Islamabad warns of legal action against Twitter if accounts not restored by Friday

Twitter has suspended 240 Pakistani accounts for tweets related to rights abuses in disputed Kashmir. (Shutterstock)
Updated 22 August 2019

Islamabad warns of legal action against Twitter if accounts not restored by Friday

  • Since Aug 5, Twitter has suspended 240 Pakistani accounts for tweets related to rights abuses in disputed Kashmir 
  • PM’s adviser on digital media says new law being drafted to ensure social media giants abide by national regulations

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will file a lawsuit against social media website Twitter in the United States if 240 Pakistani accounts suspended over posts related to the ongoing crisis in the disputed Kashmir region were not restored, the prime minister’s adviser on digital media said on Wednesday. 
Dr. Arslan Khalid, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focal person on digital media, told Arab News that Twitter had restored only six of 240 suspended accounts by Tuesday.
“We will definitely go for the lawsuit [against Twitter] if the issue isn’t resolved by August 23,” he said in an interview. “But there is no use of suing here in Pakistan because they don’t have any stakes here, nor we have any laws. We will file the case in California.”
However, Khalid added that the lawsuit would be an “extreme step” and he hoped the issue would be resolved by Friday.
Kashmir has been a thorny issue between arch-rivals India and Pakistan for decades and the two nuclear-armed nations have fought three wars over the Himalayan region which they both govern in part but claim in full.
On August 5, the Indian government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in a bid to fully integrate India’s only Muslim-majority region with the rest of the country, the most far-reaching move on the troubled territory in nearly seven decades. 
Anticipating unrest, authorities immediately moved to launch a clampdown in Kashmir by suspending telephone and Internet services and putting some leaders under house arrest. But in Pakistan, politicians, army officers and average citizens took to social media websites in the millions to accuse India of human rights violations in the territory at the heart of more than 70 years of hostility between the two countries.
Twitter has since suspended over 200 accounts in connection with Kashmir-related posts but the company denies the suspensions are politically motivated or biased in favor of India, as Pakistan has alleged. 
“We enforce our policies judiciously and impartially for all users — regardless of their political beliefs and country of origin,” a spokesperson for Twitter said in response to email queries by Arab News. 
On Monday, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) also requested Twitter in a letter to restore the suspended accounts but says it has yet to hear back from the social media website. 
“It appears that Twitter administration under influence of Indian lobbies is depriving Pakistani users, which is not only against the fundamental rights of the users but is also in violation of Twitter’s own community guidelines,” the PTA letter, seen by Arab News, said. “Prima facie, biased treatment is being extended to users from Pakistan.”
The Twitter spokesperson denied the allegations in the PTA letter and said: “Twitter exists to serve the public conversation, including in national and regional events of political importance. We are founded on the principles of free expression and believe people on all sides of an issue have a fundamental right to discuss them within the boundaries of our policies, which prohibit terrorism, hateful conduct, platform manipulation, and abuse.”
The PM’s adviser on digital media said apart from considering a lawsuit against Twitter, the government was discussing a “multi-pronged strategy” against the company, including sharing all details related to suspended accounts on public forums to expose what Pakistan believes are actions biased in India’s favor, and moving the United Nations against what the government sees as a curtailment by Twitter of users’ freedom of expression.
Khalid said Pakistan was also in the process of formulating new laws to ensure that social media companies operated under Pakistan’s rules and regulations.
“We have prepared a draft of social media laws and this will be ready to implement in a month and a half,” Khalid said, adding that in the absence of specific laws, Pakistan was negotiating with social media companies currently on “request-based applications only.”
Shabahat Ali Shah, executive-director at the National Information Technology Board (NITB), told Arab News that the Board planned to reach out to Twitter’s CEO in the United States, “and use all other legal options if the issue is not resolved as per our proposed process by August 23.” 
“Our complaint to Twitter is that Pakistani citizen’s accounts have been suspended without giving any reason,” Shah said. “We have asked Twitter to give us a proper justification for it by Friday.”
He said that Pakistan wanted to resolve the issue “amicably,” but also wanted social media companies to realize that “they should abide by at least their own rules and regulations.”


The Social Squad: Curating weddings through personal stories

Updated 25 min 45 sec ago

The Social Squad: Curating weddings through personal stories

  • Karachi-based company has thrown wedding parties across Pakistan and in the US
  • They offer communicative decor with social experiences and personal touch

ISLAMABAD: When a bride in Lahore decided to throw a pre-wedding dholki in March, she wanted it to be like an outdoors carnival. And she had it. The decor featured tambourines with illustrations depicting the couple, customized boards for playing ludo, party poppers, dhols and street-food imagery. Her vision was brought to life by The Social Squad, a young company which has already gained international renown for organizing showy and bold events.
Two years ago, entrepreneur Fahd Nassr joined forces with Ayesha Haroon, a trained illustrator responsible for the signature graphics the duo have become known for, and created The Social Squad.
The company is “about communicative decor with social experiences,” Nassr told Arab News. “We wanted to create events that inspire and encourage those attending to socialize and interact with the event.”
Wedding event decor usually operates on some similar themes depending on the time of year. The Social Squad aims to focus more on newly weds, on what they are passionate about.

A grand dholki by The Social Squad incorporates traditional cultural touches and modern imagery, April 1, 2019.  (Photo courtesy: The Social Squad) 

“This is what differs us from the existing wedding decor landscape, because a lot of planners are doing a lot of good work, no doubt on that, but I think they are very limited. No one is dabbling in personalization or really getting into the story of the people they are working with,” Nassr said, as he explained how the personal feel can be achieved.
“We ask why is this event taking place? I’m not just talking about weddings, even if you talk about an XYZ corporate event, we will not just produce something around them as we see it, we will go into the story of what it is we are trying to convey.”
The Social Squad also aims at fusing traditional South Asian themes with the modern. “It’s how we also tie in the social aspect of our vision by making these recognizable favorites social media friendly,” Nassr said.
It takes between two and six months to produce their client’s vision, depending on the event’s requirements.
“It is a conversation-based operation, and we personally get quite involved. Our team takes care of the execution, but with the clients. It is intimate – me, Ayesha and them. We hear the whole story out what they do, how they are, their memories, we look at their pictures. From their we build our combined story.”

Guests take their whimsical tiffin boxes at the wedding of  Fahd Nassr and Ayesha Haroon on Nov. 21, 2019. (Photo courtesy: The Social Squad) 

Nassr and Haroon, who themselves tied the knot in November, dubbed their own event #TheSquadWedding and managed to make everyone happy – themselves, their families and guests. But lots of hard work was behind it.
“It was also a great way to showcase to others what we could do. And when we saw the venue, when we entered as bride and groom, it was a totally different experience. It was not like a fairy tale,” Nassr said laughing. “It was a fun but ultimately difficult task. But this is what we do, so we tackled it head on.”
The Social Squad is based in Karachi, but has thrown events across Pakistan, the US, and plans to grow further. Their new business is launching soon to make eye-catching, highly Instagrammable event props available for purchase.