The online campaign comes at a time when President Afghan Ghani’s government is struggling to stop a Taliban onslaught.

The #SanctionPakistan trend being promoted and amplified on Twitter by some Afghan users including politicians and journalists will further strain relations between neighbours and particularly affect Afghan refugees, analysts say. 

Pakistani authorities say the ‘Sanction Pakistan’ hashtag has been used for years by Indian accounts in the war of narratives that’s often played out on the internet.

But the trend once again surfaced in recent weeks as Taliban insurgents took control of one Afghan city after another in a setback to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which is losing control over the war-torn country. 

“There are certain people who blame Pakistan for everything because it’s very easy. I think the situation on the ground is much more complicated than that,” says Thomas Johnson, the author of Taliban Narratives: The uses and power of stories in the Afghanistan conflict

The lightning blitz with which ragtag Taliban fighters have pushed back Afghan forces has much to do with the failings of the Ghani government, he says. 

“You also have to look at the Kabul government’s corruption and it’s lack of legitimacy. You have a wide variety of reasons to assess (for what’s unfolding in Afghanistan).” 


Almost all of the $4.3 billion needed to pay salaries and other war-related expenses of Afghan government forces this year comes in foreign funding. If past experience is any guide then much of it will be siphoned off. 

The issue of ‘ghost soldiers’ who exist only on paper because the commanders have diverted salaries to their own accounts has long been a concern for American auditors in Afghanistan 

The Taliban have been successful in taking over chunks of Afghanistan because they were able to win over the local population in rural areas, says Johnson. 

The US-led forces drove the Taliban out after the 2001 invasion - many of the top commanders escaped to Pakistan where they regrouped.  But when the insurgents re-emerged in 2004-05, they came up with a strategy. 

“Taliban recognised at the time that the center of gravity was the rural population. They used a wide variety of communication means to influence people - they used poetry, letters, and private radios,” says Johnson. 

“Kabul and the US never responded to that Taliban narrative. In the case of the US, they never really knew what the rural population wanted.” 

Some reports have tried creating an impression that #SanctionPakistan trend is something endorsed by most of the Afghans - even though only a miniscule percentage of the population has access to English-language social media. 

Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf has pointed fingers at Afghan and Indian twitter accounts for starting the ‘Sanction Pakistan’ to malign Islamabad. 

"It's not our fault. You must look at the Afghanistan map and see the territories captured by the Taliban. They are mostly areas which are far off from Pakistan," he said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Despite the vitriolic online attacks against Islamabad and Pakistan’s armed forces, Afghan refugees - especially those in need of medical aid - continue to head towards the border of its eastern neighbour. 

“It’s very unfortunate what’s happening. Pakistan is always the convenient scapegoat for the Kabul administration and the US,” says Amina Khan, a director at Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. 

Khan cited the recent meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Afghanistan in which Pakistan wasn’t invited despite being the most important regional country that has a stake in Afghanistan’s stability. 

"I fear that those who will be worst affected by this propaganda are Afghan refugees. Pakistan is home to more than 3 million Afghans,” she says.

Source: TRT World