Bilal Farooqi, a senior journalist associated with English-language daily The Express Tribune, was allegedly taken into custody from his home in Karachi's DHA neighbourhood by Defence police on Friday evening, according to his family, friends and official sources.
Karachi police chief, Additional Inspector General Ghulam Nabi Memon, confirmed to Dawn that "Bilal Farooqui of Express Tribune" had been "arrested by the station investigation officer (SIO) of Defence police".
Memon said Farooqi was "wanted in FIR No. 613/2020 u/s 500/505 PPC of PS Defence. dated 9.9.2020”.
Earlier, a senior police officer, who requested anonymity, told Dawn that the FIR against Farooqi was under Sections 500 and 505 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Sections 11 and 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca), 2016, on September 9 on the complaint of a private citizen.
Farooqi works as a news editor at the newspaper, according to a report published in ET.
In a tweet, journalist Ebad Ahmed said Farooqi was taken into custody from his home by "two men in plainclothes accompanied by two policemen".
He said police later visited his home again and officials informed Farooqi's wife that he had been detained at a police station in DHA. "Police have taken possession of Bilal’s phone," the journalist added.
According to the contents of the FIR reviewed by Dawn, the complainant, Javed Khan, a resident of Majeed Colony in Landhi, said that he is a machine operator at a factory in the Landhi area. He said he visited a restaurant in DHA Phase-II Extension on Sept 9 where he checked his Facebook and Twitter accounts and found "highly objectionable material" shared by Farooqi on the two platforms.
The complainant claimed that "highly provocative posts" had been shared by Farooqi against the Pakistan Army and that the same also contained material pertaining to religious hatred.
Khan alleged that Farooqi had "defamed" the Pakistan Army and such social media posts may be used by hostile elements for their "nefarious designs". Therefore, legal action should be taken against him, he said.
The specific posts which led to the filing of the complaint could not be immediately ascertained.
Meanwhile, the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ), in a statement released later in the evening, said "that the arrest of Bilal was part of the nefarious and concerted campaign to gag the free and independent voices".
The statement observed that "Bilal Farooqi, an active journalist who also remained executive committee of the KUJ, has been an educated and responsible youth, who never indulged in any kind of violation of Pakistani laws".
"His only crime is that he dissents with ruling elites and raises his voice for the betterment and a progressive society," remarked Ashraf Khan, the KUJ president.
Ahmed Khan Malik, the KUJ's secretary-general demanded his immediate release. "We demand withdrawal of false charges against Bilal, and he must be released immediately," said Malik