By Ikram Junaidi
ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Sunday ordered the cybercrime wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take action against those involved in an anti-army campaign on social media platforms.
“Under constitutional guidelines on freedom of expression, unwarranted criticism of security forces and other institutions responsible for the defence of the realm is not allowed. No citizen can be involved in a campaign that tarnishes the reputation and respect of the armed forces,” an interior ministry statement quoted him as saying.
“Disrespecting the Pakistan Army and its officials under the guise of freedom of expression will not be tolerated,” he said.
Online criticism of the armed forces began after Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on May 10 announced the withdrawal of an earlier tweet, that “rejected” the government’s notification of the findings of a body set up to investigate a story published in Dawn last year.
“The tweet of April 29, 2017 was not aimed at any institution or individual,” Maj Gen Ghafoor had said at a press briefing last week.
“Since action on orders of the prime minister has already been completed by the respective ministries and divisions, the issue of Dawn leaks stands settled,” he said.
But the original tweet had already prompted a wave of criticism against the armed forces, both among political circles and on social media.
Senate Opposition Leader Aitzaz Ahsan, who belongs to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), even went as far as to suggest that the ISPR spokesperson should have “resigned rather than taking back his tweet”.
On social media, jokes and posts ridiculing the armed forces were also shared following the ISPR’s official’s press conference.
But on Sunday, the interior minister declared it was a criminal offence to target Pakistan’s most revered and disciplined institution over “vested interests”, adding that those who – wittingly or unwittingly – participated in such an action would be liable to prosecution.
He directed the FIA to look into the issue and take strict action against anyone found involved in the malicious campaign.
“Those involved in this condemnable act should be taken to the task, irrespective of which party or profession they hail from,” the statement concluded.