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Thursday April 25, 2024

Govt must block blasphemous content on social media: IHC

By Faisal Kamal Pasha
March 09, 2017

Orders quick and strict action;
directs govt to put blasphemers on ECL

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday ordered the government to block blasphemous content from the social media. 

Ministry of Interior Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan assured Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court (IHC) that the entire government machinery would be put into motion to stop/eliminate evil of blasphemy on the social media and persons responsible would be booked in criminal cases under relevant provisions of law.

The IHC bench directed the authorities to put names of the blasphemers on Exit Control List (ECL). Minister for Interior Ch Nisar Ali Khan could not appear before the court as per March 7 directions and the court was told that he had undergone a surgery.

Interior secretary and other officials submitted before the court that a progress report would be presented before the court today (Thursday).  IHC bench was hearing a contempt of court petition for non-implementation of court orders dated February 27 regarding blockage of blasphemous content/pages on social media.

The IHC bench on Wednesday directed the authorities to form a joint investigation team and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) chairman to submit a report on the action he had taken so far.

The order reads: "In requirement of ATA 1997, Joint Investigation Team shall also be constituted, consisting of upright, well-reputed and efficient officials. The PTA chairman shall also submit report regarding steps already taken and initiated". 

On Tuesday’s Interior Secretary Arif Ahmad Khan, Advocate General for Islamabad Capital Territory Mian Abdul Rauf, Additional Attorney General Afnan Karim Kundi, Deputy Attorney General Arshad Mehmood Kiani, PTA Chairman Dr Syed Ismail Shah, Inspector General ICT Tariq Masood Yasin, SSP Operations Sajid Mehmood Kiani and Deputy Director Cyber Crime Circle FIA Nauman Ashraf Bodla appeared before the court.

At the start of proceedings, the IHC bench was told that minister for interior could not appear before the court as he had undergone a surgery. The bench then directed all the officials present in the court to see the material on record in chamber to know about sensitivity of the matter. The court then noted their responses as under.

"This court placed before all the officials in attendance material annexed with the petition, which has been perused by the officials in chamber and after perusal of the material, officials find themselves in a shock, agony and pain. Interior secretary made his categorical statement that action would be taken in accordance with law against the culprits involved in this malicious and disgusting campaign against Allah Almighty, the Holy Quran and most respectable personality of the entire global face, Hazrat Muhammad (SAW), His companions (Sahaba-e-Karam RA), Ahl-e-Bait (RA), pious wives of the Holy Prophet (SAW)".

After officials had witnessed the record, the IHC bench observed if the state did not take prompt legal action, someone could murder the blasphemers and then candles would be lighted at the roadsides and a perception of Islamic extremism would be hyped. In fact the liberal secular extremism was far harder than the Islamic extremism, IHC bench further observed.

Justice Siddiqui remarked that this inefficiency on the part of government could result in creating law and order situation on a major scale. Further there could be calamities in this country. Justice Siddiqui asked interior secretary to take immediate action against the culprits. He directed PTA chairman to block all the pages containing blasphemous content. 

PTA chairman said, “We are blocking all such pages but there is no such mechanism through which we could get immediate information regarding such pages. Whenever a matter is reported to us, we immediately take action. Now facebook administration has started taking notice of our complaints and they have blocked a page by the name of Bhainsa. We are also trying to get a forensic report with the help of FIA to identify the culprits.” 

Justice Siddiqui at that juncture said, "All of us have to collectively eliminate this evil. Even if we cannot stop this around the world, but in Pakistan we can make sure that no one dare disrespect our sacred personalities of Islam." Justice Siddiqui directed PTA Chairman to form a cell that might identify pages containing blasphemous material. The court then adjourned hearing till today (Thursday).