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    Monday, May 22, 2017

    PTI holds countrywide protests against 'harassment' of party workers by LEAs

    Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) held protests in major cities across the country on Monday following a raid at the office of a PTI's social media activist in Peshawar and Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) alleged crackdown in connection with the suspected violations of cyber crime law.
    Terming the move as an attempt to curb the right of freedom of expression, the party held protest demonstrations in Karachi, Quetta and Islamabad.
    The office of a PTI volunteer working for the party's social media wing in Peshawar was reportedly ransacked by unidentified individuals earlier in the day.
    PTI activist Syed Furqan Kakakhel said the office was his personal space, where he worked as a party volunteer to "promote PTI's vision on social media".
    All the three demonstrations were held outside the respective press clubs of the three cities.
    PTI leader Asad Umar addressed the protesters in Karachi, Fawad Chaudhry in Islamabad and other local leaders in Quetta.
    The protesting leaders alleged that in the past, the PML-N's government was responsible for hatching conspiracies against the electronic media and now the rulers are aiming to curb the social media.
    They also warned the government to extend the agitation and hold sit-ins.
    The decision by PTI to launch protests in different cities came in the wake of the alleged harassment of its party workers.
    A day earlier, the party had claimed that Owais Khan, another member of PTI's social media team, was taken into custody by FIA over alleged violations of Pakistan's cyber-crime laws.
    PTI leader Imran Ismail, while talking to Dawn.com, had confirmed that Owais Khan "was taken into custody [by FIA] on Saturday."
    While announcing the Islamabad protest, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhary said: "They [the government] are trying to silence us."
    "What Chaudhary Nisar is doing will hurt this country," Chaudhary added, referring to the interior minister's orders to the FIA to identify suspects involved in what the ministry calls an “organised” campaign against the country’s armed forces on social media.
    "Our social media head's office was raided [in Peshawar] and he believes that the people who did it belonged to the FIA," Chaudhary alleged.
    Questioning the FIA's practices, he said: "They have been calling our young activists in for 'investigation' after which they keep them under custody overnight."
    He added: "It is unacceptable that one of our activists was charged for sharing a 'funny' picture of Nawaz Sharif on social media."
    Talking to media, PTI leader Ali Muhammad Khan said: "The army's honour is our own and we condemn any negative propaganda being forwarded about the armed forces; however, the government is using the army as a shield and forwarding its own agenda."
    Announcing a protest in Islamabad on Monday, Chaudhary said, "We are protesting in Islamabad today, but if this harassment continues we will take this to the rest of the country."

    Imran condemns crackdown

    In a press conference on Monday, PTI Chief Imran Khan also spoke about the government’s crackdown on people using social media, calling it “anti-democratic”.
    “Social media is a new phenomenon in Pakistan, in the world. It can’t be stopped,” he warned.
    He said that anyone who has a mobile phone can give an opinion and to stop that would be an encroachment of the people’s freedom of expression.
    He criticised the government for cracking down on those expressing their opinion on public forums, “They are going after ordinary people, taking them into custody and questioning them.”
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    Item Reviewed: PTI holds countrywide protests against 'harassment' of party workers by LEAs Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Abdul Sattar Qamar