A video showing farmers throw away crates of tomatoes from a truck in Kalat district in Balochistan, has been misreported by Indian news outlets and social media users adding a false Shia-Sunni angle to the incident.
BOOM found that the farmers were protesting against the Pakistan government's decision to import onions and tomatoes from Iran and Afghanistan fearing imports would undercut their produce.
The incident in the video took place against the backdrop of Pakistani authorities importing onions and tomatoes from neighboring producers Iran and Afghanistan in light of the soaring prices and impending food crisis, after catastrophic floods across the country.
In the viral video, a group of men can be seen tossing several crates of tomatoes off a truck protesting its import from Iran. Another video is also viral, which is made by a Tik Tok user adding a voice over and his face at the side of the viral video making the claim that the tomatoes were being discarded because they were 'Shia tomatoes'.
The viral video was aired by Zee News with the caption of the show's headline - "'Shia Tomato' in Pakistan" and repeating the same false claim that tomatoes were destroyed by Sunni Muslims in Pakistan because it was from Shia Muslim majority Iran.
The channel also ran a video of a man commenting on the viral video making the false claim that the protestors destroyed the tomatoes because they were 'Shia' tomatoes. The news report does not mention the identity man or the source of this video, which is actually made by a Tik Tok user.
Firstpost also misreported the incident with an article with the headline, "Shia tomatoes! Pakistani 'Sunni' farmers destroy tomatoes from 'Shia' Iran that came as aid". The article cites social media users with a line reading, "The bizarre reason as per social media is that the tomatoes are from a Shia country and so Sunni extremists will not allow it."
The viral video was also shared by several other Twitter users with the false claim including journalist Taha Siddiqui, defense analyst Major Gaurav Arya (Retd) and TV9 Bharatvarsh journalist Ravi Mishra.
BOOM found that the viral video shows protests by local farmers in Kalat district, Balochistan against the Pakistan government's decision to import onions and tomatoes from Iran and Afghanistan, as they believe it would lead to financial losses for their crops.
We did not find any credible Pakistani news organisation reporting any Shia - Sunni angle to the protest by local farmers in Kalat district of Balochistan.
Taking a hint from the viral video, we ran a keyword search using 'tomatoes', 'destroyed' 'Iran' on Twitter and found a tweet by Pakistani journalist Murtaza Solangi, Executive Editor of Nayadaur Media.
Solangi tweeted on September 10, 2022, dismissing the sectarian angle stating that the reason according to the protesters was that their crops was ready and the government should stop importing.
Taking a hint from this, we then search for news reports on the incident in Kalat and found several Pakistani news reports on the incident reporting that the reason for the protests cited by local growers was that they would face significant financial losses amid imports of tomatoes and other vegetables from Iran and Afghanistan.
Pakistan news channel Geo News reported on September 9, 2022, that a man had been arrested from Kalat's Mangchar area in Balochistan for throwing several crates of Iranian tomatoes off a truck to protest the Pakistani government's decision to import the vegetable.
The report has visuals from the same viral video and adds that protests were held against importing tomatoes from Iran and local landowners had blocked the Quetta-Karachi national highway and wasted thousands of kilograms of imported tomatoes.
It further quoted Commissioner of Kalat - Daud Khilji stating that an accused had been arrested and apprehended after being identified with the help of the viral video and raids were being conducted to arrest other suspects in the case.
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We also found other Pakistani news reports reporting on the incident, like the below Aaj TV report which states that local farmers in Kalat were protesting against the import stating that their crops are ready and they would incur losses due to imports from Afghanistan and Iran.
Gulf News reported on September 10, 2022, reported that several farm owners and growers gathered in Mangochar town, Balochistan had blocked the Quetta-Karachi national highway by putting boulders and barricades, suspending traffic. It further quoted an official stating that the protesters had intercepted a vehicle loaded with tomatoes imported from Iran and started looting or throwing tomato boxes on the road.
It further added that the Balochistan Zamindars Association, which organised the protest believed that local growers would face significant financial losses amid imports of tomatoes and other vegetables from Iran and Afghanistan as their crop, ready to hit the market, would not fetch the right price. The Balochistan Zamindars Association has however condemned the destruction of tomatoes and distanced itself from the incident.
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