This photo shows a Pakistani chief minister at iftar in Pakistan in 2018

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A photo of a Pakistani chief minister has been shared thousands of times on Facebook alongside a claim it shows him flouting Pakistan’s coronavirus lockdown measures at iftar, a daily evening meal enjoyed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan. The claim is false; the photo in fact shows Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah at iftar in 2018.

The photo of Shah, who is chief minister of Pakistan’s Sindh province, was shared more than 4,300 times after being published on Facebook here on May 3, 2020.

The image features Urdu-language text that translates to English as: “The Chief Minister of Sindh who locked the mosques and got the worshippers beaten with batons after throwing Iftar parties giving a message to the people that corona is his brother.”

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post

Pakistan has been under various COVID-19 lockdown measures since March 2020. Ahead of the ongoing holy month of Ramadan, authorities did permit mosques to hold prayers and evening congregations, AFP reported.

The same photo was also shared alongside a similar claim here, here, here and here on Facebook and here and here on Twitter.

The claim is false; the photo shows an event in 2018.

Keyword searches also found another photo from the same party published in May 2018.

Mansoor Khokhar, a former journalist who attended the party, published a photo with Shah on Facebook here on May 23, 2018. 

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading posts (L) and the photo on Khokhar's Facebook page (R) with Shah circled in red by AFP:

A screenshot comparison of the photo in misleading posts (L) and the photo on Khokhar's Facebook page (R)

The chief minister’s office also marked the iftar dinner on Twitter here on May 23, 2018.

A Sindh government spokesman, Murtaza Wahab, said that the photo is from 2018 and condemned the posts as political misinformation against Shah and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the governing political party in Sindh.

“There is a defamatory campaign going on in social media showing photos of an Iftaar Party attended by CM Sindh & other PPP leaders. Please note that no such event has taken place this year since there is a ban on social gatherings & the photos being circulated are of May 2018,” Wahab said on Twitter on May 3.

Rasheed Channa, a media consultant in the chief minister’s office, also refuted the claim.

“These pictures were taken on May 23, 2018 at an Iftar party Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Shah had hosted at CM House. Some people have made these pictures viral again with the wrong caption of the Iftar party during the on-going Ramzan. As a matter of fact no such Iftar has been hosted at CM House,” Channa told AFP by phone on May 4, 2020.

Sindh officials had announced on April 24 that no iftar celebration would be held by the provincial government, according to The News, a Pakistan-based English language newspaper.