Police seek social media jurisdiction

Three youths were killed in Kahna over online comments


Our Correspondent July 10, 2020

LAHORE:

The Lahore police have approached the government for delegation of powers to the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and district police for initiation of legal action against instigators of criminal offences and sectarian violence through social media.

The social media currently does not fall in the domain of the police. However, some cases of heinous offences and violence involving social media have been reported recently.

The decision to approach the government was taken after three youths were shot dead and two others injured due to a dispute that arose over some comments on social media in Kahna.

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Zulfiqar Hameed said the department had knocked the doors of the higher forums with detailed recommendations in writing.

He asserted that in case of instigation of sectarian violence on social media, the CTD should have the power to take action. The Lahore police should be empowered regarding other crimes, he added.

During the ongoing year, Lahore police have arrested at least 300 persons who displayed illegal weapons, uploaded videos of firing or shared comments abusing citizens or law enforcement agencies on social media. However, in the legal proceedings, including FIRs, social media could not be mentioned as it did not fall in the domain of the police.

The move comes a few days after the police wrote a letter to the interior ministry for banning the online game Players Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) after three cases of suicide by youths.

The victims, Janty Joseph in North Cantonment, Sheharyar in Ghazi Road area and Zikriya in Hanjarwal, were either reportedly admonished for playing games for long periods or failed to complete the missions. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has temporarily banned the game.

The need to forward the fresh recommendations was felt after armed men of rival groups came on a road in broad daylight and resorted to firing in Kahna. At least five persons were injured. Two of them died on the same day, while the third passed away on Wednesday.

The cause of the incident is reported to be a dispute over comments made in a social media post.

Last year, a youth was shot dead after writing a post against a rival in Raiwind.

Gawash Butt, the prime suspect in the cold blooded murder of trader Sheikh Irfan Channa at Mozang Chowk, had also posted threatening videos on social media before the attack.

Some groups formed on social media also reprpetdly eulogise crimes and criminals. One of them, Lahore Underworld, was mentioned during court proceedings against suspected gangster Balaj Tipu over firing on rivals Teefi and Gogi Butt.

Similarly, every other day a case is being reported in which the suspects are uploading videos of torture or humiliation of their opponents to further degrade or harass them. Uploading of photographs and videos of firing, display of firearms and abuse of citizens and police on social media has also become a common practice. FIRs have been registered and suspects arrested in several cases in recent weeks.

The police booked the suspects under weak provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) as social media did not fall in their domain.

On the other hand, the procedure of the Cybercrime Cell of the Federal Investigations Agency (FIA) is complicated and slow, police officials claim.

The FIA procedure requires that a citizen file a complaint for legal action in cases of cybercrime. After filing of the complaint, it goes through the stage of verification. The FIA proceeds further with the case after gathering substantial evidence.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2020.


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