ISLAMABAD, March 2: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the government to block internet sites displaying sacrilegious cartoons and called explanation from authorities concerned as to why these sites had not been blocked earlier.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Faqir Mohammad Khokhar and Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan was hearing a petition of Dr Mohammad Imran Uppal.

It issued notices to Attorney General Makhdoom Ali Khan, Chairmen of the Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for March 13.

The federal government, Ministry of Telecommunication, Pemra, PTA, Yahoo Incorporation USA and I & I Co, the host of blasphemous site, have been cited as respondents in the petition.

Two petitions were filed against availability of blasphemous cartoons on websites; one by Dr Imran Uppal through his counsel Qamar Afzal, seeking complete blockage of sites showing blasphemous depictions and the other by Maulvi Iqbal Haider seeking registration of cases under blasphemy.

Makhdoom Ali Khan was also asked by the court to explore legal ways to block objectionable material on websites.

“We will not accept any excuse or any technical objection on this issue as it concerns sentiments of entire Muslim Ummah,” CJ observed adding all concerned authorities would have to appear in the court on next hearing with report of concrete measures for implementation of court’s order.

Chairman Pemra Iftikhar Rasheed submitted before the bench that blocking a website was out of the authority’s domain as it was the job of the PTA to deal with telecommunication infrastructure and Internet service.

Advocate Qamar Afzal argued that said the authorities concerned should have blocked these sites immediately and any delay on their part led to violation of blasphemy law.

Advocate Ibrahim Satti, counsel for petitioner Iqbal Haider, accused the government of criminal negligence by not registering criminal cases against those responsible for availability of blasphemous material on websites. He submitted that Pakistan was signatory of extradition treaty with many countries and responsible persons in other countries could be booked under existing national and international laws.

After preliminary hearing the court issued notices to all the respondents for March 13.

Dr Uppal in his petition had prayed the court to strictly restrain the respondent internet service providers from publishing, transmitting and advertising any blasphemous material to Internet and their subscribers in Pakistan.

FIR LODGED: Maulvi Iqbal Haider has lodged a criminal case with Secretariat Police Station Islamabad against Hans Engell, Editor and Ekstra Bladet, Editor in Chief of Jyllands-Posten Fond, Editor in Chief Raymonvzakh of France Soir Newspaper, Editor/Publisher of France Slir Newspaper, Verlagder, Owner and Editor of Die Weit of Germany for publishing the blasphemous cartoons.

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