Yashwant Raj, Washington: The White House has abruptly shut down on suspicion of fraud an ongoing online
petition that asked it to designate Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, citing a law introduced in the House of Representatives last week.
In a blurb headlined, ‘Closed Petition’, the White House’s ‘We the People’ web page, which hosts the initiative inviting petitions to the administration, said on Monday, “This petition has been archived because it did not meet the signature requirements. It can no longer be signed.”
The petition had, until October 21, to gather 100,000 signatures to merit a response from the White House under the rules of the programme, which it had already collected, and several times more. At closure, the petition had 625,723 signatures.The website said “no more”, but a White House official told Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity that there were “some technical issues with some of the signatures” that needed to be looked into. Some of the signatures “could potentially be removed if there is evidence of fraud” consistent with the terms of participation, the official added.
Supporters of the petition, which had generated considerable excitement among Indian Americans and in India, will be disappointed, especially as a counter-petition demanding a similar designation for India — as a “terrorist state” — was still up on the We the People page; although way behind, with nearly 66,000 signatures.
The first petition seeking the Pakistan designation was started by an individual known by initials ‘RG’ on September 21, the day after Republican congressmen Ted Poe and Dana Rohrabacher introduced a legislation in the House of Representatives demanding Pakistan be designated a state sponsor of terrorism.
Citing the legislation in the petition, the sponsor wrote, it (designating Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism) was “important to the people of United State of America, India and many other countries which are continuously affected by Pakistan sponsored terrorism”.
The White House official did not explain the kind of suspected “fraud” that shut down the petition. It was also not clear if it had been suspended and will return after the bad signatures were weeded out or whether the process will have to start afresh.
Anyone can start a petition after opening an account — just a name and email would do. (This reporter opened an account on Monday, and it took barely a few minutes.) But you don’t need one to merely sign an ongoing petition.
Under the terms of participations, every individual is allowed only one email account, whether the intention is merely to sign or start a petition. The individual must be over 13 (as the general age-bar for starting an email account)—and cannot sign the same petition more than once.
An official, though, when asked if signatories must be based in the US or be US citizens, said they can be “anyone provided they follow terms of service”.
The We the People page said “The White House may disable user accounts, remove associated signatures and remove petitions created or signed by users that it has reasonable belief do not satisfy the above rules.”
That seems to be what happened to the petition, which had generated considerable amount of excitement in the Indian American community. It was no different back in India, with signatures coming at a phenomenal speed, raising talk of a record turnout.
The petition seeking a “terrorist state” designation for India was slow in comparison, collecting 66,000 signatures till late Monday evening. Starting on September 27, it needed roughly 34,000 more to get a response from the White house.
It accused India of waging a “proxy war” against Pakistan especially in “the province of Balochistan, Federally Administrated Tribal Areas and Metropolitan City of Karachi”, and urged the White House to declare India a “terrorist state”.