ISLAMABAD -  The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday directed the authorities concerned to block all the web pages containing blasphemous content and put the names of blasphemers on the exit control list (ECL).

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui issued these directions, while hearing a contempt of court petition for not complying with the court orders about blocking of pages or websites containing blasphemous material on social media.

The Federal Interior Minister, Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan, was also summoned to appear before the court in person in this matter.

Although the federal interior minister did not appear before the court on medical grounds as the bench was informed that he had undergone a surgery yet Interior Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan assured the court of Justice Siddiqui that the entire government machinery shall be put into motion to stop/eliminate this evil of blasphemy and persons responsible be booked in criminal cases under relevant provisions of law.

During the hearing, the secretary interior and other officials submitted before the court that a progress report shall be presented before the court on Thursday (today).

The IHC bench also directed the authorities to form a joint investigation team and the PTA chairman to submit a report that what action he has taken till yet.

In his order, Justice Siddiqui wrote, “In requirement of the ATA 1997, a Joint Investigation Team shall also be constituted, consisting of upright, well reputed and efficient officials. The chairman PTA shall also submit report regarding steps already taken and initiated.”

Interior Secretary Arif Ahmad Khan, Advocate-General for Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Mian Abdul Rauf, Additional Attorney-General Afnan Karim Kundi, Deputy Attorney-General (DAG) Arshad Mehmood Kiani, PTA Chairman Dr Syed Ismail Shah, Inspector-General (IG) ICT Tariq Masood Yasin, SSP (Operations) Sajid Mehmood Kiani and Deputy Director Cyber Crime Circle FIA Nauman Ashraf Bodla were present during the court proceedings.

At the beginning of the hearing, the bench was informed that federal interior minister could not appear before the court as he had undergone a surgery.

Then, the IHC bench directed all the officials present in the court to see the material on record in the chamber to know about the sensitivity of the matter.

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

Justice Siddiqui observed after officials witnessing the record that 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 is far harder than the Islamic extremism.

The IHC bench remarked that this inefficiency on the part of government could result in creating law and order situation on a major scale.

Further there can be calamities in this country.

Justice Siddiqui asked the secretary interior to take immediate action against the culprits.

He directed PTA chairman to block all the pages containing blasphemous content.

The chairman PTA said that “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.”

He added that now the Facebook administration had started taking notice of our complaints and they blocked a paged by the name of Bhainsa.

“We are also trying to retrieve a forensic report with the help of FIA to identify the culprits,” the chairman PTA said.

At this juncture, Justice Siddiqui said that 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 dares to disrespect sacred personalities of Islam.

He also directed chairman PTA to form a cell that may identify pages containing blasphemous material.

Later, the bench deferred hearing till Thursday (today) for further proceedings in this matter.

On February 27, the same IHC bench had directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block pages or websites containing blasphemous material on the social media.

In the main petition, petitioner Salman Shahid was seeking blocking of blasphemous pages on social media and directions for the government to initiate legal proceedings against the page administrators.

In his main as well as contempt of court applications, Salman Shahid cited Arif Ahmad Khan, secretary, Ministry of Interior, Azmat Ali Ranjha, secretary, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Muhammad Amlish, director-general, Federal Investigation Agency, Dr Syed Ismaeel Shah, chairman, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Tariq Sultan, member finance/acting chairman (PTA) as respondents.

The petitioner through his counsel Tariq Asad Advocate had adopted that the pages and videos against the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Sihaba-e-Kiram, wives (Azwaje Mutaharat),  Holy Quran and Allah Almighty have not been stopped /blocked by the respondents, nor any steps have been taken.

As a result, the culprits have been encouraged and they have fearlessly opened more pages.

 

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 09-Mar-2017 here.