Banned Outfits In Pakistan Operating Openly On Facebook

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Islamabad: Out of Pakistan’s 64 banned outfits, 41 are operating openly on Facebook in the form of groups and individual user profiles, a media report said on Monday.

As per a probe carried out by Dawn news in April, the outfits` “network, both interconnected and public, is a mix of Sunni and Shia sectarian or terrorism outfits, global terrorism organisations operating in Pakistan, and separatists in Balochistan and Sindh.”
The names of all banned outfits – including acronyms and small variations in spelling – were searched on Facebook to find pages, groups, and user profiles that publicly “liked” a banned outfit.

In order of size, following are the outfits on the social network:
– Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) with 200 pages and groups
– Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) with 160
– Sipah-i-Sahaba (SSP) with 148
– Balochistan Students Organisation Azad (BSO-A) with 54
– Sipah-e-Muhammad with 45

Other banned outfits which exist on Facebook at a smaller scale include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Tehreek-e-Taliban Swat, Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, Jamat-ul-Ahrar, 313 Brigade, multiple Shia outfits and a host of Baloch separatist organisations.

“An examination of some user profiles linked to these banned outfits indicates open support of sectarian and extremist ideology,” Dawn News said in its probe report.

A few of these profiles have also publicly “liked” pages and groups related to weapons use and training.

While some of the Facebook pages and groups claim to be “official” representatives of the outfits, others appear to be managed by members and supporters in ideological agreement.

“In general, the Facebook updates were in Urdu or Roman Urdu rather than English, suggesting the content was primarily for local consumption. A very small number were in Sindhi or Balochi, also indicating a niche target audience,” the report added.

The report further said that most of the Facebook pages and groups glorify existing leaders or those killed while some banned outfits also campaign for the release of their activists or leaders.

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