Chief justice takes suo motu notice of blasphemous content on the internet

Published: June 10, 2013

File photo of the Supreme Court building in Islamabad. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has taken suo motu notice on an application of a United Kingdom-based Pakistani, Barrister Amjad Malik regarding blasphemous content circulating on the internet and has sought a report from chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) within a week.

Malik had registered his complaint through the Human Rights Cell of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

According to a press release issued on Monday by the apex court’s media directorate, the applicant drew the attention of the top judge towards the “ever-increasing blasphemous material circulating in the internet domain having for reaching implications on the minds, the lives and liberties of mainstream Muslim population.”

It was prayed that necessary directions be issued to PTA, the Government of Pakistan and the relevant institutions to block those objectionable pages promoting blasphemy in the name of freedom of expression and “take meaningful steps for the international convents to protect the name of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).”

It is pertinent to mention here that YouTube is already banned in Pakistan.

The famous video sharing website was banned by the Pakistan government in September 2012 after it sparked anger and violent protests across the country and the Muslim world because of a blasphemous video uploaded on the site.

Following the ban, an inter-ministerial committee comprising representatives from Information Technology ministry, PTA, Federal Investigation Agency, religious affairs ministry, intelligence agencies and other stakeholders was formed to look into the issue and suggest a solution.

Last November, the committee suggested in its final report to the prime minister that the ban on the website be kept until it (the website) agreed to remove the video voluntarily or until PTA found a way to block it, which the latter failed to do.

An IT ministry official said that the legal way of getting Google Inc to agree to remove the blasphemous video was to file a formal request for which there needed to be Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between United States and Pakistan.

However, the treaty was not initiated from Pakistani foreign office administration as it was a lengthy process, the IT ministry official added.

Reader Comments (83)

  • Malik
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:20PM

    Time for CJ to ban the Internet in Pakistan.Banning content is the easiest and the most cost effective solution to all problems of Pakistanis. No need to fight, just ban and hide our heads in the sand.

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  • Mansi
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:21PM

    OMG, Are you guys going to ban the internet!

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  • Bilal
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:24PM

    Here’s an idea: Maybe CJ sahib should not not go googling blasphemous content? I don’t get it. If you’re offended by it, why go looking for it? Makes no sense.

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  • Dr. Aslam
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:26PM

    Why Mr. Amjad Malik did not give this application to UK supreme court? Everybody wants to implement its own Islam in Pakistan…!

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  • Hitler
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:38PM

    I guess anyone using the internet is aware enough of what is wrong and what is right. Pakistan doet now OWN internet. We should rather educate our people about its merits and demerits.

    Banning internet will be a disaster as many pakistanis earn their livelihood via Internet.

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  • Nabeel
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:41PM

    Welcome to Blockistan!

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  • WeWillWin
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:41PM

    Seriously, UK based lawyer, why are you blocking everything in Pak. Wasn’t Youtube enough, if our courts knew how Internet works, they might have ordered a course for students on how to prevent yourself from objectionable material. Faith does not come free, you have to earn it

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  • shahid
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:50PM

    This is a futile exeercise and shows weakness of your own believes.Stop Ostritch mentality and face the world. In modern day and time free speech has been accepted as the cornerstone of modern civilsation. Going against the tide will only isolate us and make Pakistan further behind in the race of science and technology.Hope chief justice concentrates more on impropving the legal system in Pakistan providing justice to the oppressed people rather than becomeing guardian of the whole world. internet is beyond the jurisdiction of any country’s courts.It is beyond borders and belongs to whole world.

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  • Jun 10, 2013 - 7:52PM

    Supreme Court should call the people from the Foreign Ministry (Foreign Secretary) as to why after so so many months they have not even bothered to initiate the process of a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between Pakistan and United States!

    The common man have to bear the brunt of the incompetence of the bureaucrats and the governments!

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  • abc
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:52PM

    Its a problem of all Islamic countries. How about discussing it at oic forum and then take a joint initiative?

