ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has suggested that parliament make the blasphemy law tougher by fixing the same punishment for any person misusing it or falsely accusing someone of blasphemy.

In a detailed order issued on Friday, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui also ordered a complete ban on the social networking site Facebook in case the website management does not conform to Pakistani laws.

The court on March 31, 2017, had issued a short order on a petition seeking elimination of blasphemous content from social media.

In the 116-page detailed judgment, Justice Siddiqui discussed in detail the common criticism of the blasphemy law.

He said due to the misuse of the law critics even demanded abolishing it, adding it was better to stop exploitation of the law rather than abolishing it.

Currently, there is a very minor punishment for falsely accusing someone of blasphemy, says the court

“Admittedly, not a single convict whether Muslim or non-Muslim has ever been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan,” the judgment added.

It also explained how people due to their personal enmity managed to drag their rivals into blasphemy cases endangering the life of not only the accused person but all his family members and relatives.

However, under the existing law, the false accuser can only face proceedings under Section 182 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), it added.

Section 182 of the PPC entails the maximum punishment of six months or a fine up to Rs1,000 only.

According to the judgment, this is a very minor punishment for such a serious offence of accusing someone of blasphemy.

The court said since blasphemy directly hurt the emotions of the followers of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), while registering a case the investigation officer should consider adding sub-section (f) and (p) of Section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.

The judge referred the matter to the legislature to amend the law for awarding the same punishment for lodging a false complaint under the blasphemy law.

Besides, the court directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to create a firewall to block unwanted and sacrilegious content in Pakistan.

The court acknowledged steps taken by the federal government to eliminate such content from the social media. It, however, directed the interior ministry and other departments concerned to vigorously take up the matter with the Facebook management.

In case, the Facebook management does not remove the indecent content against the holy prophet and revered personalities the website may be banned completely in Pakistan, the verdict said.

It, however, advised the government functionaries to negotiate with Facebook which earns reasonable revenues from Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2017

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