EVEN top-ranking officials aren’t immune to falling for fake news stories, as evidenced by Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, who recently issued a terse warning to Israel regarding its nuclear capabilities after reading a fake news article.
In response to a fabricated story that ‘quoted’ former Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon threatening to ‘destroy’ Pakistan in a nuclear attack should it send ground troops to Syria, Asif tweeted: “Israeli [Defence Minister] threatens nuclear retaliation presuming [Pakistani] role in Syria against Daesh. Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too.”
Israeli def min threatens nuclear retaliation presuming pak role in Syria against Daesh.Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too AH
— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) December 23, 2016
The tweet has been retweeted over 2,900 times, though many appear to mock Asif’s overzealousness.
The report that he is believed to have read, which was published on December 20 to AWDnews, is full of grammatical and factual errors – it referred to Ya’alon as both the incumbent defence minister (the position is currently held by Avigdor Lieberman) and the former defence minister.
The website itself is rife with questionable and sensationalised news stories, such as “The Dirtiest Campaign In The History Of The United States: Clinton Is Staging a Military Coup Against Trump” and “‘Putin is DEAD’ Shock claims Vlad was killed YEARS ago and Russia led by ‘body double’”.
Fact-checker site Snopes calls it “a site that peddles hoaxes and conspiracy theories”.
The Israeli Defence Ministry replied to Asif’s veiled comment via Twitter, calling the report “entirely false”.
“The statement attributed to fmr Def Min Yaalon re Pakistan was never said,” the ministry wrote in a tweet, adding: “Reports referred to by the Pakistani Def Min are entirely false.”
@KhawajaMAsif reports referred to by the Pakistani Def Min are entirely false
— Ministry of Defense (@Israel_MOD) December 24, 2016
Pakistan is one of nine states officially known to possess nuclear weapons, with its stockpile estimated to be around 130 warheads.
Israel, however, has neither confirmed nor denied whether it has nuclear weapons, though it is believed to have an unofficial stockpile of about 80 weapons.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries are technically non-existent, as Pakistan does not recognize Israel: the Muslim nation is strongly against the Jewish state, though dialogue does take place through third parties.
This isn’t the first time that Asif has threatened another country with nuclear action, either: in September this year, he told India that Pakistan would not hesitate to “annihilate” its neighbor if the country’s “safety is threatened”.
The threat was issued during a tense period when relations were particularly strained between the two countries over the disputed Kashmir region.