Blasphemy: IHC directs authorities to block all social media if necessary

Orders interior minister to appear in person today in case regarding 'objectionable' Facebook pages

Rizwan Shehzad March 07, 2017
Orders interior minister to appear in person today in case regarding 'objectionable' Facebook pages. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday ordered Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to eliminate access to blasphemous content on social media, even if it means blocking all access to social media platforms.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, while ordering the interior minister to appear in person before the court on Wednesday (today) in the case pertaining to blasphemous pages on social media, observed that he expected that the minister “take some steps in his own supervision to eliminate the evil, even at the cost of blocking the entirety social media”.

Objectionable content: Block ‘blasphemous pages’ on social media, directs IHC

“Due to the delicacy, importance and seriousness of the issue,” Justice Siddiqui stated, “Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, be directed to appear in person tomorrow”. The direction was issued after the interior secretary failed to appear in favour of another official engagement.
“It is shameful that delicate and sensitive matters remained unattended by the executive of the country,” Justice Siddiqui noted while wiping tears from his eyes.

He compared blasphemers to “terrorists”, justifying the comparison by asking what else could be worse than such acts.

When the inspector general of the Islamabad Police tried to assure the judge that action would be taken if an order is passed, the bench noted that “the matter requires immediate attention, otherwise the patience of the followers of the Prophet (PBUH) may run out”.

On Feb 27, the court had ordered authorities to block “blasphemous pages” on social media and directed some key government officials to submit replies within a week and appear in person before the court in the next hearing.

In compliance with the order, PTA Chairman Ismail Shah, IGP Tariq Masood Yasin, IT Secretary Rizwan Bashir, NR3C Project Director Shafiqur Rehamn, along with Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other officials appeared before the court.

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Petitioner Salman Shahid, through his counsel Tariq Asad, had approached the IHC saying blasphemy was being committed through certain social media pages.

The petitioner alleged that five bloggers, including Salman Haider, Ahmed Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed, Ahmed Raza Naseer and Samar Abbas, created pages like Bhainsa, Mochi, and Roshni to commit blasphemy through these pages.

Before filing the case, the petition states, the petitioner approached the FIA requesting it to lodge FIRs against the bloggers after conducting an inquiry. It added that a deputy director FIA had assured the petitioner that an FIR would be registered against the bloggers under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code after seeking an opinion from the FIA’s legal branch.

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Later, the counsel said, the petitioner came to know that the deputy director has ordered an investigation officer to conduct an inquiry against Haider had told the academic to not leave the country till the conclusion of the inquiry.

Meanwhile, Islamabad Judicial Magistrate Abdul Ghafoor Kakar allowed the investigation and registration of an FIR against the bloggers, but in the first week of January, all five bloggers were disappeared. They were later safely ‘recovered’.