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  • A J Khan
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:53PM

    Suo motu notice on an application of a United Kingdom-based Pakistani, Barrister Amjad Malik regarding blasphemous content on internet is as a matter of fact using our Supreme Court for promoting the material rather than restricting it . I have some suggestions for CJP:
    1.Mr Amjad Malik should take is that he should approach courts in UK and not in Pakistan.
    2. Is it not just Pakistan where these contents would be visible but the entire world.
    3. By entertaining such applications, Supreme Court is inadvertently attracting attention of people to such contents.
    4. Are the Muslims living in Pakistan morally so low that they will start watching such blasphemous material and unless Supreme Court moral police us and PTA blocks such material, we the Muslims of Pakistan will have no control on our self.
    While petitioners are getting no time from Bar and Bench for one or the another reasons, our Higher Judiciary has all the time to fritter away.

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  • Tahir
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:54PM

    Ha, ha ha! Can the CJ take notice of the continuous load shedding and let God worry about herself?

    And why does this UK based lawyer not raise this issue in the UK? Because he’d be laughed out of court. Can our courts be more dignified and not entertain every superfluous application that comes before it?Recommend

  • FN
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:56PM

    When Tahir-ul-Qadri filed a petition, it was dismissed because he was a dual national. Now a UK based barrister files a petition and it is accepted

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  • CJIFTI
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:57PM

    Ban the Internet, ban technology, ban education, ban all the books, try to come up with a policy so that no thinking should be able to occur in the Pakistani brains. While we are at it, let’s try to ban the women. Think of a way to keep the sun from rising.

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  • unbelievable
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:57PM

    CJ has been falling off the front page these days – desperate measure to get some publicity? Easy to predict CJ will order the govt to develop effective controls to eliminate blasphemous content setting the govt up for another failure. Time for govt to tell CJ to grow up and concentrate on fixing the broken judiciary system in Pakistan.

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  • Mj
    Jun 10, 2013 - 7:58PM

    Criticism is not blasphemy.

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  • Mj
    Jun 10, 2013 - 8:00PM

    Why are we so insecure about our faith?

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  • Aqal Khan
    Jun 10, 2013 - 8:01PM

    So Barrister Amjad Malik, UK based Barrister, who also happens to be close friend of CJ and PML N. With statement from Anushay Rehman, looks like new govt is after the social media to reign in.

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  • Mj
    Jun 10, 2013 - 8:03PM

    Good and salient ideas can withstand criticism, satire, and mockery. We should learn to ignore material which some would deem offensive, unless we have something to hide.

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  • Randomstranger
    Jun 10, 2013 - 8:04PM

    By banning this for everyone else, they think they’d go to heaven. According to Islam, you are responsible for your own actions only. Hypocrites of the highest order these people are. Pakistan is unfortunately full of them.

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  • asim
    Jun 10, 2013 - 8:08PM

    SC-CJ has failed to provide REAL justice to the people of pakistan. He has failed to decide on important issues like holding public offices by convicted and criminals
    1) Appointment of Zardari as president
    2) Najam sethi as caretaker CM in violation of article 62/63
    3) Not ensuring article 62/63 being obeyed in the current elections
    4) allowing Nawaz to hold PM office despite serious charges

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  • Baloch
    Jun 10, 2013 - 8:17PM

    I want to laugh at this country.

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  • Amjad
    Jun 10, 2013 - 8:25PM

    Amjad Malik is CJ personal friend!

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  • Faraz
    Jun 10, 2013 - 8:31PM

    @abc:
    of course, we have lots of time to waste. Just like you cannot control everybody in the world, you cannot really control what goes on on the internet. Get your head out of sand and stop wanting to waste time on non-issues!

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  • KAY
    Jun 10, 2013 - 8:40PM

    Would the Chief Justice take view of the producers of the offensive movie to give their justification? Both sides should be heard ( matter should be debated) to make this clear who is right and who is wrong.Recommend

  • kanwal
    Jun 10, 2013 - 8:49PM

    Why in the world people based in UK want to implement their version of Islam here? Why cant they let us be? UK cicks them when they try to do things like these there. So they come here? I remember that nut Anjum Chaudhry trying to do the “sharia for pakistan” kindo f conference here last year. Live on benefits and protect islam. Wow.

