Bring back bloggers, IHC orders FIA

Published: April 1, 2017
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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to bring back the bloggers – who went missing in January and left Pakistan after their ‘recovery’– and to initiate a legal action against them if there is any evidence about their committing blasphemy on social media.

In its three-page summary judgment on a case against blasphemous content on social media sites, the IHC on Friday also directed the FIA to continue its investigation into the alleged online blasphemy on merit and to incorporate any fresh complaint.

Five bloggers – Salman Haider, Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed, Ahmed Raza Naseer and Samar Abbas – had gone missing in the first and second week of January from different parts of the country.

Abducted blogger breaks silence after recovery

Shortly after their disappearances, blasphemy allegations against them had appeared on social media and in a complaint to police. A social media campaign – painting the missing bloggers as blasphemers – triggered a flood of threats despite denials from their families.

Later a rights campaigner, Jibran Nasir, also approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan to intervene in the matter, claiming that there was no publicly available evidence if any of these missing activists were administering a webpage ‘Bhensa’ which is often accused of publishing blasphemous content.

One of the bloggers, Waqas Goraya, had also denied involvement in committing any blasphemy in an interview published after ‘his release’.

Third missing activist found, flees country fearing for life: family

On Friday, the IHC judge Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui also asked the Ministry of Interior (MoI) to identify the NGOs operating in Pakistan with an agenda to spread blasphemy and pornography, and initiate action against them.

The judge asked the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to evolve a comprehensive mechanism to identify social media pages and websites containing blasphemous content.

The PTA chairman was also directed to evolve a mechanism to create awareness of blasphemy and pornography with penal consequences under the law.

The IHC directed the government to remove blasphemous content from social media sites and identify the people involved in posting such content.  In this regard, it ordered the MoI’s secretary to constitute a panel to carry out a campaign for removing such content and to identify the culprits.

The court also directed the Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali to take steps within a month to incorporate prevention of blasphemy and pornography in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 as well as to address the issue of penal consequences of false accusation of blasphemy.

He also directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to evolve a comprehensive mechanism to identify social media pages and websites containing blasphemous content.

The detailed judgment of the case will be issued later.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2017.

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