PESHAWAR, June 25: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday directed the federal government to hold inter-ministerial committee meeting of the ministries concerned for formulating a policy to block blasphemous and other objectionable contents on social media including Facebook.

A two-member bench comprising PHC Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Asadullah Khan Chamkani ordered the inter-ministerial committee comprising officials of the ministries of telecommunication, information technology, trade and commerce and interior to convene the meeting within 15 days and decide how to implement certain recommendations of the committee earlier presented to the federal government.

The bench ordered that the recommendations, including signing of an agreement between the Pakistan and US governments as most of the companies running social media websites were functioning there, should be implemented.

The agreement will enable these companies, including Google, to set up their sub-offices in Pakistan following which they will be liable to follow the laws of the country.

The bench disposed of a writ petition filed by an advocate of the high court, Arif Jan, requesting to order the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block Facebook, a social networking site, as anti-Islamic forces were using it for creating unrest among the Muslims by constantly uploading blasphemous material on it.

Ikram Ahmad, a director of PTA, informed the bench that in accordance with the order of the high court they had blocked two pages on Facebook carrying blasphemous material. He added that on daily basis they were blocking pages on different sites carrying objectionable materials after receiving complaints.

The official said that so far they had blocked around 20,000 pages including websites carrying objectionable material and last year they had blocked Youtube.

When the bench inquired whether they had no strategy or capability of filtering websites, the official said that so far no such technology had been invented even in the developed countries that could filter the websites and automatically block it if it carried certain objectionable contents.

However, he added that they had heard that in the US they had developed an indigenous mechanism for such filtering.

Mr Ahmad said that on a single day they had blocked 800 URLs (uniform resource locater) or web pages, but the persons involved in such activities continued to upload more such pages.

He produced certain recommendations given during a recent meeting of inter-ministerial committee stating that they had proposed if the companies concerned agreed to open their sub-offices in Pakistan they could be then made responsible to follow laws of the country.

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