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  • ali ahmed
    Jun 10, 2013 - 8:55PM

    Tahir-ul-Qadri petition rejected…UK based lawyer accepted…canadian national regarding memo gate accepted..it is not his fault because he can see with one eye….reference against him was correct….

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  • Mirza
    Jun 10, 2013 - 8:58PM

    It is great to see that we are being led by the citizens of foreign countries. Let us continue to emulate North Korea. The PCO CJ was rebuked by the Swiss judicial system and now the International laws are not going to help him in this case either. Internet is here to stay (just like printing press was) and nobody can control it. If we cannot counter the lies then we are finished.

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  • saeed
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:17PM

    CJ is feeling he is loosing media space . . . . a step to be in news again.

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  • ZIA
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:24PM

    CJ has asked to PTA to evaluate not ban right away. What is harm in blocking the offensive content from the internet.
    We are not doing something new. In China, there is huge part of internet that is blocked.
    I appreciate the right move to block the blasphemous content.

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  • Morons
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:26PM

    Meanwhile, down in the sewers of the unknown dirty worlds….

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  • Mj
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:27PM

    @Baloch:

    “I want to laugh at this country.”

    Despair would be a more apt reaction at this stage.

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  • Amazed Vish
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:33PM

    we do not see any suo moto notice taken after 1) atrocities on Christians 2) atrocities on shias 3) atrocities on ahmadis…..
    Now this suo moto notice is something which might end up crippling internet and make us all like “OSTRICH”……!!!!!!!
    my questions…
    1) we all know that we can die on road but does that mean we should remain indoors…??
    2) people living near red light area, know that they are living near centre of sins…so should they remain in basements…????
    Rather than banning internet by Govt….., parents should be more candid with their children and guide them what is right what is wrong….
    I leave the rest to your imagination….

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  • Chairman PTA
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:42PM

    There is no Chairman PTA for last 6 months.
    The honorable SC disqualified Mr Farooq Awan and then barred the interim government from appointing new Chairman PTA. So they are now demanding response from a ghost?

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  • Jun 10, 2013 - 9:42PM

    The British barrister would like to make a fool of our judiciary, and our Chief Justice is ready to be oblige him. The government has already cut power supply, now CJ to cut internet.

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  • Aviator
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:44PM

    How about taking notice against, and blocking violent extremist content on the Internet from the likes of the TTP, which is doing much more damage to Islam

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  • Anonymous
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:47PM

    Have you eva tried to touch your nose or chin with your tongue?

    Give me a break!Recommend

  • gp65
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:50PM

    @Antebellum: “Supreme Court should call the people from the Foreign Ministry (Foreign Secretary) as to why after so so many months they have not even bothered to initiate the process of a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between Pakistan and United States!”

    The absence of MLAT is a smokescreen since the US government does not have the authority to order google to remove the video which falls within US fee speech laws. What would help is if Pakistan worked to get a local version of youtube. This is what India, KSA etc. have and it is the local version of youtube from which the video was removed. However google is currently unwilling to go for a local youtube installation due to absence of appropriate electronic liability laws in Pakistan.

    If this issue has been taken up by CJ based on a petition by a UK based Pakisani, it cannot be described as suo moto. IT is however strange that this has been accepted by the Supreme court as a higher priority case over all the pending backlog in Supreme court. It also shows a lack of understanding over how the internet operates. If the Pakistani people do not speak up now, soon you will end up without internet access.

    The most sensible suggestion is the one by @Bilal. Why go looking for things that offend you and then throw a tantrum that you are offended? Just don’t look for that stuff and it will not bother you.

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  • hmmm
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:55PM

    This is comical, TuQ did not have standing to petition the Courts, yet this gentleman does…lol

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  • gp65
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:59PM

    @abc: “Its a problem of all Islamic countries. How about discussing it at oic forum and then take a joint initiative?”

