False blasphemy accusation is a serious crime: IHC
ISLAMABAD – The Islamabad High Court on Monday directed FIA director general to submit a report how some bloggers who allegedly committed blasphemous and anti-state activities on social media managed to leave Pakistan.
The court directed the Federal Investigation Agency chief to personally supervise the inquiry and take action strictly in accordance with the law.
IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui issued these directives while hearing a contempt of court petition for not complying with the court orders for blocking social media pages and websites containing blasphemous material.
The judge remarked that leveling blasphemy charges against innocent people was also a crime and directed to ensure that an innocent person may not be wrongly accused of it and grilled on false charges.
“Falsely accusing someone of blasphemy is an offence as serious as blasphemy itself,” Justice Siddiqui said. “The people are very emotional and they take the law in their hands even in case of a mere allegation against someone.”
During the hearing, Interior secretary submitted that the whole government machinery has been put into action and sensitivity of the situation has been realised at the highest level while necessary directives have been issued.
He also informed the court that all intelligence and law enforcement agencies have started an investigation to identify the real culprits, their abettors and sponsors.
Justice Siddiqui observed that it was the right time to create awareness among the masses regarding their right of expression guaranteed under Article 19 that was not an absolute right.
He said in his judgment, “Whosoever crosses the limit is guilty of disrespect to the constitution and liable to be prosecuted under the relevant provisions of law.”
The court directed information ministry secretary to launch a campaign on electronic, print and social media highlighting Article 19 of the constitution, prescribed limitation [on freedom of speech] and consequences of its non-adherence.
“Advertisement must contain that interpretation of constitution and law comes within the domain of superior courts of the country and amendment to the constitution is the prerogative of the parliament.”
Secretaries of ministries of interior and of information technology presented progress reports in respect of meetings of top officials and experts.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) chairman submitted that more than 70 pages and sites containing blasphemous content have been blocked. He further submitted that there was a realisation of the gravity of the issue and further positive results will be achieved in the shortest possible time.
Information secretary submitted a letter written to the principal information officer, Pemra chairman, Director General Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, PTV MD and IHC registrar wherein it has been stressed to maintain morality, decency and preservation of social fabric while minutely observing contents of the broadcast and published advertisements.
An additional DG of FIA submitted a report showing the progress in inquiry and FIA director Mazharul Haq Kakakhail informed the court that they have identified almost nine websites where there was some blasphemous material.
He said that the FIA has also written to the Facebook administration for assistance in identifying the real culprits. Further, the FIA would file a petition against Facebook under international law, he said.
The court directed FIA DG to submit a report that alleged bloggers, who went missing and then resurfaced, were involved in what kind of activity and how some of them managed to leave Pakistan.
Islamabad IGP sought time for submitting a reply that why Islamabad police did not take any action against the bloggers when I-9 police received an application in January.
Later, the IHC bench adjourned the proceedings till March 17 with directions to the information secretary to submit a compliance report and advertisement campaign material at the next date of hearing.
Earlier, during the hearing, Justice Siddiqui requested media and clerics not to launch any campaign in his favour. Talking about Asma Jehangir comments, Justice Siddiqui said that it does not matter to him if someone calls him a Khateeb or Imam Masjid.
Interior Secretary Arif Ahmad Khan, Information Secretary Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Information Technology Secretary Rizwan Bashir Khan, FIA DG Muhammad Amlesh, PTA Chairman Dr Syed Ismail Shah, Advocate General for Islamabad Capital Territory Mian Abdul Rauf, Deputy Attorney General Arshad Mehmood Kiani, PTA counsel Barrister Munawar Iqbal Duggal, ICT Inspector General Tariq Masood Yasin, and some other officers appeared before the court during the court proceedings.
In the main petition, petitioner Salman Shahid has sought blockage of blasphemous pages on social media and directions for the government to initiate legal proceedings against the page administrators.