On Tuesday, the caretaker federal government established a six-member Joint Investigation Committee (JIT) to probe allegations of a social media campaign against Supreme Court judges.
The interior ministry announced that the convener of the committee would be the additional director-general of the Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Wing. The JIT includes representatives from the Intelligence Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence, the deputy inspector general of Islamabad police, a representative from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, and any other co-opted member.
This development follows the Supreme Court’s recent decision to revoke the bat symbol from former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party just weeks before the upcoming general elections. A three-member bench of the Supreme Court overturned the Peshawar High Court’s order reinstating the “bat” as the party’s electoral symbol, upholding the Election Commission of Pakistan’s December 23 order nullifying the PTI’s intra-party elections.
While some supported the decision, many legal experts and journalists criticized the apex court, accusing it of limiting citizens’ fundamental rights. Michael Kugelman, a South Asian affairs analyst, labeled the move as “brazen, not subtle, pre-polls rigging.”
The JIT’s terms of reference involve investigating the malicious social media campaign aimed at tarnishing the image of the Supreme Court judges. The committee is tasked with identifying and prosecuting culprits in accordance with relevant laws and recommending measures to prevent future incidents. The JIT is expected to submit a preliminary report to the Ministry of Interior within two weeks, with secretarial support provided by the FIA headquarters.
Notably, the notification did not specify the social media posts considered part of the alleged campaign. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expressed concerns over the Supreme Court’s decision, stating that denying a political party its electoral symbol not only hampers its ability to participate freely in elections but also disenfranchises its voters who rely on symbols to choose their representatives.