Clip of woman singing Hindu hymn falsely linked to Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif swearing-in

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After Shehbaz Sharif was sworn in prime minister of Muslim-majority Pakistan, posts surfaced in its Hindu-majority neighbour India which falsely claimed a performer sang a Hindu hymn during the event. But the video in the posts previously appeared in news reports about a festival celebration in Pakistan's largest city Karachi in March 2017. The singer shown in the clip told AFP she did not attend Sharif's oath-taking ceremony in March 2024.

The video was shared by an India-based user on social media platform X on March 13, 2024, days after Sharif's swearing in ceremony.

The post falsely claimed a singer named Narodha Malni performed the "Gayatri mantra" Hindu hymn during the event. It said: "Pakistan prime minister's swearing in ceremony starting with 'Gayatri maha mantra' by smt. Naroda Malini Sahiba. Now Pakistan has officially recognised the importance & its recited in all functions."

Sharif took his oath on March 4, following an election marred by vote rigging claims. His army-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz allied with historic rivals and several smaller factions to shut out candidates loyal to jailed ex-prime minister Imran Khan.

Khan's candidates secured more seats in parliament than any other party but fell far short of the majority needed to form a government.

Text overlaid to the video, written in Telugu language widely spoken in southern India, similarly said it showed a Pakistani woman singing "Gayatri mantra" in front of the prime minister.

The video, however, showed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the older brother of the current leader.

<span>Screenshot of the false post taken on March 13, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the false post taken on March 13, 2024

Similar posts featuring the video were also shared elsewhere on X here and here, as well as on Facebook here, here and here.

A review of Sharif's swearing-in ceremony streamed live on YouTube by local media Dunya News, however, found no Hindu hymn performance (archived link).

Holi celebration

Moreover, reverse image and keyword searches on Google found the clip is old.

A report from BBC News Hindi on March 21, 2017 featured portions of the video. It said the clip showed singer Narodha Malni performing the Gayatri mantra in front of Nawaz Sharif -- the prime minister at the time (archived link).

The report added the event was a celebration in Pakistan's Karachi city of Holi, an Indian festival that signifies the start of spring (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the clip falsely shared online (left) and the news report from BBC News Hindi (right):

<span>Video in one of the false posts (left) and from the 2017 BBC News Hindi report (right)</span>
Video in one of the false posts (left) and from the 2017 BBC News Hindi report (right)

Several Indian news sites such as here and here also reported on Malni's performance and featured similar clips of the event (archived links here and here).

Responding to the posts, the singer told AFP: "I did not attend the recent oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad."