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Blogger Bilal Khan’s murder spotlights fragile free speech in Pakistan

The stabbing to death of Muhammad Bilal Khan, a 22-yr-old blogger, in Islamabad on Sunday night confirmed how fragile unfastened speech in Pakistan is. Khan, who has over sixteen,000 followers on Twitter, forty-eight,000 on his YouTube channel, and 22,000 on Facebook, is known for criticizing u. S. A .’s powerful navy and the spy organization Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The blogger changed into additionally religiously inclined and held debatable perspectives. “My son’s handiest fault became that he spoke approximately the Prophet,” the deceased’s father Abdullah stated.

Read more: Ishaq Dar: Pakistani PM Imran Khan ‘responsible for the present-day economic mess.’

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But Khan’s killing hours after posting a sarcastic tweet criticizing General Faiz Hameed’s appointment as the new ISI chief has fueled speculation that the safely established order was in the back of his murder. Several Twitter users stated that his Pakistan navy’s grievance and the ISI led to his killing, even though those allegations cannot be established.

Soon after his killing, #Justice4MuhammadBilalKhan started trending on social media.

Some rights activists accept as true with the incident has created fear amongst folks that are essentially closer to the kingdom’s powerful navy. Pakistan’s military denies any role in curbing free speech or focused on those who criticize it.

Increasing censorship

U. S .’s non-governmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called at the government to conduct an independent inquiry into the killing and produce the perpetrators to justice. It also demanded that the government protect humans regardless of their political and non secular perspectives.

HRCP’s Asad Butt believes the space totally free speech is shrinking in Pakistan. “The truth that he was murdered hours after a tweet criticizing the appointment of the ISI chief increases crucial questions. Who has the capability to hint the blogger in this type of brief span of time, get his cellular quantity, and kill him in this manner?”

Butt says the homicide will cause increased censorship in the united states of America. “The media in us of a have already been stifled. A little space became to be had on Twitter and different social media networks, where a few media people and other independent-minded ones might provide specific important perspectives,” he talked about. “Now, even they’ll be scared of expressing their views.”

Pakistani newshounds and media outlets say they’re going through increasing restrictions, especially about critical coverage of the safety status quo.

Authorities also target social media, asking Twitter to suspend accounts and filing hundreds of requests to Facebook to take down pages for a selection of reasons, starting from a complaint of the navy to propagate hate and insulting Islam. The government says the curbs are aimed toward tracking extremist content material.

Controversial movements

In current months, the security status quo has been accused of arresting dozens of workers of the Pashtun Tahafaz (Protection) Movement, or PTM, which has criticized the military’s moves inside the tribal areas northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the western province of Baluchistan.

“We have been facing a media blackout because the very first day,” Mohsin Dawar, a parliamentarian and founding member of the PTM, advised the AP news company last December. “The military now is taking part in unquestioned electricity inside the country, and the PTM questioned their energy.”

PTM leader Said Alam Mahsud advised DW that there’s no freedom of expression inside us of a. “At least 27 activists of our motion have been arrested for merely criticizing the military on social media,” he stated. “We held huge rallies; the media became instructed by the navy’s media wing now not to cowl our rallies, protests, and public gatherings. The situation is so dire that the army instructs information channels as to what subjects they need to speak at some point of their communication shows and what to keep away from.”

Blame the army for the entirety?

Still, a few in Pakistan say Bilal Khan’s murder has nothing to do with the military. General Amjad Shoib, a defender of the Pakistani military guidelines, disregarded the allegations, pronouncing: “There are many anti-military social media activists with hundreds of thousands of followers, but the military has in no way harmed them. What will it get out of the homicide of an ordinary guy whose following ran into a few hundreds?”

The allegations are “completely baseless,” Shoaib said, criticizing the rights businesses leveling allegations. “It ends up a fashion responsible for the army for the entirety.”

To again his criticism, Shoib pointed to a preceding incident, while an activist named Sabeen Mehmood changed into killed in Karachi and some sections right now blamed the army for the murder. He mentioned that the “Islamic State” group later claimed duty for the killing.

Ahsan Raza, a Lahore-based political analyst, said the reason behind the blogger’s killing is still unclear. “Most of Bilal Khan’s tweets were packed with hate. He becomes a member of a religious group that is going through inner fragmentation. So there may be an excessive opportunity that he might have been killed because of inner competition.”

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