ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on Wednesday directed the interior ministry to crack down on any individual or group involved in posting blasphemous material about the Hindu religion.

A picture of Pakistan Tehreek-i- Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan depicted as a Hindu god has been doing the rounds on social media in what is also believed to be a concerted campaign against the opposition party.

The speaker issued the directives following a protest by Hindu legislators who said that their faith was being smeared in a wave of hate speech online. The issue was raised as a point of order by Ramesh Lal who presented an example of the blasphemous content — a picture of a Hindu deity with the PTI chairman’s face.

Such posts have deeply hurt the religious sentiments of more than four million Hindus living in Pakistan. The MNA said that such offences were covered by cyber laws and should not remain unpunished.

Demanding legal action against the perpetrators for posting blasphemous content, he asked the speaker to order an inquiry into the matter.

Another parliamentarian, Lal Chand Malhi, said there was evidence of a malicious online campaign targeting the minority community and desecrating images that were revered by millions of Pakistani Hindus.

In response to the complaints, Speaker Sadiq directed Minister of State for Interior Tallal Chaudhry to complete the inquiry within seven days. He also directed the state minister to lodge a case against the culprits with the Federal Investigation Agency.

Later, Mr Lal, while speaking to Dawn, said that he and Mr Malhi had prepared a complaint to be made the basis of the FIR which was to be handed over to Mr Chaudhry, but the state minister had left the house before the complaint could be finalised. “We will hand it over to the minister on Thursday,” he said.

Mr Lal said the social media campaign against the Hindu community had been giong on for two weeks.

Earlier in the house, PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his party fully supported the Hindu community. He alleged that such content was being generated by the social media wing of a political party.

Commenting on the PTI allegation, Tallal Chaudhry said that the government strongly condemned all such acts, but unfortunately the internet was filled with blasphemous content that was used not only to hurt the feelings of the Hindu community but also to insult Muslims.

Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had in the past also taken up the issue of blasphemous content appearing on Facebook and even reached out to the management of the social networking website, asking it to not allow such offensive posts, but no action was taken.

Tallal Chaudhry assured the house that his ministry would investigate the online attacks on the Hindu faith and seek out the culprits.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2018