Lahore High Court. -File Photo
LAHORE The government blocked on Wednesday access to Facebook after the Lahore High Court ordered closure of the social networking website until May 31 for holding a competition of blasphemous drawings. Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry asked Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Director Mudassar Husain to file a detailed report on the matter.

The judge also sought assistance of petitioner Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ahmed and other lawyers on relevant international laws.

The PTA director told the court that the closure of the website would damage the national economy. He said the country could lose the internet facility after blocking access to the website.

He said the PTA had already blocked links to the controversial webpage which had hosted the competition, instead of blocking the whole website. He said the link had been blocked on Tuesday evening.

The official's remarks infuriated many lawyers present in the courtroom and Advocate Mohammad Azhar Siddique said that Muslims were ready to suffer any loss to curb blasphemy.

The judge asked both parties to sit together, find a solution to the dispute and return to the court after break.

Consultations held in the deputy attorney general's office remained inconclusive and the matter was left for the court to decide.

When the hearing resumed, the judge ordered that the website be blocked till May 31, the next date of hearing.

Chaudhry Zulfiqar of the Islamic Lawyers' Forum had said that Article 2-A of the Constitution envisaged that no practice against religion could be allowed in the country. He said the website having various features against the injunctions of Islam was banned in a number of Muslim countries.

After the court's decision, the PTA ordered all the operators in the country to block the website, www.facebook.com, until further orders. It said the directives had been issued by the ministry of information technology and telecommunication in view of the LHC's order.

On Tuesday, the PTA had instructed all concerned to block the objectionable link/URL on Facebook which was immediately blocked.

The authority has set up a crisis cell to monitor such contents and announced that toll free number 0800-55055 and email address complaint@pta.gov.pk can be used to notify it of URLs where objectionable material is available.

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