Proving yet again that the new round of world diplomacy will be played on social media, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s tweet extending support to the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) provoked polarising reactions from Pakistani leading figures. PTM leader and Member National Assembly Mohsin Dawar appreciated Ghani’s sentiment, whereas government figures, like the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi  lambasted the tweet, calling it an “irresponsible statement” and terming it “interference”.

Whatever one’s opinions on PTM, are, it would be foolish to presume that President Ghani’s statement was tweeted with the sole intention of goodwill for the Pashtun People. The situation in Afghanistan is extremely precarious, with a possible peace being brokered between the US and the Taliban. Keeping in mind that Ghani wasn’t invited to the peace settlement talks that Pakistan plays a role in brokering, and that the future of his governance looks uncertain, the tweet had far greater geopolitical implications than just merely extending support to a discriminated-against community. Furthermore, the tweet is in the backdrop of the history of Afghan irredentism in Pashtun areas in Pakistan. Even if it was well-intentioned, the tweet, with such inflammatory background, was bound to muddy the waters.

Rather than helpful, Ghani’s statement could prove a Trojan horse for PTM. PTM faces many challenges, a big one being that its leaders are often quite wrongly termed unpatriotic just for campaigning for human rights. Due to the delicate context of the movement, it is extremely important for PTM leaders to choose their allies carefully. Not all statements of support are equal, and one from the President of another country, which has had tense relations with Pakistan in the past, could do more harm than good to PTM, which is already unfairly plagued with conspiracy theories. It would be advisable for PTM leaders to distance themselves from a situation that goes beyond just the context of Pashtun rights.

While peaceful human rights movements should be lent support to, especially if it involves a persecuted community, the intent and impact of the support should always be analysed. There is a huge difference when the civil society of a country critiques its government’s handling of human rights issues, and when another country, which may not come with clean hands itself, interferes in the other country’s domestic movements. Perhaps this instance teaches us a lesson too about the importance of keeping our own house in order before commenting on other countries’ internal issues.