IHC orders steps to halt pornography spread

| Directs government to appoint PTA chief in a fortnight

ISLAMABAD -  The Islamabad High Court yesterday ordered constitution of a high-level committee to stop proliferation of pornography in the country.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of IHC, hearing a petition for the implementation of the court judgment against blasphemous material on social media case, also directed the federal government to appoint Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) chairman and member (finance) within a fortnight.

In his three-page judgment, Justice Siddiqui said, “Let a committee, consisting of interior, information technology, religious affairs and information and broadcasting secretaries, with the special participation of Pemra and PTA chairmen, and headed by the cabinet division secretary, be constituted.”

He added, “The committee shall examine the issue of pornography, its availability through different devices to identity the areas and suggest immediate, short-term and long-term measures to be taken to stop this menace against the society.”

Justice Siddiqui continued, “The committee shall also examine the movies coming from foreign countries and take concrete steps to ban them if they are found against any law of Pakistan, moral values, Islamic teachings and Pakistani culture.”

During the hearing, Special Interior Secretary Rizwan Malik submitted an interim report showing comprehensive progress in the matter. He added in response to the court’s orders, the government had taken certain steps, including final approval of amendment in the FIA schedule, preparation of proposed draft for insertion of definition of blasphemy and pornography in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.

Regarding morning shows, Justice Siddiqui observed, “There are serious complaints that different channels through these shows are involved in such activities as are against the decency, morality, values of Islam and cultural heritage of Pakistan.”

The court, noting some items of different channels clearly fall within the definition of obscenity/pornography, directed the Pemra to submit a report in this regard and take immediate steps to prevent telecast of such contents, and if any channel failed to follow the instructions, penal action should be taken against it.

The court also directed the Pemra chairman to take action against those TV channels which are not allocating time for airing public service messages, and in that regard a report should also be submitted to the court.

Later, the IHC bench deferred the hearing till February 16 for further proceedings in the matter.

The case of blasphemy was heard and finally decided by Justice Siddiqui on August 11. Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf appeared before the court on March 31.

In the detailed judgment issued in Urdu, the bench had said whenever law-enforcement institutions/agencies receive a complaint about blasphemy, it is their duty to initiate immediate legal action and they should not differentiate between a good and a bad law. According to the court, every law in the books is alive and requires implementation.

Justice Siddiqui stressed the need to erect a firewall in the form of an institution whose primary duty should be to safeguard the ideological frontiers of Pakistan.

In the judgment, the IHC judge had discussed, in detail, freedom of expression, and on the court’s directions, the government had published advertisements to make the public aware of the conditions for the freedom of expression.

In the main petition, Salman Shahid, through his counsel Muhammad Tariq Asad advocate, had prayed to the court to block blasphemous pages on the social media and direct the government to initiate legal proceedings against the page administrators.


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