New Delhi: A social media campaign against Pakistan and its “proxy war” in Afghanistan became a popular trend Monday, as the Taliban seized their fifth Afghan provincial capital since last week amid fighting with the country’s defence forces.
With over 3 lakh tweets, #Sanction Pakistan was among the top trending hashtags on Twitter as Afghans took to the platform demanding sanctions against Islamabad for its alleged support to the Taliban. Kabul-based journalist Habib Khan was among the top voices that began calling out Pakistan and has now urged his 97,000 followers to ensure the hashtag hits a million tweets.
— Habib Khan (@HabibKhanT) August 9, 2021
Some users also defended the rights of Afghans to live in peace without “fear of invasion by a neighbouring country that sends terrorists to kill them and their children.” Amid the upheaval, edited pictures of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Pashtun clothing and holding a bazooka also started to do the rounds on Twitter.
— nabi sulaiman (@nabisulaiman1) August 9, 2021
More eyes turn towards Pakistan
Since the US and allies began withdrawing from Afghanistan earlier this year, fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces has escalated. The situation is so dire that several Afghan soldiers have reportedly fled to neighbouring Tajikistan after clashes with the Taliban.
Pakistan is now in the hot seat for allegedly supporting the Taliban and providing a haven for terrorists. More eyes have turned to Islamabad after Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar said the Taliban is colluding with terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and al-Qaeda, which are known to have bases in Pakistan.
Afghanistan was also the only country to directly call out Pakistan’s role in the current situation during the recent UN Security Council meet.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has argued that the international community should pay attention to the “meltdown” of Afghan security forces instead of blaming Pakistan.
Qureshi, however, found himself in a controversy last month when he refrained from calling Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda founder and the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, a martyr or a terrorist in an interview with Afghanistan’s Tolo News.
Afghan diaspora speaks out, anti-Pakistan sentiment grows
There has also been a growing anti-Pakistan sentiment among Afghans offline. Since last month, Afghan diaspora across the world — in Washington, Brussels, Denmark, Germany, the UK and most recently, Sweden — have held protests against Pakistan’s alleged support to Taliban.
The abduction of Silsila Alikhil, daughter of Afghanistan’s top envoy, in Islamabad last month has only added fuel to the fire. Alikhil was abducted for several hours and tortured by unknown individuals on 16 July, after which she underwent medical care.
University of York alum Adil Zahed was among many who called for justice against the Alikhil’s perpetrators. “Shame on #Pakistani government. #SilsilaAlikhil culprits should be brought to justice,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Riaz Sadat, an Afghan trade attache to Saudi Arabia, accused Islamabad of keeping the Taliban and other terrorists safe, but not Afghan diplomatic families.
Shame on Pakistan! Where Taliban & other terrorists are safe, but Afghan diplomatic families are kidnapped.
Pakistan has crossed all boundaries of humanity in fight against Afghanistan by abducting & torturing Afghan diplomats’ families in safe zones of Islamabad.#SilsilaAlikhil pic.twitter.com/lmpJRoi6q1
— Riaz Sadat (@RiazSadat) July 18, 2021
Two days after the alleged assault, Kabul recalled its ambassador and senior diplomats from Pakistan, further straining relations between the two countries. While the Afghan foreign ministry expressed “deep regret” over the incident, Pakistan has denied the kidnapping altogether.
And #SanctionPakistan continues to trend.
— Maryam (@Marryam_20) August 10, 2021