ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court ordered on Monday that the top leadership of the country needs to become pro-active on the issue for raising national ‘firewall’ enabling Pakistan to monitor the country’s internet traffic and all the users.
The directions for the national firewall came when Justice Shaukat Aziz Sidiqui inquired from all the officials in attendance what preventive measures were there if a war is waged through social media, noting in the order, “Unfortunately no satisfactory answer came from any of the officers,”
In the order, the court also noted that the “Ministry of Information Technology is behaving like a silent spectator having no mechanism to deal with the issue and visionary approach with regard to steps to be taken” to deal with the whole issue.
To this, the Secretary Ministry of Interior Arif Ahmed Khan undertook to take up the issue at the highest level so that concerns of the court are addressed.
He submitted that the issue of national firewall would be discussed with the high-ups.
When the case was taken up, the secretary informed the court that a session of envoys from Islamic countries, presided by Minster of Interior Chaudhry Nissar Ali Khan, had evolved a strategy to take up the issue at international forums.
When enquired if a protest was recorded by the Foreign Office to the ambassador of the country owning the social media website Facebook, the secretary replied in the negative and submitted that the issue was needed to be raised.
Khan further informed the court that Facebook administration has removed 85 per cent of blasphemous content from the social networking website on Pakistan’s request, adding that only 15 per cent of such content is remaining. “Banning Facebook is not the solution,” he added.
He also placed a copy of letter responded by the vice president Global Public Policy Facebook to the interior minister.
A director of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) informed the bench that the agency has arrested three suspects over their alleged involvement in publishing blasphemous content on social media over the past few days. He added that mobile phones, laptops and computers from the suspects’ possession have already been sent for forensic examination.
The suspects have been arrested on the suspicion of spreading blasphemous content via social media.
Clarifying that the court is not supposed to supervise the investigation, Justice Siddiqui said that it was up to FIA to deal with the issue by ensuring due process of law, transparency and merit oriented conclusion. He said there was no need to submit reports in this regard.
Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Syed Ismael informed the court that a 25-member team has been working to search blasphemous content online, adding that the authority has so far taken action against 40 pages containing blasphemous material.
Previously, the PTA chief said, Facebook administration would not even consider blasphemous material [a violation] but now the FB administration has not only realised the issue but also removed such reported pages.
“Facebook’s agreement with our demands is a big achievement,” Ismail said, “they have assured to comply with our demand.”
During the hearing, Justice Siddiqui noted that the authorities concerned have yet to submit a report regarding insertion of the sections related to blasphemy and pornography in the Cyber Crimes Act and about the NGOs operating in Pakistan with an agenda to spread blasphemous content and promoting pornography.
He directed to submit the report by the next date of hearing.