pakistan
Wednesday Apr 13 2022
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'Smear campaign': FIA arrests twelve for ‘maligning’ Pakistan Army online

Handcuffs are seen hanging on the bars. — Reuters
Handcuffs are seen hanging on the bars. — Reuters

  • PTI to move court over “harassment" against its social media activists.
  • Suspects include “mastermind” and at least six other members of his network.
  • FIA sources say nine cases have been registered against the suspects.


LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has so far arrested 12 suspects for alleged involvement in launching a social media campaign against the Pakistan Army and malign security institutions, following recent political developments in the country.

The drive against the security institutions began with the ouster of Imran Khan as the prime minister as PTI activists largely condemned the move in tens of thousands of tweets, saying that they would not accept what they call “the imported government” under Shehbaz Sharif.

Sources said that seven more suspects, including a “mastermind” and six other members of his network, have recently been arrested by the agency's anti-terrorism wing. Five others were arrested earlier after the FIA started a crackdown against the "smear campaign," as per Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's directives.

Sources within FIA said that nine cases have been registered against the suspects.

They said that high-level social media monitoring is being done on a daily basis in Islamabad, which brought a top social media trend below no 4.

The "mastermind" behind the anti-Army social media campaign was the first one to get nabbed during a raid by the FIA in Lahore's Sabzazar area.

During interrogation, the detainee — who was reportedly behind over 2,100 Twitter accounts involved in the propaganda against the Pakistan Army — revealed the names his six accomplices operating in different cities, who were later arrested.

It was learnt that a total of 200,000 tweets against the Pakistan Army were posted through the said 2,100 accounts. Meanwhile, the agency identified another 2,000 accounts involved in hate speech on Twitter.

The FIA's cybercrime wing director said at an internal briefing that at least 50,000 web pages had been identified in connection with the propaganda campaign against the Pakistan Army and the judiciary and most of the pages were being operated from abroad.

The FIA director-general also held a key meeting at the FIA headquarters to address the issue on Tuesday.

PTI to move court against 'harassment'

Despite the FIA not associating the vilification campaign with any political party, PTI has decided to reach out to the court over the "harassment" against its social media activists.

"[A] petition challenging the harassment of PTI social media activists has been finalised and will be filed in high courts tomorrow (Wednesday) morning," Asad Umar tweeted on Tuesday.

The PTI leaders have also distanced themselves from social media posts against state institutions. However, at the same time, the official Twitter handle of the PTI has urged party activists to report to the party if they or anyone they know “is getting threats or targeted for political victimisation by anyone.”

Army takes notice of propaganda campaign

The 79th Formation Commanders’ Conference on Tuesday took note of the recent propaganda campaign by some quarters to malign Pakistan Army and create division between the military and society, said the military’s media wing.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa presided over the meeting, with corps commanders, principal staff officers, and all formation commanders of the Pakistan Army in attendance at the GHQ, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

“The forum took note of the recent propaganda campaign by some quarters to malign Pakistan Army and create division between the institution and society,” said the ISPR.

The military’s media wing emphasised that the national security of the country is “sacrosanct”.

“Pakistan Army has always stood by the state institutions to guard [them] and always will, without any compromise. The forum expressed complete confidence in leadership’s well-considered stance to uphold the constitution and rule of law, at all cost,” said the ISPR.