‘Social media used to destroy peace in Pakistan’

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Wednesday that social media was the major weapon used in the past few days with an aim to destroy peace in Pakistan.

Addressing a presser in context of the agreement signed between the government and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), he said the interior ministry held a meeting on the issue while Pakistan’s agencies are also taking a look into the matter.

He said a large number of people from India, Korea and United States were active on the social media last Sunday with an aim to disrupt the peace in Pakistan. “Foreign elements used the social media to spread misinformation as over 200,000 people from India were online on the social networks,” he added.

Sheikh Rashid categorically said no one would be allowed to create chaos in the country and strict action would be taken against those challenging the writ of the state. Regarding the government’s agreement with the TLP, the interior minister said the final round of talks continued for seven hours and it was agreed to table a resolution in the National Assembly for discussion over the French ambassador’s expulsion from the country.

He said all Muslims believed in the respect of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, as it was the basic element of our faith.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has also decided to contact western countries on the issue and develop a combined strategy to avoid any blasphemous incident in the future,” he said. Sheikh Rashid said the prime minister had earlier written letters to the members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) over the issue.

He said 733 workers of the TLP were detained under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance and of them, 669 — mostly belonging to south Punjab and Faisalabad — had been released.

The minister said 210 first information reports (FIRs) have been registered against the religious party’s members, including its chief Saad Rizvi, and they would be dealt with as per the law of the land.

The interior minister said TLP chief Saad Rizvi was still in custody under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act. He said 30 vehicles belonging to police were damaged during the protests while five were recovered.

He said Rs40 million along with commendation certificates would be distributed among those policemen who got injured during clashes with the protesters. The interior minister said Prime Minister Imran Khan has given the direction to tighten the noose around people who misuse religious sentiments as the government was working on legislation to stop disrespect of religious sects.

Sheikh Rashid said the TLP had 30 days after being served the notice to submit its reply to the interior ministry regarding the ban imposed on it. He said either the TLP’s office-bearers or their lawyers could appear before the committee being constituted to look into the matter.

He said the National Assembly session was convened to table a resolution seeking debate on the expulsion of the French ambassador from Pakistan and also to apprise all the European countries, especially France, about the gravity of the situation.

“As per the resolution, the house also demanded that the state should decide the matters of international relations and no person, group or party should exert unnecessary and illegal pressure on the government in that regard,” he added.

The minister said talks with the TLP were held in an amicable environment. Meanwhile, a suspected activist of the banned TLP who was reportedly planning to attack an important government personality was arrested by Nawan Kot Police on Wednesday.

The suspect, identified as Ashraf, was arrested with a handgun near Chowk Yateem Khana. During initial investigations, he revealed that he had come from his home town to participate in the long march to Faizabad. He had planned to target an important government personality because the government did not honour its agreement with the TLP. A case has been registered against him and the police are investigating the matter further.