British boxing champion Amir Khan has been accused of stoking partisan division after he posted photos of himself beaming alongside Pakistani military leaders on Twitter as tensions continue to escalate between India and Pakistan.
Khan, 32, who is of Pakistani heritage, posted the pictures with the caption: ‘We stand with #PakArmy’, which saw Twitter users denounce him for ‘inciting hatred’ and pushing a pro-war agenda.
Tensions, which was raised by an Indian airstrike on Tuesday, reached its highest point in almost 50 years yesterday, as both countries claimed to have shot down warplanes and Pakistan paraded the captured pilot.
Both sides exchanged gunfire in Kashmir and jet fighters roared overhead through the mountainous region as villagers along the so-called Line of Control fled to safety, and small arms fire and shelling continued into Thursday.
In his tweet, posted on Thursday, the Bolton-born boxer smiles and grasps the hand of a heavily decorated Pakistani general, who holds Khan’s world championship wrestling belt.
Other photos show Khan flying with a military contingent, and pumping his fist in the air, standing alongside retired Pakistani lieutenant general, Naveed Mukhtar.
The tweet has so far been liked by thousands of Khan’s fans, but a number of users found it incendiary at a time when India and Pakistan appear to be on a slippery slope toward larger armed conflict.
Social media users hit out at the boxer for his pro-Army stance, with one user writing: ‘Stop pushing a ridiculous agenda when there’s no need.’
One Twitter user wrote: ‘Do you think its advisable to get involved with #political #issues ??? Standing up for beliefs is one thing. But this isnt standing up for peace its pickng a side. #PEACE is the way NOT #war!!
Another person branded his tweet ‘irresponsible’, while one said Khan should ‘stand for peace and promote #SayNoToWar too being a sports celebrity’.
One user wrote: ‘Surely someone of your stature should be trying to promote a message of peace and unity…I actually thought u we’re alright but this is pathetic…talk about losing any Indian supporters u ever had. Hope Crawford bangs u out and Brook for that matter!!’
The violence has escalated since a suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based armed group in Indian-administered Pakistan killed more than 40 Indian paramilitary forces on February 14.
Other social media users defended Khan’s stance.
‘Well done bro,’ wrote one, adding: ‘All the Indian actors and cricketers are behind their army and country but nobody bats an eye.’
It is not the first time Khan has made waves on social media. In 2017 the boxer came under fire for posting a photo of himself in a Christmas hat, prompting comments from religious fans, like ‘your not even muslim.’
‘I think you don’t know nothing about Islam,’ wrote another follower.
Khan’s wife Faryal Makhdoom has also been the subject of criticism. She was lambasted by Twitter users last November, when she posted a photo of herself at an award ceremony only one day after returning from Umrah, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca.
‘One day in Allah’s house wearing nikab and the next with her legs out,’ one critic wrote.
Makhdoom defended her decision.