Pakistani officials have criticized the country’s defense minister for tweeting a nuclear threat at Israel based on a fake news story.
On Friday, responding to a false online article claiming Israel’s former defense minister threatened a nuclear attack against Pakistan if it sends troops to Syria, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif reminded Israel that “Pakistan is a nuclear state too.”
The minister was roundly criticized on social media for the move and Israel was forced to clarify in its own tweets that it never made any threats to Pakistan.
A senior Pakistani foreign ministry official told the Financial Times that the episode highlighted a “double risk,” referring 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.”
A former Pakistani ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Sarwar Naqvi, also criticized Asif.
“This was a very ill-thought statement without verification of the source of this news. The foreign ministry should have been consulted,” the retired diplomat told the outlet.
On Friday, the Pakistani minister tweeted: “Israeli def min threatens nuclear retaliation presuming pak role in Syria against Daesh. Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too.”
He was apparently responding to a fake news story on the website AWDnews.com, which falsely reported that Israel responded to a Pakistani promise to send troops to Syria with a threat of nuclear attack.
Israel’s Defense Ministry tweeted back Saturday, saying the original story on the site AWD News was “never said” and is “entirely false.”
reports referred to by the Pakistani Def Min are entirely false
— Ministry of Defense (@Israel_MOD) December 24, 2016
The unfounded story even mistakenly attributes the threat to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Ya’alon left the Defense Ministry in May and was replaced by current Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Israel has never publicly confirmed or denied possessing nuclear weapons, nor issued threats to use nuclear weapons.
It would be beyond unlikely for it to brazenly threaten Pakistan that “we will destroy them with a nuclear attack,” as the report claimed that Ya’alon did on Tuesday.