ISLAMABAD: Amidst ongoing controversy over the circulation of blasphemous content on social media, a Senate committee will be receiving a briefing from the high-ups of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) about the cases of cyber crimes in the country on Monday.

FIA Director General Mohammad Amlish will brief the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, headed by Rehman Malik of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), “on the number of cases of cyber crime detected so far,” says the 15-point agenda issued by the Senate Secretariat for the meeting.

The FIA DG has been called by the committee to also inform the members about the status and process of the cases being prosecuted by the agency and the details of the officials involved in the cases.

On Friday, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani told the members that his fake twitter account was still operational and letters written by him to the FIA director general and the PTA chairman had not worked.

Mr Rabbani had written letters to the heads of the FIA, Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Pakistan Telecomm­unication Autho­rity (PTA) that two fake accounts under his name were operational on the social media website Twitter, whereas he had no account on any social media website whatsoever.

After failure of the authorities concerned to track down those who had posted the blasphemous material on the social media, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan recently threatened to permanently block “all social media websites” that host blasphemous content.

The minister issued the statement hours after the Islamabad High Court ordered the government to open an investigation into online blasphemy, threatening to ban social media networks if they failed to censor content deemed insulting to Islam.

The minister had warned that the government could take the extreme step of permanently blocking all such social media websites if they refused to cooperate, saying that no country could allow religious sentiments to be hurt or top state functionaries to be subjected to ridicule under the pretext of freedom of expression.

The Senate has also adopted a resolution condemning the blasphemous content circulating on social media and seeking exemplary punishment for those behind it.

Through the resolution, the government was asked to put in place a regular mechanism to check circulation of such material on social networking sites and not to allow perverts to violate the law and commit blasphemy to create chaos in the country.

Speaking on the issue, a number of senators called for some restrictions on social media and pointed out that the government had the technology to identify the sources behind the malicious campaign.

The National Response Centre for Cyber Crime, a special unit established by the FIA to identify and curb the “technological abuse” in society, has been functioning since 2007 but so far it has failed to produce the desirable results and there has been an increase in the cases of cyber crime in the country.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2017