ISLAMABAD: The federal government plans 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.
According to a government’s source, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has finalized a list of 200 people who are likely to be questioned or detained for their alleged anti-army tweets, posts on popular social media forums.
Among those named in the list include journalists and some social media activists of the ruling PML-N, and opposition PTI.
Sources reveal that 40 people have already been grilled by the investigation agency while their laptops, mobile phones and ipads have been seized and sent for forensic evaluation.
The move comes despite Imran Khan’s threat to launch street protests against the social media crackdown.
Addressing a gathering in Quetta yesterday, PTI Chairman Imran Khan he would be forced to take to the streets if the government touched his workers or banned the social media.
Salar Kakar, a PTI social media activist, was detained from Quetta and shifted to Islamabad for investigation before being released a day later.
Dr Faisal Ranjha, an active supporter of the PML-N on social media, has also reportedly been arrested by the FIA.
In a press statement yesterday, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) 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. – SAMAA