Online blasphemy case: IHC asks govt to ban movies against Islam, Pakistani culture

Orders to form a high-level committee to examine the issue of pornography


Rizwan Shehzad January 26, 2018
The Islamabad High Court. PHOTO: File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ordered authorities to ban all foreign movies violating Islamic teachings and the laws, moral values and culture of Pakistan.

In the remarks made on Friday during hearing of the online blasphemy case, the IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui said all the movies and video games responsible for promoting pornography and violence must be banned.

“Movies coming from foreign countries – if they violate any law of Pakistan, moral values, Islamic teachings and Pakistani culture – must be banned regardless of the origin of the movies and take measures in accordance with law,” Justice Siddique said.

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He also ordered forming a high-level committee which will examine the issue of pornography, its availability on the internet, TV channels and other means and devices, with suggestions of immediate, short term and long term measures to stop ‘this menace against society’.

“The committee will be headed by the secretary cabinet division and comprised of secretaries of the ministries of Interior, religious affairs, information technology and broadcasting with the special participation of chairmen of Perma [Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority] and PTA [Pakistan Telecommunication Authority],” he added.

The court said the very purpose of insertion of pornography in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (Peca) was to take preventive measures against the onslaught through internet, TV channels and other means.

He said the values of Pakistani nation and its young generation were being attacked and it was expected from the executive functionaries to take some remedial steps. “But unfortunately this alarming and chronic issue failed to attract the attention of persons at the helm of affairs.”

With regard to insertion of provisions for punishment in case of false accusation of blasphemy, the Additional Attorney General Afnan Karim Kundi told the court that all the stakeholders had been involved and it was expected that the matter would soon be placed before the cabinet for its approval.

“At least 30 days’ time is required for that purpose,” he added.

The PTA official Nisar Ahmed told the court that pornography is controllable and bids have been invited for expression of interest in order to deploy suitable technical solution for controlling unlawful content.

However, Kundi revealed during the hearing that definition of the clause of ‘pornography’ requires clarification and he sought at least a fortnight’s time for this purpose. He said the slots for both the PTA chairman and member finance were lying vacant.

The IHC directed the government to appoint the PTA chairman and member finance within a fortnight, noting that an important authority had become dysfunctional for all intents and purposes.

In response to an earlier order, the Ministry of Interior special secretary submitted an interim report showing progress and steps taken pursuant to the court order.

The steps include final approval of amendment in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) schedule; preparation of proposed draft for insertion of definition of blasphemy and pornography in Peca, and stance of the PTA that being an independent authority is fully empowered to enhance its capacity for carrying out its mandate.

The progress report said public service messages by the Ministry of Information were sent to Pemra for allocation of 10% air time. In response to Pemra’s instruction, 38 TV channels had started allocating time, but still some leading news channels were not ready to allocate the time.

The court order issued after the hearing revealed that there were serious complaints that different channels through morning shows are involved in activities which are against the decency, morality, values of Islam and cultural heritage of Pakistan. “[It] is a matter of great concern for all the families,” it said.

As some items of different channels clearly fall within the definition of obscenity, pornography, Justice Siddiqui directed Pemra to submit a report in this regard and take immediate steps to prevent telecast of such content. “If any channel fails to follow the instructions, penal action may be taken against the channel,” he said.

Justice Siddiqui directed Pemra chairman to take action against the TV channels, which are not allocating time for public service messages. He also sought a report in this regard before the court on next hearing on February 16

 

 

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