Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Wednesday directed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to formulate standard operating procedures (SOPs) for putting in place a framework which ensures that "social media is used as a medium to facilitate positive, constructive and healthy interactions".

Chairing a high-level meeting in Islamabad, the minister directed that initial draft of the SOPs should be prepared in a week's time for further consideration.

He also directed National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) and PTA to review relevant laws and regulatory frameworks of neighbouring democratic countries and that of the developed nations for "devising a system that ensures freedom of expression while simultaneously checking unbridled misuse of social media".

The PTA was also directed to consult all stakeholders including service-providers, civil society, mainstream media and others, for setting guidelines, duly supported by the legal framework, to regulate use of social media for constructive purposes and nation- building process.

The minister requested speaker National Assembly to convene a meeting of representatives of all political parties for evolving consensus for putting in place a framework to ensure that social media platforms are used in a positive manner.

He also asked the Foreign Office to get in touch with the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) Secretary General for convening a meeting at OIC level on the issue of blasphemous content on social media as per the commitment given to the minister by the secretary general during his last visit to Pakistan.

Pakistan is willing to play the host of OIC conference, he added.

Being a democratic government it is our obligation to ensure and protect the right of every citizen for freedom of expression but “we are equally bound by law and the Constitution to protect our citizens and institutions from assault which is carried out through social media under garb of the freedom of expression,” Nisar said.

The interior minister observed that no conscientious person could be a silent spectator to threat which is posed to our socio-cultural values, institutions, our younger generations by a section of social media.

He said, "The right to free speech is stitched to the sense of responsibility and ownership."

Ghost users through their fake IDs feel no qualms in misusing their right of expression and thus infringing rights of others who are deeply affected by their imprudent actions, the minister was quoted as saying.

Secretary interior, chairman PTA, Advocate General, chairman Nadra, Inspector General of Police, Islamabad and senior officials of Federal Investigation Agency participated in the meeting.

Political leaders for careful use of social media

Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, while talking to the state-run radio service, said that since the world was turning into a global village so "it was very important that social media should be used constructively".

The minister said any information can be circulated throughout the world in a matter of seconds and the social media was playing a critical role in it. He said “we should avoid using social media in a manner which can damage our country”.

"Our electronic media and social media is independent but it must operate carefully," he asserted.

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