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Facebook approached for access to record of blocked pages, FIA tells IHC

Updated March 13, 2017

The government has approached Facebook for access to the records of three controversial pages accused of spreading blasphemous content, the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Mazhar Kakakhail, told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday.

Kakakhail told the court that the FIA had written to Facebook seeking the details and records of the three pages, which were blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for carrying blasphemous content.

The IHC is hearing a case pertaining to the dissemination of blasphemous content through social media.

The case, filed by Salman Shahid, argues that the presence of blasphemous content on social media websites is "hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims".

The petition also alleges that pages and videos defaming the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) and revered personalities had not been blocked by the respondents nor had any steps been taken to remove the content.

Secretary Interior Mohammad Arif Khan, PTA Chairman Syed Ismail Shah, IG Islamabad Tariq Masood Yasin, and senior officials from the information technology (IT) ministry apprised the court on Monday about the progress they have made so far in connection with the case.

Kakakhail said that three of the 'blasphemous' pages had already been blocked, whereas five to six other pages carrying blasphemous content had been marked.

He further said that an application will be launched under international law if the Facebook administration failed to comply with the Pakistani government's request.

"We are at an earlier stage of inquiry in this regard," he added.

Secretary Interior Arif Khan assured the court that those responsible for the blasphemous pages would be identified within a week. He said that investigations are underway as the interior minister had ordered a probe.

PTA has blocked more than 70 such websites, he said, adding that the authority was "trying their level best" to follow legal procedure while investigating the matter.

In his remarks, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui directed the officials to expedite the investigation and also warned them to "handle the case carefully".

"To put a blame on an innocent [person] is in itself a grave sin," he cautioned.

"Anyone who committed blasphemy will not be able to dodge the law. We will pass an order such that no one will dare to do so in the future," he said.

"Some philosophers in media believe that their consent should be sought before any step is taken," he said, while commenting on the criticism this case has received.