Kashmir Committee grills PTA over failure to take action against Facebook

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ISLAMABAD: The Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir on Thursday criticised the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) over failure in taking action against the Facebook management after the social media platform took ‘selective action’ against Pakistani and Kashmiri social media activists.

The criticism was made during the 18th meeting of the committee, chaired by its Chairman Shehryar Khan Afridi. Some senior officials of the ministry of foreign affairs, PTA chairman, and several members of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) attended the meeting while Canada-Pakistan Global Congress President Chaudhry Zafar also participated from Canada.

The committee also passed two unanimous resolutions to denounce the recent Indian army deployment in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), and terrorist attack on a Muslim family in Canada amid rise of Islamophobia.

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, Afridi said that in the wake of significant reduction in Covid-19 pandemic, the committee delegations would soon be visiting Turkey, Central Asian states, US and UK to talk 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 PTA Chairman Maj Gen (R) Amir Azeem Bajwa over action taken against the Facebook management. Bajwa said that the PTA had sensitised about the concerns of Pakistanis and Kashmiris regarding censorship of activists against human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir.

He said that the reduction of complaints reflects that there is a change in the mind-set of the social media sites’ management.

However, Afridi confronted the PTA chief and asked that why the managements of Facebook and Twitter have not set up their offices in Pakistan yet?

Referring to a recent statement of the Facebook management about suspension of several accounts and pages of Pakistani users, Afridi asked that what action has been taken by the PTA against the Facebook team and why the Facebook team has refused to participate in the Kashmir committee meeting, besides directing the PTA to ensure that Facebook representatives must attend the next meeting of the committee.

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

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

Afridi argued that how the Facebook management is not adhering to the directives of a country with 220 million population and how can any company violate basic rights of over 220 million people.

Afridi questioned that why the PTA has failed to take action against the Facebook management and why the Facebook is not blocked in Pakistan if it had failed to comply with the directions of the government of Pakistan.

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

On this, Afridi asked the PTA chairman to bring his legal team to the Kashmir committee’s next meeting so that a legal course could be taken against the Facebook management.

National Security Division Secretary Amir Hassan said that there is a need to amend the PTA law to empower it to take action against the social media companies working in Pakistan. He also proposed that the FIA’s cyber team may take action against the Facebook management.

Dastagir also showered praises on Afridi for transparently running the Kashmir committee while 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 IIOJK and the measures being taken by the government of Pakistan.