ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has asked the National Assembly speaker to convene a meeting of all political parties to formulate a framework to ensure that social media platforms are used in a positive manner.

A statement issued by the Interior Ministry on Wednesday directed the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (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 told 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”.

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

Chaudhry Nisar asked the Foreign Office to get in touch with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation for convening a meeting on the issue of blasphemous content on social media as per the commitment given to the minister by the OIC secretary general during his last visit to Pakistan.

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

Meanwhile, former president and Pakistan Peoples Party leader Asif Ali Zardari expressed concern over the government’s bid to “stifle” dissent and freedom of expression on social media just when frontiers of human rights were expanding worldwide. He said the PPP would not allow the government to do it.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Zardari said that freedom of expression had been increasingly attacked by both state and non-state actors on various pretexts.

“This trend must be resisted and reversed,” he said. “Next to the right to life, the right to freedom of expression is fundamental as all other rights flow from this right.”

He said that “curbing the right to freedom of expression in effect means curbing all other rights. The PPP cannot and will not allow it”.

“Clamping a ban on social media and curbing freedom of expression and dissent in the name of vaguely defined national security must not be allowed to go unchallenged,” Mr Zardari said.

“There has to be a balance between concerns of national security on the one hand and the fundamental rights of the people to freedom of expression on the other,” he said.

“The balance must be tilted in favour of the freedom of expression in accordance with best democratic practices,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2017

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