ISLAMABAD: Issues of blasphemous content on social media and recent incidents of mysterious disappearances of some bloggers once again resonated in both houses of parliament on Monday but with different tone and notes.
The upper house took the matter after a motion was moved by two opposition senators whereas it was taken up through points of order in the National Assembly.
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However, both the moves met the same fate. The NA speaker and the Senate chairman opted to remain neutral.
In the Senate, PPP’s Farhatullah Babar along with Senator Usman Kakar of PkMAP broached the matter. They were joined by Col (retd) Tahir Mashadi of MQM to support their point of view. Ruling party Senator Nehal Hashmi supported their demand for a parliamentary probe but called the action of purported bloggers not absolvable even if they had not committed blasphemy.
Babar said that if the bloggers were guilty of blasphemy they must be severely punished in accordance with the law. However, condemning them in the media without proof and without trial raised serious questions about the motives behind their disappearances.
Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Balighur Rehman said two of the bloggers—Salman Haider and Samar Abbas— had gone missing from Islamabad. Haider was back but the whereabouts of Abbass were still not known and efforts were being made to trace him.
The issue of alleged blasphemous material on social media dominated the National Assembly (NA) on Monday where some treasury members went to the extreme, demanding government the imposition of a blanket ban on social media.
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Prime Minister’s son-in law Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar made a emotional speech on a point of order. He lauded Islamabad High Court judge, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui for taking firm position on the issue.
He said with blasphemous content still available on social media he does not see Cyber Crime Act as being implemented. “Why are we being forced to lay our lives on the issue? Why PTA does not impose ban on social media? This is going to lead the country towards anarchy,” Safdar remarked.
JUI-F’s Naeema Kishwar Khan asked the Interior ministry to take action on blasphemous material on social media as IHC has already handed over the matter.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2017.