    This issue of blasphemy was taken up by OIC in UN long before the issue of the blasphemous video came up. Initially their stand got support but as people recognized that the resolution was unilateral in terms of respect for only one faith, it started to lose support. In March, 2011, the UN Human Rights Council has shifted from protecting beliefs to protection of believers in its resolution.[45]
    In July, 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee released a 52-paragraph statement, General Comment 34, concerning freedoms of opinion and expression. According to paragraph 48, “Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant, except in the specific circumstances envisaged in article 20, paragraph 2, of the Covenant. Such prohibitions must also comply with the strict requirements of article 19, paragraph 3, as well as such articles as 2, 5, 17, 18 and 26. Thus, for instance, it would be impermissible for any such laws to discriminate in favor of or against one or certain religions or belief systems, or their adherents over another, or religious believers over non-believers. Nor would it be permissible for such prohibitions to be used to prevent or punish criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith.

    You can read the history of this issue here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation_of_religion_and_the_United_Nations

    Protecting believers instead of beliefs means that people practicing minority religion should be protected in countries where their faith may not be in majority. In fact this means that countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan would need to do a better job in giving freedom of worship to non-Muslims and protecting their lives.Recommend

  • gp65
    Jun 10, 2013 - 10:03PM

    @KAY: “Would the Chief Justice take view of the producers of the offensive movie to give their justification? Both sides should be heard ( matter should be debated) to make this clear who is right and who is wrong.”

    The producer of the movie is not a Pakistani. HE is a US citizen of Egyptian descent. His faith is Coptic Christian. As such your CJ has no jurisdiction over his actions.

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  • Pakistani
    Jun 10, 2013 - 10:03PM

    The main thing is that the CJ wants to control online criticism of his personality. Internet is the only forum that has not yet been intimidated by his contempt notices. Blasphemy is not but a false excuse.

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  • qzj00
    Jun 10, 2013 - 10:04PM

    @ZIA:
    China is surely a country to be emulated in earnest for human freedom!!!

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  • Breaking Bad
    Jun 10, 2013 - 10:12PM

    how difficult is to block xrated material? I am sure it is more damaging to our country.

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  • Umer
    Jun 10, 2013 - 10:14PM

    This guy has too much time in his hands.

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  • Khan
    Jun 10, 2013 - 10:17PM

    Amjad malik works for PMLN. I highly doubt this is him doing this out of his religious duty. It has more to do with politics than religion. Few days back PMLN Anusha rehman threatened to ban google for having blasphemous contents and now this!!

    Politicians are sick of social media exposing their true face hence they want a ban and tighter control on Internet to stop being exposed to the masses

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  • Emjay
    Jun 10, 2013 - 10:20PM

    Do we NOT have enough problems facing the country where suo moto actions are MUCH more needed than this ridiculous complain where someone from UK wants Pakistan to take actions on his behalf? Take suo moto actions against corruption if you are so suo-moto trigger happy.

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  • Gp65
    Jun 10, 2013 - 10:21PM

    @Breaking Bad: If it was simple to do so, then the video would have been blocked on YouTube. There are over a million instances of URL just for that one video. Now if you open it up to anything that is considered blasphemous all over Internet, it would be pretty much impossible. Also who will determine of something is blasphemous.

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  • Jun 10, 2013 - 10:44PM

    @shahid:
    General Choudhary of supreme court wants to impose m/l on internet.

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  • KAY
    Jun 10, 2013 - 10:47PM

    @gp65: In this case Pakistani muslims scholars should be asked to prove that the offensive material (events) shown in the movie are not true as per the historical evidence.
    Just claiming something to be blasphemous without a debate is not rational. Pakistani authorities should prove the material is blasphemous before criticizing and banning youtube.

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  • hmmm
    Jun 10, 2013 - 10:54PM

    @Amazed Vish:
    you are spot on…..

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  • Jun 10, 2013 - 10:57PM

    General choudhary wants to impose m/l on internet.

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  • AJ
    Jun 10, 2013 - 11:00PM

    Block specific blasphemous content by all means. But don’t block entire websites, like YourTube etc. It is plain foolish!

