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    Sunday, May 21, 2017

    Govt in line of fire over ‘cyber crime’ witch hunts in the country

    Several political parties as well as human rights organisations on Sunday came down hard on the federal government over what they called misuse of cyber-crime laws to press the political opponents.
    Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) claimed that another member of the party’s social media team was taken into custody by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) over alleged violation of the cyber-crime laws. PTI leader Imran Ismail said that Owais Khan, a member of PTI’s social media team, was taken into custody by FIA on Saturday.
    In response to the arrest of Owais Khan, PTI Chairman Imran Khan took to twitter on Sunday and warned the government of agitation. “We will take to the streets if action is taken against our social media activists under the garb of national security,” he tweeted.
    The development surfaced two days after another PTI social media activist, Salar Khan, was released following days-long detention by the FIA.
    Like Salar Khan, Owais was also summoned to be at the FIA headquarters. “I have been summoned to be at the FIA HQ today for 10am. I don’t know why. Extremely thankful for all ur supp, just keep going,” Owais had tweeted.
    The details of allegations against Owais Khan and Salar Khan are yet to be ascertained. FIA has lifted two employees of Rescue 1122 from Multan who had merely liked a funny clip against Prime Minister.. Similarly a young social media user was arrested from Pull-Shawala area for sending a critic note
    Though there were no official words from the FIA on the recent arrests, some reports suggested that people were being questioned and taken into custody as part of a crackdown launched by FIA against people allegedly posting anti-army or anti-government tweets or posts on the social media.
    PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi met with the detained social media activists at the FIA headquarters on Sunday. PTI spokesperson Fawad Hussain Chaudhary confirmed that the MNA visited the FIA headquarters. He also retweeted another social media activist’s picture showing Qureshi meeting with the detained men.
    The PTI spokesperson said the PTI would provide legal assistance to the detained activists regardless of their political affiliations.
    Meanwhile, PPP Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar also criticised the government over its alleged crackdown against social media platforms. “The misuse and overuse of blanket orders issued last week by the interior ministry to take action against social media platforms in the name of national security is not acceptable,” Babar was quoted as saying.
    “It is unfortunate that the government has chosen to respond to increasing opposition to its policies by stifling dissent in the name of national security,” read a statement issued on Sunday.
    The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also came to support PTI over the issue. In a statement, HRCP criticised the government over arrests and praised PTI for its stand.
    “The HRCP wishes to commend PTI for recognising and flagging up the abuse of the cyber-crime laws for political victimisation and intimidation of activists and correctly calling it out as unacceptable in a democracy,” reads the statement. 
    Social media has played a strong role in shaping the modern day communication, and Pakistani users seem to be catching up.
    The total number of Pakistani social media accounts crossed the 44 million mark, according to the statistics released by social media companies.
    Facebook surpassed all others applications at 30 million users across Pakistan, according to stats provided by PTA as on November 15, 2016.
    LiINE stood at 7.1 million users as per October 15, 2016, followed by Instagram with 3.9 million active users (source: Business Manager Dashboard).
    Twitter and Snapchat trailed behind others at 3.1 million users as of July 2016 and 0.4 million users as of January 2017, respectively.
    Social media in Pakistan is frequently used for diverse purposes that include e-commerce, socio-political discussions, social vigilantism, and political activism.  
    One of the reasons behind increasing social media users in the country is the successful penetration of 3G/4G technology in Pakistan.
    Pakistan has around 37 million mobile broadband (MBB) subscribers according to Phoneworld.com.  

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    Item Reviewed: Govt in line of fire over ‘cyber crime’ witch hunts in the country Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Abdul Sattar Qamar