Fake tweet of Pakistan PM 'praising Indian Congress' surfaces after party takes Karnataka

Copyright © AFP 2017-2023. All rights reserved.

After Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP was voted out of power in a key state, a fabricated tweet surfaced in posts that claimed it showed a message from Pakistan's leader Shehbaz Sharif celebrating the opposition Congress party's victory in the election in Karnataka. AFP found no trace of the post, which appears to play on a jibe about Congress being pro-Pakistan.

"Pakistani Prime minister congratulating people of Karnataka for electing Congress," reads a tweet posted on May 14.

"What is the relationship between Congress party and Pakistan???"

India's opposition Congress party won power in Karnataka on May 13, ousting Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from office in the only southern state controlled by the Hindu nationalist grouping (archived link).

The tweet appears to show a message from Shehbaz Sharif, prime minister of Muslim-majority Pakistan, celebrating Congress's victory.

"I would like to heartily thank the people of Karnataka for electing Congress, I hope that Congress along with our SDPI will work for the strengthening of Islam in India and the sovereignty of Karnataka!" read the fabricated tweet in Urdu and English.

The SDPI (Social Democratic Party of India) is the political wing of the Popular Front of India, an Islamist movement that was banned in 2022 for alleged terrorism links.

The fabricated tweet appears to play on accusations from Congress critics that the party is pro-Muslim, pro-Pakistan and anti-Hindu.

Screenshot of the fabricated tweet, taken on May 17, 2023

The fabricated tweet circulated widely in India following Congress's win in Karnataka, including here and here on Twitter and here and here on Facebook.

"At least now the Hindus will see the Congress for what it is," one social media user commented.

Another wrote: "It seems that Congress takes instructions from Pakistan, shameless party."

Fabricated tweet

The fake tweet is dated May 13, 2023, but there is no trace of such a post from that day on Sharif's Twitter feed.

According to an archived version of his profile captured on May 14, the Pakistani leader posted three times on May 13.

He tweeted about an attack in Balochistan province, former prime minister Imran Khan and protests that erupted after Khan's arrest on corruption charges, but did not post about the Congress party.

Twitter analytics tool TruthNest also said he published three tweets that day (archived link).

Screenshot of TruthNews tool ( Uzair RIZVI)

Furthermore, the screenshot of the fabricated post says it received 53 quote tweets, but AFP found no of them.

A search on Twitter for keywords such as "Sharif Congress" in English and Urdu found no results.

Quote retweets -- where Twitter users repost a message and add a comment of their own -- are still available even if the original tweet is deleted, according to Twitter (archived link).

A keyword search found no news reports about Sharif congratulating the Congress party on their win in Karnataka, as of May 17.