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  • Arifq
    Jun 10, 2013 - 11:08PM

    Instead of surfing the internet and wasting their valuable time, honorable judiciary should listen to the thousands of pending cases!

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  • Mj
    Jun 10, 2013 - 11:12PM

    I think the CJ is over-worked and needs to take a break, and possibly even retire. Would be good for him and the country.

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  • Masood Akhtar
    Jun 10, 2013 - 11:16PM

    Canadian based Cleric ( Tahir ul Qadri) when showed his concern over the unconstitutional electoral body, he was given a shut up call by same judge while a UK based lawyer now wants moral policing on Pakistanis, is welcomed, height of hypocrisy and selective justice, isn’t it?

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  • iffi
    Jun 10, 2013 - 11:29PM

    Thank you CJ for providing free entertainment to world. This is happening while real cases are piling up.

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  • Waziristani
    Jun 10, 2013 - 11:33PM

    These are signs of Mullah Gardhi. If we want a peaceful and progress Pakistan; say no to Mullah-ism.

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  • Sigh.
    Jun 10, 2013 - 11:37PM

    Well, After having the honor of getting the most criticism on ET. No wonder, he would want to ban the comments section on ET as well.

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  • iffi
    Jun 10, 2013 - 11:43PM

    Ban the twitter and facebook while you are at it.These tools of demon are conspiracy against Pakistanis. Please dont ban the x-rated stuff though or whole nation will end up watching late night talk shows. Please continue the media circus and you will have your popularity ratings going off the roof before retirement.
    To All. Please forward your petition/fake issues to registrar. Make sure these have potential for good ratings in media.
    Please dont forward government corruption cases anymore. We dont have a Sindhi government for scapegoating

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  • Sigh.
    Jun 11, 2013 - 12:05AM

    Kindly editors of ET, publish my comment. :)

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  • Alucard
    Jun 11, 2013 - 12:12AM

    The internet is vast and free, and has space for all kinds of opinions and facts – many of which could be unpalatable to various different/divergent groups. Religion in general and Islam in particular cannot claim immunity from this sphere of criticism (some rational, some irrational) whilst at the same time using it as a medium to promote itself.

    Islam is an ideological phenomenon just like any other, and if you put yourself out there as a muslim, be prepared to defend your beliefs with reasoned arguments – not emotional backwardness. I expected better from a sitting CJ.

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  • numbersnumbers
    Jun 11, 2013 - 12:14AM

    IF, and I repeat IF, the Chief Justice wanted to do something about the YouTube ban, then he could ORDER the appropriate entity inside Pakistan to formulate AND PASS the IPL law that would enable a localized YouTube hub to be set up in Pakistan!!!
    The Chief Justice could go to Wikipedia and look up “YouTube” to see a list of more than 50 countries (many Muslim) across the globe that have set up localized YouTube hubs so that they could control (Censor?) the content that is viewable inside their countries!
    Maybe then the Chief Justice could inquire as to WHY this has not been done by the appropriate parties in the Pakistani government!!

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  • Jason Hollier
    Jun 11, 2013 - 12:35AM

    What is blasphemy? It only exists in your collective heads. If you didn’t perceive it so personally and ignored it it would go away. The more you protest and destroy your own property the more incentive it gives people to say things that they now will provoke your reaction. Why can’t you be mature about this and realize that someone abusing your religion isn’t harming any person dead or alive? The reputation of your religious figures can only be tarnished by the behavior of their followers. The blasphemy law was introduced by a small-minded person who couldn’t see that mere words can’t destroy a religion. So for goodness sake grow up and join the world community.

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  • gp65
    Jun 11, 2013 - 1:53AM

    @numbersnumbers: You are correct about what is needed. It is the laws that relate to electronic liability that need to be implemented (currently Pakistan does not have them) in order to have a local youtube implementation. But I do not think it i within the judge’s scope to ask the parliament what laws it can pass. In any case this particular case is not even about youtube. IT is a much broader thing about why some ‘blasphemous material’ exists on internet. So even if there were a local youtube version, such a broad question cannot be resolved. I am just surprised that a petition like this is accepted by CJ. IT shows a lack of understanding about how internet works.

