Home Global Village 2018 elections getting closer: Government announces need to monitor social media!

2018 elections getting closer: Government announces need to monitor social media!

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News Analysis |

Interior Minister, Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday announced plans to devise a monitoring and evaluation framework of social media activities inside Pakistan, just days after concerns were raised about the arrests of PML-N social media activists by none other than the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. Iqbal said this is being done in a bid to ensure that the power and reach of social media are not used to malign national institutions, spread anarchy, and extremism.

“The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been directed to formulate a framework for social media monitoring in consultation with all stakeholders,” said Ahsan Iqbal while addressing a press conference on Tuesday.

Last week, acting on a FIR lodged by a resident of Islamabad’s Dhoke Gujjar area, Ibrar Ahmed, the FIA carried out an inquiry, the completion of which revealed that Anwar Aadil and Wajid Rasul Malik, residents of Railway Carriage Factory Colony and Al-Noor Colony, Rawalpindi, respectively had vilified the judges of the Supreme Court and members of the Armed forces.

Responding to a question pertaining to the recent arrests of PML-N social media activists, Iqbal who is widely-regarded as a well-articulated and tolerant person said that a framework will soon be developed. He said we will finalize a strategy in “consultation with the people in the information technology [industry], bloggers and social media activists to ensure we have a responsible and democratic social media having space for the people to express their viewpoints, but not to spread anarchy.”

Read more:Nawaz’s new found love for ‘freedom of speech’

Last week, acting on a FIR lodged by a resident of Islamabad’s Dhoke Gujjar area, Ibrar Ahmed, the FIA carried out an inquiry, the completion of which revealed that Anwar Aadil and Wajid Rasul Malik, residents of Railway Carriage Factory Colony and Al-Noor Colony, Rawalpindi, respectively had vilified the judges of the Supreme Court and members of the Armed forces.

Iqbal, who is known as one of the most vocal critics of hate speech, acknowledged that social media is an important plank of the fifth generation warfare, especially in creating anarchy in societies.

Both were arrested and transferred to an undisclosed location. The FIA found out that both had uploaded material and content on their Twitter accounts, which was malicious towards the judiciary and the Army. Nawaz, who is believed to be gearing up for a real showdown with the military and the judiciary in a bid to extricate himself from the tightened legal noose, said that the interior ministry must take note of what he called “abduction” and harassment” of his supporters.

The arrested duo, ostensibly acted much in-line with the Twitter activities of a clique of journalists and activists famous for vilifying the judiciary and the military. Some of them despite being bonafide employees of prestigious media houses often resort to using fake news to target all those whom they feel are behind the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif.

Read more: Indian Deoband Seminary forbids selfies and social media photo uploads

Iqbal, who is known as one of the most vocal critics of hate speech, acknowledged that social media is an important plank of the fifth generation warfare, especially in creating anarchy in societies. He gave the rationale behind the need for having a framework. He stressed: “Since we are entering an election year, there is a need to formulate a framework that maintains democratic freedoms and ensures that no foreign hand or saboteur can use social media to create political chaos, spread extremism or carry out terrorism in Pakistan, or belittle national institutions.” He also referred to other countries including the US which was looking into the activities of the social media in the country.

While admitting the usability of social media as a tool used to advance one of the most important democratic norms: freedom of speech, Iqbal said that “unbridled freedom on social media can cause anarchy”.

Watchers have identified the common targets of their vitriolic tweets and posts: Imran Khan, Army, and the judiciary.

Iqbal was clear in his enunciations about social media however, he did not allude to the activities of Maryam Nawaz’s Strategic Media Communication Cell (SMCC). It is noteworthy that last week,5 members of the SMCC were arrested on charges of spreading fake news. Observers believe that the SMCC is being effectively used to drive a wedge between the public and the two institutions of the state. This, they believe is an integral component of the PML-N’s new political strategy to wriggle out of the NAB corruption references against them.

Watchers have identified the common targets of their vitriolic tweets and posts: Imran Khan, Army, and the judiciary. Analysts also assert that the fear-mongering of the “threat from Rawalpindi” has got something to do with Maryam Nawaz’s highly-touted Strategic Media Communication Cell.

Read more: Is Social Media a hub of fake news?

Rein in the IB

Last month, the news made rounds about DG IB Aftab Sultan’s visit to London in an effort to transfer funds to a US lobbyist for the ousted prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. This hampered Sultan’s chances of being chairman of the National Accountability Bureau(NAB).

More worrying is the perception of the use of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) by the interior ministry for advancing the goals of the PML-N. Keen observers have pointed out the exponential growth and improvement in the capabilities of the IB along modern lines. While the IB must use these capabilities to provide actionable intelligence to Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), analysts are convinced that it has become a veritable tool for the PML-N government to discredit political opponents and whip up a malicious campaign against premier national institutions.

Read more: Facebook fascism: Censorship by the social media giant on criticism of…

Last month, the news made rounds about DG IB Aftab Sultan’s visit to London in an effort to transfer funds to a US lobbyist for the ousted prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. This hampered Sultan’s chances of becoming chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

It would be interesting to observe whether Iqbal, who is effectively in charge of the FIA and the IB will try to rein in IB or not.


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