KARACHI: The Sindh government’s campaign against hate speech has netted only a few hundred people and charge-sheeted fewer still despite registration of tens of thousands of cases against violation of the ban on ‘wall-chalking’, it emerged on Tuesday.

Officials in the provincial home ministry said the police had registered 82,525 cases against violation of the ban on graffiti during the current year but filed charge sheets of merely 546 cases. Of them, they added, just 47 cases had been decided.

Police detained 78 persons, of whom 50 were acquitted for lack of evidence and 22 obtained bail while the remaining three were arrested and sent to jail, according to an official report.

Most of the graffiti cases (78,238) were filed in Karachi, of which, charge sheets were filed for 471 cases and 20 were decided. Police detained 47 people of whom 22 secured bail and as many were acquitted by police. All the three persons in the province, who were sent to jail, belonged to Karachi.

With 4,014 cases registered, Sukkur division came a distant second where 64 charge sheets were filed, 23 cases were decided and three suspects were shown as arrested. Some 27 people were in police custody of whom 24 were acquitted for insufficient evidence.

In Larkana, 209 cases were registered and charge sheets were filed for 11, 39 cases were registered in Hyderabad and 25 in Benazirabad district and none of the suspects was charge-sheeted. The Mirpurkhas police registered no such case.

The report said that 306 cases against hate speech and hate material were registered in Sindh and 240 persons were arrested on such charges; 166 cases were registered in Karachi and 112 persons were arrested while 51 cases were registered in Hyderabad and 87 suspects were arrested.

The figures for other divisions were: Larkana (50 cases, 11 arrests); Sukkur (32 cases, 24 arrests), Benazirabad (seven cases, six arrests). There was no such action reported in Mirpurkhas.

Misuse of loudspeakers

For the violation of the loudspeaker act, 4,485 cases were registered across the province and 3,712 persons were arrested; 3,079 cases were registered in Karachi with 2,258 persons arrested. In Hyderabad, 448 cases were filed and 403 people were arrested, in Sukkur 453 cases were lodged and 528 were arrested, in Benazirabad 212 cases were filed, 208 arrests were made, in Larkana 159 cases were filed and 180 persons were arrested while in Mirpurkhas 134 cases were filed and 135 arrests were made.

Officials said the government had passed ‘appropriate’ legislation in the shape of the Sindh Sound System (Regulation) Act, 2015, and the Sindh Information of Temporary Residents Act, 2015.

They said the government’s media committee had been holding meetings with owners of media houses to discourage ‘firebrand and hate speakers’ from occupying airtime and space on newspaper pages.

Besides, said officials, commissioners and deputy commissioners of divisions and districts were meeting religious personalities on a regular basis to discourage hate speech in Sindh.

Officials in the home ministry said the Sindh government would make more laws to discourage hate speech for which the federal government had issued directives to all the provinces.

Officials said that besides making laws to curb crime, they were devising a strategy to make sure that there was no abuse of loudspeaker, which most extremists, posing as religious scholars, employed as an effective tool to brainwash tender minds.

Officials said hate speech and extremist material consisting of videos, audio and printed literature would be checked and confiscated at ‘every level’ but did not spell out details.

However, they said the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 2014, and the Public Safety Act, 1965, could help them accomplish the task. In addition to this, the officials added, several other measures were in the pipeline to curb hate speech, which included regularisation and monitoring of printers and publishers.

Besides, they said, in line with zero tolerance as shown by the government, they were contemplating monitoring the use of short messaging service, emails, websites and social media.

The task has been given to the intelligence committee of the Apex Committee, which has been asked to design and oversee the ongoing targeted operations in the province.

The provincial government insisted that well before the federal government’s order to take measures against hate speech, the Sindh government was on the hunt for hatemongers and law-enforcement agencies were picking up suspects involved in such crimes.

Published in Dawn December 28th, 2016


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