As a smear campaign targeting the army after the change of faces in the federal government hit the cyber world, the law of the land has also taken its course. The Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) counter-terrorism wing has arrested eight people for running hate campaigns on social media against ‘institutions’, the new name given to the army by the media people. Online trolling has become a new normal in today’s world, and weaker laws in our part of the world give a free reign to trolls, who work in an organized, coordinated way to malign the subject at hand. For such reasons, the FIA invoked anti-terrorism wings to stem the vilification campaign and later found that certain groups within and outside the country were involved in the campaign. The intensity of the campaign was so extreme, that a high level of the military commanders on Tuesday discussed the campaign against the Army on social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, in the wake of the ouster of the Imran Khan government. Though no credible source has directly associated the party leadership or its social media wings with the driver, it is, however, a general belief among the public that the PTI sympathizers are not happy with the Army’s ‘neutral’ stance taken on the political developments. The party has been quick to distance itself from any such development and even urged its activists to desist from any such campaign. In this backdrop, the extraordinary meeting of the 79th Formation Commanders at the General Headquarters recognized the stance taken by the top army leadership on the political crisis in the country. A press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations said: “The forum expressed complete confidence in leadership’s well-considered stance to uphold the constitution and rule of law, at all cost”.
This is not the first or last time that the army has been targeted on social media. Not only army, politicians, journalists, especially women journalists, and individuals often become the subjects of hate campaign activists. The government tried to stem the trends through tougher laws, but their selective invoking, and weaker implementation have made them a laughing stock. More recently, the former government of Imran Khan introduced amendments to the draconian Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act through an ordinance of 2022, but the Islamabad High Court has declared it ‘unconstitutional’. The ordinance allowed the government to use the law-enforcement agencies for political victimization. We have seen such blatant use of force against political opponents. In this regard, the house of the former prime minister’s digital team head was raided. The action must be condemned by all sane circles, as it shows simply the culture of intolerance. The arena of politics has become a matter of life and death for activists, which is an unfortunate fact. Party heads must intervene and forge a policy of respect and acceptance of differing views. Once we learn to accept disagreement, there will be a way forward to a tolerant society.