Pakistan's defense minister criticized over threat to Israel

Officials in Pakistan’s government criticize defense minister for threatening Israel over a fake news story.

Ben Ariel ,

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Flag of Pakistan

Officials in Pakistan’s government are criticizing the country’s defense minister for tweeting a nuclear threat against Israel over what was a fake news story.

The Defense Minister, Khawaja Asif, who has several times threatened to use nuclear weapons on neighboring India, threatened Israel after a fake news report claimed Israel had threatened to nuke Pakistan.

The fake report, published on the AWD website, claimed Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman had said Israel would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons on Pakistan if Pakistan sent troops into Syria. The article also claimed former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon had threatened Pakistan following a reported deal between Pakistan and Syria.

Pakistan's Defense then Ministry noted that Israel had "forgotten" about Pakistan's nuclear capabilities.

"Israeli def min threatens nuclear retaliation presuming pak role in Syria against Daesh. Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too," Asif tweeted on Friday.

The Israeli defense ministry responded the following day and said the story was “entirely false”.

A senior Pakistani foreign ministry official told the Financial Times on Tuesday that the episode highlighted a “double risk”.

The official referred to “the use of social media, which allows people to react without thinking through their response; and the fact that the defense minister does not appear to have consulted anyone”.

Ali Sarwar Naqvi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), also criticized Asif and told the Financial Times, “This was a very ill-thought statement without verification of the source of this news. The foreign ministry should have been consulted.”

One western official accused Asif of “being prone to thinking later and talking first”, adding that the defense minister had behaved “a bit like Donald Trump”.

Asif’s comments have drawn particular criticism because the original AWD story was relatively easy to check, noted the Financial Times.

One western diplomat said the possibility of Pakistan sending troops to Syria has never been discussed.

“The minister should have asked himself first if sending troops to Syria has ever been discussed anywhere. Why should an Israeli politician raise this matter to begin with?”