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Shehryar Afridi directs PTA chief to adopt legal course against Facebook management for ‘selective action’ against Pakistani users

ISLAMABAD: Chairman Kashmir committee Shehryar Afridi on Thursday directed the Chairman of Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to take cognizance of the ‘selective action’ by Facebook management against Pakistani and Kashmiri Social Media activists and take appropriate action in this regard.

The directions were passed during the 18th meeting of the Parliamentary Kashmir Committee chaired by Shehryar Afridi. Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chairman PTA, a delegation of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and others also attended the meeting. Chaudhry Zafar, President of Canada-Pakistan Global Congress also attended as an observer from Canada.

The Committee gave a nod to the roadmap of international visits for lobbying on Kashmir. Briefing the committee on the future engagement with diplomatic corps, Chairman Kashmir Committee said that in wake of a significant reduction in the Covid-19 pandemic, the Committee delegations would soon be visiting Turkey, Central Asian states, US and UK to lobby on Kashmir Dispute. He said other than the Kashmir Committee members, the APHC leadership would also be a part of these delegations.

The Committee gave a detailed hearing to the Chairman of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Maj. Gen (R) Amir Azeem Bajwa over the action taken against the Facebook management over the recent suspension of accounts and pages of Pakistani users.

He said that the PTA had sensitised about the concerns of Pakistan and Kashmiris about censorship of activists on human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir. He said that the reduction of complaints reflected that there was a change in the mindset of the social media sites management.

However, Chairman Kashmir Committee Shehryar Afridi confronted the PTA chief and asked why the management of Facebook and Twitter did not set up their offices in Pakistan yet. Referring to a recent statement of Facebook management about the suspension of several accounts and pages of Pakistani users, Afridi asked what action had been taken by the PTA against the Facebook team.

Chairman KC said why the Facebook team had refused to turn up in the Kashmir Committee meeting and directed PTA to ensure that Facebook representative must attend the next meeting of the Committee.

Chairman PTA said that PTA was engaging with Facebook management and would do whatever it takes to protect the rights of the Pakistani and Kashmiri users in accordance with Pakistani laws.

He said Pakistan had directed Facebook management to set up its office in Pakistan.

Chairman Kashmir Committee Shehryar Khan Afridi argued how Facebook management was not adhering to the directives of a country with a 220 million population and how can any company violate the basic rights of over 220 million people.

Afridi said why PTA had failed to take action against Facebook management and why Facebook was not blocked in Pakistan if it fails to comply with the directions of the Government of Pakistan.

Khurram Dastagir MNA said that Pakistan needed to form a new law to help social media companies comply with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan.

Chairman Kashmir Committee asked Chairman PTA to bring his legal team to the Kashmir Committee meeting next time so as a legal course could be taken against Facebook management.

Secretary National Security Division Amir Hassan said that there was a need to amend the PTA law to empower it to take suo-moto action against the social media companies working in Pakistan. He also proposed that FIA’s cyber team may take suo-motu action against Facebook management. Chairman Kashmir Committee directed to summon other stakeholders in the next meeting to deal with the issue.

Syed Faiz Naqshbandi, the convener of APHC, lauded Shehryar Afridi’s new parliamentary move to include the Kashmiri component in the Kashmir discourse and said that Kashmiris were very happy over the diplomatic overtures of the government of Pakistan.

He briefed the Committee on the latest developments taking place in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and said that there were rumours that India was planning to move the capital of Jammu of Kashmir from Muslim majority Srinagar to Hindu majority Jammu in a bid to consolidate their illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.

Khurram Dastagir also showered praises on Shehryar Afridi for his ‘stewardship’ and transparency in running the Kashmir Committee keeping its neutrality intact and giving the opposition lawmakers enough space and opportunity to raise issues at the Committee meetings.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry briefed the meeting on the developments taking place in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the measures being taken by the government of Pakistan.

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