LAHORE: A social media activist was sent on judicial remand on Tuesday — a day after he was arrested by the FIA on the allegation of vilifying Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi.

The FIA cyber crime wing arrested Sabir Mahmood Hashmi, a PML-N activist, on Monday for “running a malicious campaign against Prime Minister Imran Khan, his wife Bushra Bibi and the army on social media.”

The agency booked Hashmi under sections 20, 21 (d) and 24 of Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA). The FIA is expected to lay hands on more suspects in the days to come.

The PML-N lent its support to Sabir Hashmi who was sent to jail. PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry reached the FIA office to inquire about the status of the case against Hashmi whereas Maryam Nawaz tweeted: “Sabir Hashmi has been abducted. Is Imran Khan a holy cow that he cannot be criticised for his failures and corruption? The FIA should not be used at the hands of this government whose days are numbered. The whole party is standing with Hashmi.”

Mr Chaudhry asked the FIA to take notice of Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid for his (objectionable) language against the late Benazir Bhutto and Imran Khan’s former wife Reham Khan.

Hashmi sent on judicial remand; more arrests expected

The growing perception is that the PML-N and the ruling PTI have intensified their fight on the social media networking sites and indiscreet trends about the leaders have become the order of the day.

The social media teams of both parties claim that they do not indulge in ‘derogatory trends’ and “someone else’s behind this”.

“We have a team of 3,000 social media volunteers and not a single one of them is paid. Not a single objectionable trend about the leadership of our opponents is generated from our team and we make sure that none of them participates in any offensive trend,” PML-N social media central head Atif Rauf told Dawn on Tuesday.

He said usually unidentified persons were behind such (offensive) trends and sometimes common users participate in negative trends.

“Besides, it is often noticed that on social media a negative trend about one party’s leadership generates a reaction against the other and in such a case common social media users indulge in debates,” Mr Rauf said.

Azhar Mashwani, digital media spokesperson for Punjab chief minister, told Dawn that the PTI had about 800 volunteers in its social media team which never encouraged or started any objectionable trend. “We can take the responsibility of these 800 people but not the supporters of the party who indulge in such trends,” he said.

Mr Mashwani said the PTI was the first party in the country that had an overwhelming presence on social media, therefore, the PML-N formed teams to counter it.

“However, we want action against those involved in offensive trends irrespective of their political affiliation,” he demanded.

Earlier, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib called out certain quarters for pushing fake stories about the premier’s wife and asked them to stay away from cheap tactics such as dragging an apolitical woman into politics.

The minister’s remarks came after a report suggested that Ms Bushra was currently living at a friend’s place in Lahore after developing differences with PM Khan.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2022

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