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POLICY BRIEF October December, 2022

Book Cover: POLICY BRIEF October December, 2022
Part of the Reports series:

Pakistan has a history of religious freedom violations. The Constitution guarantees freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, as well as equal rights to all citizens regardless of faith. Howev- er, constitutional safeguards have not translated into actual freedom for religious minorities who continue to face social and legal discrimination as well as persecution. Certain laws and regula- tions are in place that restrict freedom of religious beliefs in the country. The legal system bars non-Muslim Pakistanis from holding high public offices and discriminates against them in oppor- tunities for decent employment or upward mobility. The Hindu, Christian, and Ahmadi minorities also face hate speech both online and offline that aggravates their persecution. The blasphemy law which has often been manipulated and abused is also used to target religious minorities or anyone who challenges the socio-religious status quo. Furthermore, in the last decade, women of minority communities have become particularly vulnerable due to forced conversion and mar- riages.

Currently, Pakistan is confronted with political instability characterized by economic woes, inse- curity, ethnic tensions, and religious and sectarian divides. It is in these circumstances that social cohesion is most important in order to reduce the levels of tension and violence that accompany instability. One way of achieving social cohesion is to check hate speech that underpins faith- based persecution and violence. Therefore, Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) takes a proac- tive approach to monitoring social media for hate speech and other malicious activity that tend to undermine freedom of religious beliefs in Pakistan. PIPS monitors Twitter daily for religiously hateful or offensive posts and keeps an eye on potential threats emanating from such hateful on- line posts. The monitoring data  feed into quarterly social Media Reports issued by PIPS. And the findings of these Social Media Reports inform this policy brief in hand. As an organization, PIPS aims at promoting a safe, healthy, and inclusive online environment for everyone in Pakistan.

This policy brief is based on monitoring research examining religious freedom violations particu- larly hate speech on Pakistani social media. The research was conducted by a team of observers to identify different forms of online hate speech and their potential consequences for public safety and basic rights. The research included a comprehensive review of the Pakistani Twitter for hate speech and other forms of religious freedom violations, and the analysis of data collected. The Twitter was searched on daily basis from Sep 1, 2022, to Nov 30, 2022 (three months) for specific terms to assess the consistency of the problem and its effects on society. The findings are used to formulate policy recommendations that can be adopted to mitigate harmful effects of online ex- tremism and increase public safety. Overall, this policy brief is intended to provide insight into the current landscape of online hate speech in Pakistan and offer solutions for addressing it.

Publisher: Pak Institute For Peace Studies (PIPS)