Fight from freedom of speech, PTI to sue government

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan will take legal action against the government for detaining its vocal online activists under a controversial cybercrime law, a party spokesperson said on Monday.

At least 23 supporters of PTI have been detained and threatened with action under the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, Fawad Hussain Chauhdry, a spokesperson for the party, told AFP.

It is the first time the new law has been used in a broad crackdown against political opposition. Two have been charged under the law, including one for sharing a satirical picture of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and are on bail pending further investigation.

“One of our supporters was abducted from Quetta and brought to Islamabad in an armoured car. People are being harassed and it is spreading fear,” Chaudhry said. He added the party would sue the government for intimidation and harassment in the Islamabad High Court.

The party will be protesting in front of the Karachi Press Club on Monday [today] at 5 00pm, PTI leader Asad Umar said in a tweet.

The interior ministry has declined to comment on the cases.

Parliament passed the cyber crime law last August, despite opposition from rights activists which said its wording was overly broad and would curb free speech. Of particular concern was a clause that empowered the government to ban speech considered “against the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan”. Free speech campaigners have long complained of creeping censorship in the name of protecting religion or preventing obscenity.

Saturday saw big drama when the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) first arrested some people to question them regarding their social media posts against the armed forces and state institutions and later released them. Strangely, the action was taken by the Counter-Terrorism Wing of the FIA instead of its Cyber Crime Wing, sources told The Express Tribune on Saturday.

A top FIA official, on the condition of anonymity, said six people were summoned for questioning by the agency for their tweets and posts against the armed forces on social media. However, the agency did not formally charge anybody or make any arrests, the official said.

According to sources, the arrests were made from several parts of the country. More arrests are likely to take place in the coming days, they added.

They said around 22 people, mostly from the PTI and the PML-N, were taken into custody by the FIA for interrogation regarding their posts on social media. However, the figure could not be confirmed by the FIA. 

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had ordered the Cyber Crime Wing of the FIA to take action against all those dishonouring Pakistan Army through social media.

The Express Tribune

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