Islamabad, 22 January 2017: Hamza Khan, a 23 year old student from Mardan has been arrested by Peshawar Police on Monday on charges of incitement of violence against Pakhtun activist Gulalai Ismail. The arrest has been made against an FIR registered by the Peshawar Police on 20th November 2017.
As per detail, the accused had been issuing death threats and inciting violence against Ismail using social media. According to the FIR, the accused had also called an intern at Ismail’s organisation in order to get details about her religious affiliation.
It is interesting to note that even though the hate campaign has largely been run through digital means, the FIR has been registered under Section 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code [Punishment for Criminal Intimidation] and Section 25-D of the Telegraph Act [Penalty for Causing Annoyance]. It does not include any sections from the cybercrime law, PECA.
However, Ismail says that she would try to get PECA clauses inserted in FIR. “I went to Federal Investigation Agency, FIA who removed the video but (FIA) told me that life threats on social media aren’t a cognisable crime so they won’t register am FIR so I sent a letter to IGP, Peshawar who took immediate notice of the case and an FIR was registered” says Ismail, “I have asked my lawyer to now apply in court for the addition of PECA and Anti Terrorism Act”.
Meanwhile, lawyer Aleena Alavi said that section 20 of the PECA could be incorporated in this case as it involved threat, intimidation and harm to the reputation or privacy of a natural person. “The hate speech provision could have been included if it was likely to advance any interfaith, sectarian or racial hatred,” she said referring to Section 11 on hate speech under PECA.
It is to be noted that the campaign against Gulalai was initiated through a video in mid 2017 allegedly by Hamza in which he was seen calling for Ismail’s murder. He even claimed that she was against religion and Pushtun culture, referring to a 2009 video in which Ismail had talked about the need for change in Pakistan. The video, initially circulated through social media, has since been removed by the FIA. According to FIA, the accused was running multiple social media accounts through which the hate campaign was being propagated.
Meanwhile, Ismail remains fearful about her safety and is facing pressure to take back the case. Talking to DRM, she said: “I have repeatedly been asked to reconcile with the man. His parents were very embarrassed and apologised profusely to me, but my issue is with the fact that the society thinks it is normal to abuse women and they have to take the higher ground by forgiving the perpetrator,” she said.
Annam Lodhi is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy