Popular social networking website Facebook on Thursday said it would send a team to Pakistan to help resolve the country’s reservations over ‘blasphemous and objectionable’ material on its web pages.
An interior ministry spokesperson said that the Facebook management was aware of Pakistan’s reservations and wanted to resolve the issue through mutual consultation and dialogue.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has appointed a focal person to get into constant contact with the Facebook administration.
The move came hours after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan vowed to take every step to ‘eliminate’ blasphemous content from social networking sites.
The minister in his fresh statement also made it clear that the government could go to any extent to curb this menace.
“The government will take a final decision on the functioning of social networking sites, including Facebook, Twitter, etc, in Pakistan within the next three to four days,” he added.
“We will take strict steps if their administration responds in the negative without taking into account any criticism”.
He lamented that no one could talk about the Holocaust in the West and the US but Islam and its sacred personalities were being insulted in the name of freedom of expression.
“I want to make to clear on behalf of the government that we would also go to any extent to take action against those who committed blasphemy on social media,” he said. At the same time, he said that no innocent person should be accused of this crime without a probe or investigation.
The minister admitted that action would only be possible when the administration of Facebook would cooperate with Islamabad. The FIA and intelligence personnel could hunt down those who upload blasphemous content within Pakistan but not those who upload such content out of Pakistan. In the past, he recalled, the social media giant had denied providing details in a case in the name of freedom of expression.
“I have directed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to talk to the administration of Facebook and other social media outlets to block all blasphemous content,” the minister said.
Similarly, he said, these sites would have to share particulars of the persons behind the uploading of such content.
“In this regard, an officer in the Pakistan Embassy in Washington has been tasked to play the role of messenger between the administration of the social networking sites and FIA,” he added. The government has also engaged the services of an international legal counsel, he said.
He deplored that the practice was continued for the last many years but no ministry or PTA ever took action
The FIA, according to the minister, had shortlisted 11 Pakistanis involved in chatting on these blasphemous posts and they were being summoned for interrogation.
“But they are not the culprits,” he said, adding that if some Pakistan-based bloggers were found guilty, they would be brought back to the country.
The lawmakers in the National Assembly also passed a resolution against this content.
Responding to other questions, the minister said the committee formed by the government to probe the motives behind the story of Dawn about sensitive security meetings had not submitted its report till yet.
On the issue of the money laundering case against MQM founder Altaf Hussain and Dr Imran Farooq’s murder case, the interior minister said that though the government enjoyed good relations with the British some “legal issues were becoming irritants” in these relations.