May 30, 2017
ISLAMABAD - Forty-one out of Pakistan's 64 banned outfits are present on Facebook in the form of groups and individual user profiles and operate openly on Facebook.
According to an investigation carried out by Dawn last month, the outfits' network, both interconnected and public, is a mix of Sunni and Shia sectarian groups, global terror organizations operating in Pakistan, and separatists in Balochistan and Sindh provinces.
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.
The biggest outfits on Facebook, in order of size, are Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) with 200 pages and groups, Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) with 160, Sipah-i-Sahaba (SSP) 148, Balochistan Students Organization Azad (BSO-A) 54 and 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 organizations.
"An examination of some user profiles linked to these banned outfits indicates open support of sectarian and extremist ideology", Dawn said in its 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. - Agencies
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