Banned outfits thrive online while peaceful protesters suffer active crackdown

Islamabad, May 30, 2017: Amidst the government's tall claims of reducing online terrorist activity, at least 41 out of 64 banned outfits have been found carrying out their questionable business across the cyberspace through a large number of social media accounts and pages. An investigation, led by Dawn, revealed that these pages were also linked to those relating to weapons and training as well as spreading of terrorist ideologies. [1]
 
This is alarming because it suggests that the government's priorities appear to be dangerously misplaced.
 
"In the past few months, peaceful political activists, bloggers, journalists, and other citizens have been threatened, harassed, arrested, and abducted following their continued criticism of state policy or engagement in dissenting religious opinions. Much of this has also been a result of the government's continued highlighting of a number of issues such as political discourse and blasphemy as being interlinked which is troublesome," commented Shahzad Ahmad, Country Director, Bytes for All, Pakistan.
 
Pakistan and its citizens are one of the worst victims of religious radicalization and terrorism, the biggest threat to the country's national security. Yet, peaceful activism and criticism of state institutions has continuously been interpreted as a national security threat.
 
Due to repeated dictatorial interventions and the state’s inability to end terrorism, the recovery of the nation's suffering democratic values has been slow. To improve this process, it is the duty of all state institutions, especially those entrusted with its defense, to reevaluate their priorities and reassess the threats that various interest groups hold. Surely, those criticizing the government cannot be taken as equally 'offensive' as those carrying out violence and terrorism. In fact, it is the dangerous speech and radical ideologies that continue to thrive rather than its victims or peaceful dissenters, as per the latest survey conducted by Dawn. 
 
 In the age of technological prowess, the internet plays a crucial role in helping active and concerned citizens take ownership of the country's state of affairs by engaging in critical discourse. 
 
 Bytes for All would like to remind the state that the exercise of freedom of expression through peaceful activism and journalism contributes as a foundation stone of any flourishing democracy. Furthermore, we urge the state to exercise its duties towards protecting its peaceful and active citizens by curtailing online terrorist activities instead of terrorizing its peaceful citizens. 

[1] https://www.dawn.com/news/1335561/banned-outfits-in-pakistan-operate-openly-on-facebook
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About Bytes for All, Pakistan:
Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan is a human rights organization and a network of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals and practitioners. It experiments and organizes debate on the relevance of ICTs for sustainable development and strengthening social justice movements in the country. Its mission is “ICTs for development, democracy and social justice”. www.bytesforall.pk