April 18, 2022 – A court in Peshawar has rejected the bail application of a man who was arrested last week by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for posting “derogatory” material online against Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the Supreme Court.
According to the order dated April 14, 2022, an FIR was registered against the accused, who is a retired army officer, on April 11. He was booked under Sections 500 (punishment for defamation), 501 (printing matter known to be defamatory), and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) by the FIA’s Counter-Terrorism Wing.
The court ruled that the accused “knowingly and wilfully” shared derogatory remarks against the army chief and Supreme Court judges on his Twitter and other social media accounts. The court also cited the screenshots of the said posts as evidence available on record.
Last week, the FIA detained several men from Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Islamabad and Karachi in the wake of persistent social media trends particularly targeting the Supreme Court and Pakistan Army. A suspect taken in from Sabzazar Multan Road in Lahore was said to be running a vilification drive online against the army chief and was booked under Section 505 of the PPC pertaining to “public mischief”. He was later remanded into physical custody of the FIA for two days by the court.
Later that week, the Islamabad High Court ordered the FIA to stop harassing the workers and activists belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) during the hearing of a petition challenging the recent crackdown on the party’s supporters. The court was requested to bar the FIA from harassing PTI workers and violating the privacy of their families through illegal raids at their residences.
Consequently, the court directed FIA’s director-general to ensure that PTI workers were not “illegally harassed”.
The opposition parties that ousted PTI Chief Imran Khan from the Prime Minister’s Office through a no-confidence vote on April 10 also continue to be at the centre of controversial trends. Millions of hashtags calling for the removal of “imported government” have been circulated on Twitter since Imran Khan’s ouster. Newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif from the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) is also facing online attacks from PTI defenders.
“Misinformation and propaganda threatens state integrity requiring timely and unified response to effectively counter speculations and rumours,” said COAS Bajwa, according to a statement shared by the Inter-Services Public Relations on Sunday, April 17, 2022.