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Court seeks ISI’s assistance in blasphemous content case

Updated March 18, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Expanding the scope of investigation into the blasphemous content on the social media, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday sought assistance from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Resuming the hearing of a petition seeking removal of blasphemous content from social media, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui summoned a senior official of the intelligence agency to the next hearing on March 22.

At the outset, the judge asked Islamabad Advocate General Mian Abdul Rauf to apprise the court about the steps taken to block and permanently remove the blasphemous webpages, progress on amending the cybercrime act and enabling the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to act against uploading of blasphemous and objectionable content as well as the identification of those responsible.

Mr Rauf told the court that the blasphemous content had been removed and the government had expressed serious concerns with the Facebook management on the issue. He said the Facebook management had appointed a focal person and would also send a team to Pakistan in the near future.

The advocate general also informed the court about the progress on identifying the persons uploading the blasphemous content. He, however, said since blasphemy was an offence under the Pakistan Penal Code, there was no need to include it in the cybercrime act.

FIA Director Mazharul Haq Kakakhel informed the court that they were investigating about 75 people in connection with the blasphemy case. The FIA is also consulting a lawyer to take up the matter with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), he said.

The official, however, linked a tangible progress on the case with the active cooperation of the Facebook management.

The court expressed dissatisfaction over the reply of the advocate general and the FIA.

Justice Siddiqui asked the government’s counsel to ensure the attendance of the attorney general in the next hearing. He remarked that the court would also consult religious scholars and would seek their input on the misuse of the blasphemy law.

When the court asked about the airing of obscene content on television channels, Pemra Chairman Absar Alam conceded an indecency in some TV shows.

He told the court that Pemra had stopped the broadcast of Indian movies and dramas besides issuing directions against the airing of programmes that promoted violence.

An additional secretary of the information ministry informed the court about the steps taken to publicise Article 19 of the Constitution which ensures freedom of information with reasonable restrictions.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2017