Photo shows Pakistan FM at monument in Lithuania, not 'memorial for Indian soldiers'

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Shortly after Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrived in India for a conference in May 2023, a photo was shared thousands of times in social media posts that falsely claim it shows Zardari at a memorial for Indian soldiers killed during a conflict with Pakistan. The photo in fact shows the foreign minister during a trip to Lithuania in February 2023, when he visited a monument for those killed during confrontations with Soviet troops that tried to reoccupy the country in 1991 after it declared independence.

"Bilawal Zardari, who is devoid of self-respect, visited the graves of Indian soldiers killed in the Kargil war and offered flowers!!" reads part of an Urdu-language tweet posted here on May 6, 2023.

It goes on to claim the "visit" is the result of the military "imposing" the current government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on the Pakistani people after his predecessor Imran Khan was ousted in April 2022.

The tweet, which has been retweeted and quoted more than 5,000 times, was posted by a user that has repeatedly expressed support for Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

Since his ouster in April 2022, the former prime minister -- who claims he was the victim of a "regime change" conspiracy involving the United States and his opponents -- has held a series of large rallies challenging the authority of the shaky coalition of parties that replaced him (archived link).

The tweet was shared two days after Zardari arrived in India for a meeting of foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation along with counterparts from China and Russia (archived link).

It also refers to the "Kargil war", a 10-week conflict in 1999 that was fought in the icy heights of the Kargil mountains (archived link).

The brief conflict saw Pakistan-backed militants cross the disputed Kashmir border and seize Indian military posts. The battle, which ended under pressure from the United States, cost 1,000 lives on both sides.

A screenshot of the false tweet, captured on May 13, 2023

The same photo along with similar claims was published on Twitter here, here and here; and on Facebook here, here and here.

Comments on the posts suggest many users were misled.

"It was expected from Bilawal..." wrote one user.

Another said: "Shame, shame."

Monument in Lithuania

A reverse image search on Google showed the photo was in fact taken in Lithuania in February 2023, when Zardari visited a monument dedicated to those who died during a series of confrontations in 1991 when Soviet troops crossed the border in a failed bid to reoccupy the country after it had declared independence.

The same photo was used in a report by the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency, published in The Express Tribune newspaper on February 22, about the foreign minister's official visit to Lithuania (archived link).

The photo's caption reads: "Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stands at the monument of Lithuanian freedom fighters after laying a wreath in Vilnius. PHOTO: APP".

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo used in the false tweet (left) and the APP photo (right):

Screenshot comparison of the photo used in the false tweet (left) and the APP photo (right)

Zardari also posted the same photo on his official Twitter account here on February 21 (archived link).

The tweet with the photo reads: "Had a tour of Seimas, Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania & laid a wreath at the Memorial of those who laid down their lives in the Struggle for the Independence of Lithuania."

A similar photo can be seen in this AFP photo from September 29, 2020 showing the French President Emmanuel Macron laying a wreath at the memorial (archived links here and here).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo of Zardari (left) and the AFP photo (right):

Screenshot comparison of the photo of Zardari (left) and the AFP photo (right)

As of May 24, there were no reports of Zardari visiting any memorials for Indian soldiers killed during the Kargil war during his trip to India.

There is a memorial for the Kargil war in northern India, but the meeting Zardari attended was held in Goa, a coastal resort town 2,300 kilometres (1,429 miles) south (archived link).