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  • Ghori
    Jun 11, 2013 - 3:32AM

    You people commenting should realize internet needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs internet.

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  • Parvez
    Jun 11, 2013 - 6:08AM

    It is unbelievably silly. CJ has decade old cases pending in his courts and he is going after the Internet. Does he even understand what Internet is all about? A lawyer from UK? He should have been asked to file this petition in UK.
    Where is our country heading into? We already have YouTube banned? What is going to be banned now?

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  • vow
    Jun 11, 2013 - 7:45AM

    @Amazed Vish:
    so suitably put into context…you are absolutely rightRecommend

  • BetelQ8
    Jun 11, 2013 - 9:55AM

    Its the right time, Mr. C.J. Punish the internet, its inventors and its users all around. Thx.

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  • Danish Abbasi
    Jun 11, 2013 - 9:57AM

    I give 10-12 hours regularly to Internet daily. I never find any of such content & I am sure more than 80% Internet user never saw such content, even mostly people are not aware of any such content available on Internet. If someone don’t want to watch blasphemous stuff by him/her self no one can enforce him/her to watch that. So the applicant should have some sense and if he had problem he should file case in UK court where he lives.

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  • Gp65
    Jun 11, 2013 - 10:11AM

    @Parvez:
    You know that familiar refrain of first they came for the communists… Can probably be restated as
    First they came for cell phone late night packages and I was quiet because I did not use them
    Then they banned cellphones randomly during the day and I kept quiet because they said it would keep me safe
    Then they came for the YouTube and I said nothing because I did not use YouTube
    Then they came for google search and I was quiet because I did not have an Internet connection
    Finally they got my tongue and there was nothing I could say.

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  • Yaida M
    Jun 11, 2013 - 11:33AM

    Muslims should just boycott such sites. They have no business reading blasphemous stuff anyway. By banning the internet you’re not going to stop them reading this stuff. What is the point of this suo moto notice then?

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  • Jun 11, 2013 - 12:33PM

    CJ sahib, whats next? banning Mcdonalds ?

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  • Proletarian
    Jun 11, 2013 - 12:41PM

    Internet sites based outside Pakistan are not the CJ’s jurisdiction. Let all content be equally availabe to everyone. Then it would be a matter of personal choice whether someone wants to see that offensive content or not. The CJ better stop mucking about and convict some terrorists for once in his life.

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  • Azeem
    Jun 11, 2013 - 2:01PM

    There should be a nationwide protest of the blasphemous content on internet, every computer should be burned down, every internet provider should suffer & every internet user should bocott. Well Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

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  • Hatf XX
    Jun 11, 2013 - 2:13PM

    @Ghouri: Best Comment Ever!

    But seriously, Honourable CJ Sahib is right. Internet is the biggest threat to Islam and should be destroyed!

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  • Ali Hamza
    Jun 11, 2013 - 2:20PM

    Cant an easy solution be to just ignore such contents. by discussing them we are actually marketing them

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  • RZ
    Jun 11, 2013 - 4:34PM

    Thank you Mr. CJ… I am sure the internet really cares…

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  • Muneer
    Jun 11, 2013 - 4:38PM

    What is this ‘Human Rights Cell of the SC.Is it intelligence agency of the CJ ?.

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  • Genesis
    Jun 11, 2013 - 4:39PM

    Obsession with all things religious and not the welfare of the people like poverty,education,health……..

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  • Kulas
    Jun 11, 2013 - 4:55PM

    If a religion is robust enough in it’s ideology, it does not need censorship or blasphemy laws to protect it’s existence. On the other hand, if there are weaknesses in the ideology it would need crutches of blasphemy laws, censorship for it’s sustenance.

    Time to ponder over!!

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  • IZ
    Jun 11, 2013 - 4:59PM

    speedy justice for UK citizens results in banning internet for Pakistanis! Now this is justice!

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  • Jun 11, 2013 - 5:18PM

    Why dont we just ban the internet. This should make everything right. right?

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