06/25/2022

FIA Arrests At Least 8 For Allegedly Running ‘Online Smear Campaign’ Against State Institutions

April 13, 2022 – The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has launched a crackdown on social media activists and arrested at least eight of them for allegedly running a “smear campaign” against state institutions, according to reports carried by local news outlets.

The FIA sprang into action on Tuesday in the wake of persistent social media trends particularly targeting the military and judiciary of Pakistan following Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Chairperson Imran Khan’s removal from Prime Minister’s Office through a no-confidence vote on April 10, 2022. 

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Supreme Court, and coalition of opposition parties – including Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – have since become the centre of hashtags that have seen an astonishing level of circulation on Twitter. 

Most tweets are centred on the “imported government” narrative that Imran Khan publicised days before his ouster when he addressed the nation regarding the opposition’s attempt to boot him from office. He termed the no-confidence vote, which eventually took place a week after he tried to thwart it by dissolving the National Assembly, a foreign scheme engineered by the United States in opposition to what he claims was his government’s “independent foreign policy”. 

Journalist Mubashir Zaidi was among the first people who tweeted on Tuesday about the arrests made by the FIA. The men were reportedly arrested from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Multan and Faisalabad.

In his follow up tweet, Zaidi said that the FIA found no evidence of organised campaigns against state institutions, and the authority acted “under pressure to detain people.”

Hours later, PTI leader Asad Umar’s tweet confirmed that his party workers had indeed been arrested. He announced that PTI would file petitions in high courts on Wednesday, April 13, to challenge these arrests. The suspects will be booked under sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, also known as PECA.

Later in the day, a statement was made at the 79th Formation Commanders’ Conference held at the GHQ Rawalpindi and presided over by COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa. “The forum took note of the recent propaganda campaign by some quarters to malign the Pakistan Army and create division between the institution and society,” read the statement.

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