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Imtiaz Ali
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
From Print Edition
 
 

 

A Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) minority MPA on Monday protested vociferously against the inclusion of Jesus Christ in a list of banned words by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and said it was an attempt to undermine religious freedom in the country.

 

Recently, the PTA issued a list of supposedly offensive or obscene words that cell phone users would not be allowed to use in text messages. The inclusion of Jesus Christ in that list has infuriated many people from the Christian community.

 

Saleem Khurshid Khokhar, on a point of order, drew the attention of the provincial assembly towards the PTA’s list of banned words. He sat on the floor in front of the speaker of the house in protest and demanded that a resolution be presented to condemn this act. However, several ministers pacified him by assuring him that they would raise the issue with the federal government for action.

 

Khokhar said that the PTA’s act was a conspiracy against the government and Muslims. He recalled that when a Christian had torched the Holy Quran in the US, the Christian community in Pakistan protested against it. Now the PAT, by banning Jesus Christ from being texted, was acting against religious freedom in the country.

 

Law Minister Ayaz Soomro, Local Government Minister Agha Siraj Durrani, Archives Minister Rafiq Engineer, Power Minister Shazia Marri, Youth Affairs Minister Faisal Sabzwari and Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza assured the MPA that they would raise the issue with the federal government to rectify the situation. The ministers said that religious sentiments had been hurt by the PTA’s act and assured that they respected all religions. They also recalled the famous August 11, 1947 speech of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, in which he talked of equal treatment of minorities.

 

Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro regretted the minority legislator’s behaviour and observed that there was no need to protest in such a manner.

 

The PPP minority MPA’s resolution, which was deferred for another day, reads: “The Sindh Assembly condemns the act of the PTA to block the sacred words of the Christian community ‘Jesus Christ’ and ‘Christ Jesus’. And recommends to the federal government to kindly take action and conduct an inquiry against the PTA and remove these words from the banned list.”