Islamabad: Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has arrested 27 people for spreading malignant propaganda against state institutions on social media.

The social media activists were reportedly associated with the country’s ruling-party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Most of those arrested belong to the social media cell of Maryam Nawaz, daughter of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Urdu daily Nai Baat reported.

“FIA has arrested 11 persons from Islamabad, five from Lahore, seven from Karachi and four from Dubai,” for maligning the Pakistan’s security and judiciary institutions by using different accounts on social media, according to Online News Network.

The arrests were made by FIA late on Thursday after a complaint was lodged against by Ibrar Ali, a resident of Islamabad.

A member of Maryam’s media cell, Adil Tanoli, has been arrested by FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing from Rawalpindi for allegedly posting incendiary, anti-judiciary and anti-army material on Twitter, according to ARY News. The man was said to be spreading propaganda through various fake social media accounts using proxies.

FIA has registered a case against him and has obtained three days of physical remand. Tanoli is reported to be a member of PML-N leader Maryam’s media cell, ARY News said.

An FIR was registered with antiterrorism sections 9A, 10, section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016 (PECA) and sections 500, 501, 505, 109 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

However, FIA later requested the court to delete antiterrorism sections 9A and 10 as and grant Tanoli bail after orders from Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal to exclude antiterrorism sections against the social media activist, daily newspaper Pakistan Today reported.

The investigation officer of FIA’s cybercrime wing Mohammad Raza submitted a request to exclude 9A and 10 sections of antiterrorism before the court of Senior Civil Judge Mohammad Bashir because of political pressure, local media says.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s former PM Nawaz Sharif has demanded the recovery of missing PML-N social media activists in a statement shared on party’s Twitter account.

“Respect for the freedom of speech including on social media is the constitutional responsibility of the government and suppressing political views of opponents is condemnable,” Sharif said in the statement.

Pakistan’s ousted PM termed the harassment and forceful disappearance of PML-N supporters on social media an attack on the freedom of speech.

Demanding the Interior Ministry take notice of the issue and ensure the recovery of the missing party activists, he said: “The country’s law allows for everyone to oppose others’ opinions and express their own, within the prescribed limits,” he said.

It is significant to mention that the social media is widely used by Pakistan’s political parties to manipulate public opinion. However, FIA has now become active in taking action specifically against those spreading fake material to defame state institutions and national policies.