Before the law: Crackdown on social media activists continue


–PTI’s Qureshi meet with detained PTI activists


Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Sunday met with detained PTI social media activists at the FIA Headquarters.

In a tweet by PTI Spokesperson Fawad Hussain Chaudhary, it has been stated that party’s senior leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi met all detained social activists at the FIA headquarter.

Earlier, social media activists from PTI were detained by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under allegations of posting against institutions of the country.

The detained social media activists also include Faisal Ranjha. He was taken into custody by the FIA under the cyber crime law for posting “inflammatory” content. Ranjha is an avid supporter of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

PTI’s Qureshi said that PTI will provide legal assistance without political discrimination.

Ranjha arrest had received backlash from the prominent politicians, journalists on twitter. Bakhtawar Bhutto tweeted: “Our interior minister should be going after terrorists. Terrorism is real problem. Not social media activists. Sincerely, embarrassed citizen.” Raza Rumi tweeted, “Another #socialmedia activist @fasiranjha was picked up by Pakistan #FIA. This is getting ridiculous. Stop this.#BringBackFaisalRanjha.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in its statement, voiced serious alarm over arbitrary curbs on freedom of expression, a climate of intimidation and the authorities’ stated intent to act against any perceived slight to the armed forces through the social media.

“HRCP notes with growing concern the prevailing climate with regard to freedom of expression. We are particularly alarmed by statements of at least two federal ministers, one of which vowed severe action under the cyber crime law and through the other the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) was directed to proceed against those ‘dishonouring’ the army through the social media,” the commission said.

“HRCP wishes to remind the authorities that any limitations on the freedom of opinion, expression and information must be in consonance with Article 19 of the ICCPR and the constitution of Pakistan. The constitution itself states that any restriction regarding the Article 19 freedoms must be reasonable and shall only take effect if provided by law.

According to the information submitted in parliament this week, since the present government came to power, the cyber crime wing of the FIA has registered nearly 900 cases.

Over 200 people are to be questioned or detained for posting anti-army stuff on social media websites, according to media reports.

The move follows the federal government’s plan to step up its crackdown on social media activists over purported criticism against Pakistan army despite strong criticism by opposition parties and human rights groups.