Nawaz Sharif says his supporters being abducted

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LONDON: Former PM Nawaz Sharif on Saturday demanded the recovery of missing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) social media activists in a statement released through the party’s Twitter account. “Respect for the freedom of speech, including on social media, is the constitutional responsibility of the government and suppressing political views of opponents is condemnable,” Sharif said in the statement.

He termed the harassment and forceful disappearance of PML-N supporters on social media an attack on the freedom of speech.“The country’s law allows for everyone to oppose others’ opinions and express their own, within the prescribed limits,” Sharif said, demanding that the Interior Ministry take notice of the issue and ensure the recovery of the missing party activists.

Some social media users supporting the PML-N have allegedly gone missing over the past two days. At least two suspects have been accused of posting on social media material and content deemed to be contemptuous of major state organs were in Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) custody.

Late on Thursday, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested a social media activist, allegedly associated with the PML-N media wing for maligning the Pakistan Army and judiciary. The social media activist was arrested after a complaint was lodged against him by Ibrar Ali, a resident of Islamabad.

According to sources, an FIA team arrested Anwar Adil Tanoli from Islamabad in a raid. A first information report (FIR) was also registered against him under Section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016 (PECA) and the sections 500, 501, 505, 109 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). His alleged accomplice, Wajid Rasool Malik, has managed to flee the country.

On Friday morning, the court remanded the accused into FIA custody for three days.

“However, the FIA is now reluctant to pursue the case due to the intervention of State Minister for Interior Affairs Talal Chaudhry. He has left no stone unturned in his efforts to get the accused out of the FIA’s custody,” sources said.

“According to the initial evidence, Tanoli was running multiple accounts on Facebook and Twitter and had recently uploaded incendiary material against state institutions,” sources said. “It seems the PML-N leaders are worried that any further investigation might land them in trouble. That is why they are using their influence to sweep the matter under the rug,” sources said.

“Soon after the detention of the accused, the Interior minister informed FIA Director General (DG) Bashir Memon about the situation. Due to political pressure, the FIA DG then talked to Director Shakeel Durrani,” sources said.

“The state minister is pressuring the FIA into granting Tanoli bail. The case is being investigated by FIA’s Cybercrime Wing AD Mubashir,” sources said.

Nawaz Sharif asked the Interior Ministry to take immediate notice of the abductions and ensure the recovery of abductees. The former premier said it is the constitutional responsibility of the government to respect and ensure protection of the freedom of speech offline and on the social media. He condemned the ‘forcible censorship of opposing ideas’. He said every citizen has the right to express his or her opinion within the confines of the country’s law and values. He said he strongly believes in the freedom of speech.