FIA concedes state support for some of the banned groups but said it is a global phenomenon engaged in by all intelligence agencies.
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The shadows of three men brandishing assault rifles welcome the reader to the Facebook page of Lashkar-e-Islam, one of 65 organizations that are banned in Pakistan, either because of terrorist links or as purveyors of sectarian hate. Still more than 40 of these groups operate and flourish on social media sites, communicating on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Telegram, according to a senior official with Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency, or FIA, who is tasked with shutting down the sites.Pakistan is waging a cyber crackdown on activists and journalists who use social media to criticize the government, the military or the intelligence agencies.Activists, journalists and rights groups who monitor Pakistan's cyberspace say the banned groups active on social media operate unencumbered because several are patronized by the military, its intelligence agencies, radical religious groups and politicians looking for votes.Shahzad Ahmed, of the Islamabad-based social media rights group BytesForAll, said Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence agencies are waging a "communication war" against progressive, moderate voices and those who criticize the government and more particularly the military and its agencies.
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