruption charges (archive).

Seemingly, the roles of Sharif and Khan have reversed (archive) as the former was unable to participate in the 2018 elections due to imprisonment. Six years later, however, he is now positioned for a potential fourth term as the prime minister after being cleared (archive) of all charges and a lifetime ban on convicted politicians for running for office ruled unconstitutional.

Fact or Fiction?

Soch Fact Check identified that the portion in the screenshot that shows the date of the article’s publication has been obscured on purpose.

A Google search of the text in the headline led to a Washington Post article (archive) from 9 October 2013, with the headline, “Oops: Azerbaijan released election results before voting had even started.” The article identifies the man in the cover image as Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev.

Multiple other news outlets also carried reports of a similar nature in 2013, including The Independent, NBC News, NPR, and CNBC.

Interestingly, on the other hand, Azerbaijan also held a snap presidential election on 7 February 2024, The Associated Press reported, adding that the polls were “almost certain to give incumbent President Ilham Aliyev another seven-year term”.

Soch Fact Check, therefore, concludes that the screenshot in question is altered to give the impression that The Washington Post’s article may be recent or that it was published in light of Azerbaijan’s recent presidential election. However, the article in the viral post is about a decade old and not recent.

Virality

Soch Fact Check found the post on Facebook here and here.

Some posts — such as this, this, and this — also included the word “Hafiz,” which was either superimposed on the screenshot or written in the caption. In Urdu, “Hafiz” means a person who has memorised the Quran by heart but many social media users often use it to refer to Pakistan Army Chief General Syed Asim Munir as his family is locally known as a hafiz family.

Conclusion: While The Washington Post’s article referred to in the viral post is authentic, it is not recent. In fact it dates back to 2013.


Background image in cover photo: Ali Nurmemmedov


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

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