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KARACHI: Various civil society organisations on Wednesday expressed concern over a ‘smear campaign’ in the social media against Sindh Minister for Women Development Shehla Raza after tweets appeared on her Twitter account a day earlier which she denied she had posted while apologising for those tweets as well.

Those who spoke at the press conference included Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler); trade union leaders Habibuddin Junaidi and Liaquat Sahi, Mehnaz Rahman of Aurat Foundation, Asad Iqbal Butt, vice chairman of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; Farhat Perveen of NOW Communities and Saeed Baloch of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum.

Addressing a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club, activists condemned the “social media campaign and character assassination of Ms Raza” who denied posting those tweets while apologising for the tweets that appeared on her personal Twitter account.

In her apology that appeared on her Twitter account she said: “During election, a social media team was formed, a member in light of words tweeted a statement, which is ambiguous creating negativity. I condemn and fired all. From here on I will run myself [my social media accounts]. I saw it now, busy in cabinet meeting. Accept my apologies.”

The speakers at the press conference said someone had misused her account and posted religious hate material in her name.

“After that clarification by her, there is no reason to unleash a campaign against her. Civil society is well aware of Ms Raza and her contributions. She is a progressive (person) and (is) against religious extremism,” said a speaker.

Moreover, they said a number of fake Twitter and Facebook accounts were operative in her name, to which she had denied having any connection.

They demanded that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority take action against those who were operating all those fake accounts on social media.

Representatives of civil society organisations said Shehla Raza had begun her political career as a student union leader and gave sacrifices for democracy.

She was arrested and tortured during military regimes. While, they added, her entire upbringing was progressive so “how can she even think of making hate statements”.

They expressed solidarity with the minister, adding that they stood with her.

They also called upon the Pakistan Peoples Party not to pay heed to such negative campaigns against individuals like her.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2018