Social media promoting gun culture

Police arrest 590 people, register 580 cases over videos and photos of weapons and firing


Nouman Sheikh November 29, 2020
ILLUSTRATION: MOHSIN ALAM

LAHORE:

A trend of displaying weapons on social media, especially by youths, is on the rise in the provincial capital.

The youths involved in the cases also upload videos of firing into the air on social media. According to legal experts, there has been no specific legislation covering action against the crime that has started surfacing recently.

A special monitoring cell was set up by DIG Operations Ashfaq Khan to point out instances of display of arms. Trainee sub-inspectors were posted in the cell and action was started against those displaying weapons on social media.

The DIG told The Express Tribune that Lahore police had so far arrested 590 people and registered 580 cases for uploading videos and photos of display of weapons and aerial firing on the social media. The trainee officials have joined various social media groups to monitor such activities. The DIG said action was taken immediately on videos of firing.

SSP Operations Lahore Malik Jamil Zafar is supervising the Social Media Monitoring Cell. He said most of the people displaying weapons on social media were youths.

Citing a case registered at the Defence Police Station two days ago, he said a group of youths tried to kidnap a 10th class student in Phase Seven. They barged into the student’s house and recorded a video of the whole incident. The official said the aim of the accused was to increase the number of their followers on social media. The case was lodged against 10 youths by the boy’s father Meher Shabbir.

SSP Jameel Zafar said the accused Sualeh Butt and Amjad Butt did strange things to increase followers on social media. Several videos of them firing, drinking and smoking had gone viral on social media. The police officer blamed video games, action movies and parental inattention as major causes of such negative trends in the society.

Law expert Syed Farhad Ali Shah revealed that police registered cases against those displaying weapons on social media and firing into the air but the law did not mention those crimes.

The police register a case under section 337H2, which specifies any act committed by an individual that endangers another person. Shah said that if someone’s property was damaged due to firing, it was included in the case under section 440 or a case was registered under the provisions of illegal weapons. Both offences are bailable with maximum sentence of three months in jail.

The legal expert said that recently an aerial firing act had been enacted in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, under with the accused were being punished severely. The Punjab government should also introduce legislation in this regard, he added.

SSP Investigations Abdul Ghaffar Qaisarani said interrogation of suspects had revealed that a large number of people involved in such cases were young people who wanted to impress their circle of friends. Videos of youths firing from motorcycles and cars on roads of Lahore had also come to light, where investigations had shown that the incidents were caused by resentment or animosity among youths over minor issues.

The official said that in addition to students, the investigations had also uncovered a number of unemployed people having formed gangs that spread intimidation in their areas and then served people involved in extortion and occupation of land.

Arguments on social media also sparked animosities, the SSP said. Referring to a case in Gawalmandi, he said that a businessman named Sheikh Irfan Chana had started a conversation on social media with Ghawash Butt, a young man from the neighbourhood, which led to an enmity within a year. The two threatened each other by displaying weapons on social media and then came face to face in the area of Civil Lines, where Irfan was killed, while the police arrested Butt.

In another case, a photo of a neighbourhood on a social networking site sparked a deadly attack in Kahna area.

A psychologist, Dr Anam Fatima, said weapons could stimulate violence as well. She said many youths indulged in aggressive and antisocial behaviour to give an impression of being tough in the socio-cultural context.

“Exposing handguns or weapons on social sites is associated with past victimisation, perceived risk of crime and perceived ineffectiveness of police protection within low-income communities, where these concerns may be congruent with real risks,” she added.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2020.

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