Dec 092017

Taking steps to prevent the use of internet and social media for terrorist activities, the Ministry of Information Technology has blocked 937 URLS and 10 websites run by banned organisations, it was learnt on Saturday.

These and other statistics were revealed in an interior ministry document on the progress of the National Action Plan (NAP), which has been acquired by DawnNews.

An investigation carried out by Dawn across the month of April 2017 had revealed that 41 of Pakistan’s 64 banned outfits are present on Facebook in the form of hundreds of pages, groups and individual user profiles.

Their network, both interconnected and public, is a mix of Sunni and Shia sectarian or terror outfits, global terror organisations operating in Pakistan, and separatists in Balochistan and Sindh.

However, there appears to have been very little overall progress in NAP in the last three months, as figures of the implementation report released in September are only slightly different than the latest report.

Here are the main takeaways from the interior ministry's report:

Hate speech

  • In an effort to counter hate speech and extremist material, the government registered 1,351 cases, arrested 2,525 people and sealed 70 shops.

  • The National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) is preparing an application to report incidents of hate speech.

Preventing internet use for terrorism

  • The government passed the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016

  • IT ministry blocked 937 URLS and 10 websites operated by banned organisations

Dismantling communication networks of terrorists

  • A total of 98.3 million SIMs have been blocked

  • Biometric verification system in place

Misuse of loudspeakers

To prevent misuse of loudspeakers, the government:

  • Registered 17,616 cases

  • Arrested 18,308 suspects

  • and seized 7,942 pieces of equipment.

Registration, regulation of madressahs

  • Two separate registration and data forms for madressahs have been developed

  • Committee has been formed to grant equivalence degree awarding status to wafaqs

Decline in sectarian terrorism

The report shows that there has been a significant decline in incidents of sectarian terrorism, with sectarian attacks falling from a peak of 185 in 2012 to two attacks in 2017.

Renewed focus on NAP?

The military appears to have a renewed focus on NAP since the launch of Operation Raddul Fasaad across the country following a spate of terror attacks earlier this year.

Raddul Fasaad — which translates roughly to 'elimination of discord' — is aimed towards indiscriminately eliminating the "residual/latent threat of terrorism", consolidating the gains made in other military operations, and further ensuring the security of Pakistan's borders, the Inter-Services Public Relations had said as it announced the operation.

The military operation is intended to be a continuation of NAP, which was widely criticised for its apparently half-hearted implementation.

NAP had been formulated after the devastating attack on Army Public School Peshawar in December 2014.

As part of the plan, military courts were established to fast-track terrorism cases. Intelligence-based operations across the country were initiated to disrupt and destroy terror networks in urban and rural areas. The plan had also laid an emphasis on curtailing terror financing.

NAP had also promised to take action against seminaries involved in militancy, but the government had dithered on bringing them under control, apparently fearing a backlash from religious parties as well as militants.

The plan further envisaged countering hate speech and extremist material through the powers vested in the provincial police and other authorities. Pemra and other regulatory authorities were tasked with checking and banning glorification of terrorism and militant groups through print and electronic media. The drafting of the Electronic Media Code of Conduct was also a positive step.

The provinces were further instructed under NAP to raise a counter-terrorism force under a dedicated command structure.

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