In a press conference Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar remained unapologetic regarding a sweeping crackdown against social media users which is being criticised by the opposition as an undemocratic and coercive move to keep critics in check.
Instead, the minister said he was stepping up efforts to track internet users’ activities online and hunt down undesirable elements online.
“For the last two weeks, posts making a mockery of Pakistan Army have surfaced,” he said in his briefing. “I believe that no Pakistani can have made these remarks against the army,” he said.
“After the [ISPR] tweet and subsequent clarification, [the reaction] I saw on social media was a matter of concern for me,” he said. “Such posts are not tolerable.”
“27 IDs have been identified, of which six were interviewed and the rest are in queue. There has been no arrest and no ‘harassment’,” he claimed.
“The people under interrogation are allowed to bring their lawyers along with them during questioning,” the interior minister said.
“Their devices will be checked forensically, and if they have not been wiped clean, the accused will be arrested,” he promised.
“It is being made to seem [in the midst of this crackdown] that social media is under attack,” he stated during the briefing.
“This is not the case: in fact, the Constitution, Pakistan, our institutions and the values of our country are under attack by a section of social media,” he claimed.
The interior minister seemed particularly perturbed by the lack of standard operating procedures and rules on social media.
“A free-for-all system cannot be allowed. [Social media] has wide outreach, and it shapes public opinion,” he said.
In a move bound to raise serious privacy concerns, the interior minister also said he wants to clamp down on online anonymity, saying that authorities had proposed that each person’s social media accounts be connected with their cell phone numbers by law.
Claiming that the Federal Investigation Agency’s crackdown on ‘blasphemous’ posts had resulted in a dramatic drop in offensive material being posted online, Nisar vowed to expand the fight to cover derogatory remarks against the state as well.
“We will move ahead despite the criticism. Those who want to create hindrances in the path of these reforms, keep at it. Do not threaten me. We will ensure the implementation of these changes in line with the law and Constitution,” he said.