Islamabad, 29 January 2018: Islamabad High Court has directed the government to constitute a special committee to examine the issue of pornography and its availability through different devices and suggest immediate, short term and long term measures to curtail it.
The directions were made in the hearing of a petition filed by Salman Shahid [the son in law of Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid fame] against the Federation of Pakistan in March 2017, praying to direct FIA to move against allegedly blasphemous content online.
According to the C.M issued on the proceedings of case hearing, IHC has directed that a special committee headed by Secretary Cabinet Division and including members from Ministries of Interior, IT, Religious Affairs, Information and Broadcasting and the Chairpersons of PEMRA and PTA should be formed, to “examine the issue of pornography [and] its availability through different devices”.
Expressing disappointment at government’s inaction, the C.M noted: “[The] very purpose of insertion of pornography in PECA [The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016] was to take preventive measures against this onslaught through internet, TV channels and other means”, adding that the chronic issue failed to attract the attention of the government.
Meanwhile, Additional Attorney General also sought time to work on the definition of “pornography” to be included in the draft amendment bill. The court directed to keep the law division in the look for its input to avoid unnecessary delays.
It is to be noted that earlier in March 2017, Islamabad High Court directed the government to include pornography and blasphemy as offenses in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.
In December 2017, Federal Cabinet approved a draft amendment to inlist pornography and blasphemy as scheduled offenses in PECA. However, the draft amendment has yet to be tabled in National Assembly and later in the Senate for approval. Once the draft amendment is passed by the parliament, it becomes part of the law.
IHC also directed the government to appoint PTA chairman and member finance within fortnight as the most important authority had become dysfunctional.
Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.