Pakistan court to block sites

2010-06-24 17:15
Lahore - A Pakistani court has ordered the authorities to block access to nine websites including Google, Yahoo and YouTube for allegedly offending Muslims with blasphemous material.

Judge Mazhar Iqbal ordered Pakistan's Telecommunications Authority to block the websites due to "material against the fundamental principals of Islam and its preaching"(sic), according to a copy of the judgement obtained by AFP.

Pakistan shut off Facebook for nearly two weeks in May in a storm of controversy about a competition to draw the Prophet Muhammad and has restricted access to hundreds of online links because of blasphemy.

Iqbal announced a short version of the order in the eastern city of Bahawalpur on Tuesday and released a written detailed order on Wednesday, said lawyer Latif ur-Rehman who brought the petition for the ban.

But while the PTA quickly implemented the earlier ban against Facebook in May, regulators said on Thursday that they had yet to receive the latest order.

Competent jurisdiction


"We have not yet received any directives from the ministry of information technology. The ministry is the decision-making authority," said Khurram Mehran, a PTA spokesperson.

The ministry was not immediately reachable for comment.

Iqbal called on the PTA and information technology ministry to submit detailed reports to the court next Monday.

Retired civil servant Siddique Mohammad had petitioned the court through Rehman for the ban on nine websites - Google, Yahoo, Amazon, MSN, Hotmail, YouTube, Islam Exposed, In The Name of Allah and Bing.

A spokesperson for the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan warned that the order could strangle internet access for millions.

"If implemented the decision will choke internet users. It will seriously impact millions of internet users in Pakistan who use search engines for email, education, business and other productive purposes," said Wahaj-us-Siraj.

"Courts are not a competent jurisdiction to handle technical issues. The issue should have been handled by the PTA," he said.

Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous and the row sparked comparison with protests across the Muslim world at the publication of satirical cartoons of Muhammed in European newspapers in 2006.

When a Facebook user decided to organise an "Everyone Draw Mohammed Day" competition to promote "freedom of expression", it sparked a major backlash among Islamic activists in the South Asian country of 170 million.
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