LAHORE/FAISALABAD              -      Strict legal action has been taken against 218 persons involved in spreading hate speech on social media before and during the month of Muharram.

According to CTD Punjab press release issued here on Saturday, cases were registered against 87 persons and they were sent to jail, 43 people were detained under section 3 MPO (Maintenance of Public Order) in this regard. More than 4,000 social media sites containing hate speech were blocked through PTA (Pakistan Telecom Authority).

Names of these 218 persons, from all sects, are being included in the 4th Schedule of Anti Terrorism Act 1997 to keep a surveillance on their activities. They will not be able to spread hate speech when they are in 4th schedule.

Additionally, during first 10 days of Muharram, legal action was taken against 57 persons involved in spreading hate speech on social media under Anti Terrorism Act and detentions under MPO 1960.

The strong legal actions by law enforcement agencies have resulted in peaceful Muharram in year 2020. The government is determined not to allow anyone to incite sectarian hatred.

Meanwhile, in Faisalabad Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Dr Pir Noorul Haq Qadri said the government had successfully foiled the nefarious designs of anti-Islamic forces that wanted to destroy Pakistan like Yemen, Iraq and Syria by promoting sectarianism. 

Addressing the Ittehad-e-Ummat Conference at Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI), he said that clear-cut statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan not to recognize Israel had dragged the Arab states out of uncertainty- whether accept Israel or not. However, it was very encouraging that most of the Arab states had decided to follow the Pakistani stance on Israel, he said.

He said that conspiracies hatched by social media to promote sectarianism in Pakistan were geared up during last 6-7 months. “Certainly anti-Islamic forces were involved in these conspiracies”, he said and added that Pakistan was fully aware of the ill-impacts of sectarianism and the government with the cooperation of religious circles decided to cow down such elements. In this connection, a decision was taken to “Don’t leave your sect; don’t intervene in others’ sect”, he added.

The minister said that few years ago, a conference was held in Saudi Arabia which had clearly pointed out that the followers of eight sects were Muslims and could not be dubbed as non-Muslims. He urged the religious scholars to promote the 90 percent similarities in these schools of thought instead of projecting the 10 percent minor and academic differences.

He also quoted a joint declaration of ulema on sectarianism and said that other Islamic countries were quoting the clauses of this declaration while it would be translated into other languages very soon.  

He said that people belonging to different sects would have to live in this country and in this connection, we must explore new avenues of unity and tolerance. “This could be possible only through dialogue”, he added.

Regarding fresh publication of blasphemous material in Norway and Sweden, he said the foreign ministry had already issued policy statement condemning such material in the name of ‘freedom of Speech’.

He said that in order to check this tendency, 14-15 Islamic countries must cooperate and hold international convention to discourage the publication of blasphemous material.

Responding to the demand of FCCI president Rana Sikandar Azam, he said the government had not enhanced even a single penny in Hajj expenses, adding that it was caused due to devaluation of Pak currency, increase in air-fare and taxes by Saudi Arabia.

He said the present government had taken bold step to facilitate the pilgrims, adding that immigration of 23,000 intending pilgrims was carried out at Islamabad and the government had decided to extend this facility at Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar as well.