Opposition protests social media crackdown

Updated May 23, 2017

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KARACHI: A countrywide crack­down against social media activists gathered steam as another supporter of the ruling party was reportedly picked up for questioning by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

On Monday, Umair Talat was reportedly picked up from Gujran­wala and brought to the agency’s headquarters in Islamabad.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, meanwhile, continued to protest the government’s crackdown, even as the party’s offices in Peshawar were ransacked on Monday.

Unidentified individuals allegedly broke into a private office of the head of the party’s provincial social media team and made off with some computers and cameras.


PTI offices in Peshawar ransacked; journalist moves IHC against FIA


Since the alleged break-in coincided with the FIA action against social media activists, the agency was suspected of involvement, but it denied taking any such action.

Furqan Kakakhel, a PTI social media activist, told Dawn that when he came to his office after the two-day weekend, he discovered that two DSLR Cameras, some memory cards and USB sticks were missing.

While he did not assign blame to anyone, he pointed out that the intruders had not touched other desks in the office, while his table had been thoroughly searched and different items were lying scattered.

Mr Kakakhel said he had lodged a complaint with local police, adding that some officials had visited his office to look into the occurrence and assured him that they would try to trace the culprits.

Following the incident, the PTI social media team issued a statement condemning the break-in and demanded action against the culprits.

Protests

Despite this, the party persisted in its opposition to the FIA crackdown and held protests in Karachi and Islamabad to condemn the arrests of activists from across party lines.

Leading a protest outside the Karachi Press Club, PTI MNA Asad Umar said that while social media had enabled every citizen to convey their messages across the world, the government had tried to gag the party by initiating action and arresting social media workers.

The participants, who including large number of women, were holding placards and banners with slogans against the government.

Mr Umar condemned the arrests and harassment of social media workers, saying that the FIA, which had been asleep for months, was harassing the government’s political opponents in the name of protecting the army’s prestige.

He claimed that Nawaz Sharif wanted to break the party’s backbone, the social media team. “The government is victimising its opponents and PTI workers, he said, adding that their workers were patriotic citizens and had no link with any anti-army propaganda.

At a similar protest, held outside the National Press Club in Islamabad, PTI leaders alleged that Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s media cell was spreading false information through fake ids, which was tarnishing the country’s image.

Journalist moves IHC

Also on Monday, journalist Taha Siddiqui moved the Islamabad High Court against his alleged harassment by FIA.

According to the petition, submitted through his counsel Asma Jahangir, Mr Siddiqui received a phone call from FIA Counter Terrorism official Noman Bodla on May 18, 2017. The caller asked Mr Siddiqui to appear before him at the FIA Headquarters for an interrogation and hinted it concerned his professional work.

The petition alleged that the FIA official spoke to the journalist in a threatening manner, adding that since the phone call, the complainant had noticed plainclothes individuals had been conspicuously pointing at his house and asked the court to restrain the FIA from harassing him. The case will be taken up today (Tuesday).

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2017