Afghanistan Central Bank “Governor” image goes viral. Is it real?

An image of a bearded man wearing a turban and combat attire, seated behind a desk dominated by an imposing AK47, isn’t out of the ordinary in the context of what the world has seen emerge from Afghanistan over the past month.

However, in recent days this is an image that’s gone viral because it’s purported to be the Governor of the Afghani Central Bank, hard at work.

But is it really what the internet says it is?

The short answer is no.

The image has been viewed by millions. Most aghast, becasue optically it’s not what we expect when it comes to a Central Bank Governor.

Certainly, no one expects a nation’s monetary policy decisions to be made with an AK47 at hand.

Even high-profile figures in business and finance have shared and commented on the image.

A tweet sharing the image by Andreas Steno Larsen, Chief Global FX/FI Strategist at Nordea Markets, has attracted almost 2,000 likes and hundreds of retweets.

Harsh Goenka, the Chairman of Indian industrial giant, RPG Enterprises, shared the image to his 1.6 million followers.

“This is the new Central Bank head appointed in Afghanistan. Just wondering whose monetary policy he will follow- Keynes, Samuelson or Friedman?” he wrote.

Renowned political scientist, Ian Bremmer, also shared the image attracting thousands of engagements.

“Afghanistan’s new Central Bank Governor, prepared to defend his country’s currency,” tweeted Bremmer.

There are many more.

Afghani central bank
Afghani central bank
Screen Shot 2021 09 10 at 10.08.19 pm Afghanistan central bank

The first trace of the image appears to be a post on August 18 from the twitter account of Abhishek Asthana, the founder of GingerMonkey, a very successful and highly-regarded Indian advertising agency.

Afghani central bank

The Your Story website published this article on Asthana, noting his “popular” and “humorous” twitter account. Here’s an extract from the article.

Abhishek says that while at that time Twitter was a serious platform for journalists to break news and make announcements, @GabbbarSingh was a humorous account that garnered followers. Eventually, it grew to have more followers and client requests and began generating revenue.

When the revenue part kicked in, I got serious. This is a platform contributing towards my network. It took a lot of time – 10 years is not an ideal time to start thinking about starting a business on the basis of the safety net of a Twitter handle, or a network that you have created. But I realised and went ahead with it.

The good part was, whenever I talked about my business on Twitter, the very next day I got at least three inquiries from other clients,” Abhishek adds

Abhishek Asthana is clearly a talented content creator and a humorous man, something perhaps lost on the thousands who have been fooled by the image. But it should be noted, Abhishek didn’t mention anything about the man being the Governor of the Afghani Central Bank.

So, who really is the current Governor of the Afghanistan Central Bank?

After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month, Haji Mohammad Idris was appointed acting head of the Afghanistan Central Bank, known officially as Da Afghanistan Bank.

This is Haji Mohammad Idris. We had the image verified by an Afghani journalist. The same journalist stated they don’t believe the viral image is Idris and it’s likely to have been taken many years ago.

Afghanistan central bank
An image of the head of the Afghanistan Central Bank, Haji Mohammad Idris

Idris hails from Jawzjan in northern Afghanistan and was previously a financial adviser to former Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed in a drone strike in 2016.

It’s understood Jawzjan has no formal financial training or higher education.

“There are many people who were unknown to the world but they held key positions and had great contributions. Haji Idris is among them,” a Taliban official told Reuters following the appointment.

“I believe he has not even studied religious studies but was expert in financial matters.”

India’s CCN-News 18 recently quoted former Afghanistan Vice-President Amrullah Saleh, who labeled Jawzjan a professional “money launderer”

“A money launderer who was facilitating transactions between al-Qaeda sympathisers and Taliban, has become governor of Afghan central bank, Haqqanis are running Kabul…needless to explain who Haqqanis are.

“This is a shame and betrayal and I don’t want to be a part of that shame and betrayal.”

The media centre on the Afghanistan Central Bank’s offical website hasn’t been updated since August 5.