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Pakistan PM Orders Removal of ‘Blasphemous’ Material from Social Media

The prime minister of Pakistan has issued directives to relevant authorities to demand that foreign social media companies block or remove “blasphemous” content and has also called for Pakistanis who post “blasphemous” material online to be “strictly punished.”

“Effective steps must be taken immediately to remove and block such content,” PM Nawaz Sharif said in a statement issued Tuesday, according to Reuters.

“All relevant institutions must unite to hunt those who spread such material and to award them strict punishment under the law,” he added.

PM Sharif has ordered Pakistan’s foreign ministry to reach out to international social media companies and demand that they block or remove blasphemous content.

“He did not mention any company by name, but social networks such as Facebook Inc, its Instagram unit and rival Twitter Inc are popular in Pakistan,” notes Reuters.

The News reports:

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that the emotions and feelings of Muslims must be respected. He labeled blasphemous content as an attempt to play with the emotions of the Muslim Ummah [community] and directed authorities to prevent the spread of blasphemous content on social media by taking all necessary measures and ensuring that it does not circulate on the digital space in the future.

In Muslim-majority Pakistan, blasphemy is a criminal offense that can carry the death penalty. The country’s blasphemy laws primarily target Christians and other minority groups.

“Blasphemy is a highly charged issue in Pakistan where even being accused of insulting Islam or Prophet Mohammad can provoke targeted acts of violence by religious right-wing vigilantes,” reports Reuters. “Dozens have been murdered over blasphemy allegations, according to the Center for Research and Security Studies.”

PM Sharif’s son-in-law, Captain Muhammad Safdar, also called for a ban on blasphemy content on social media while addressing the country’s National Assembly on Tuesday.

Soon after PM Sharif announced his decision to block or remove blasphemous material from social media, “the National Assembly on Tuesday passed a joint resolution unanimously, strongly denouncing the circulation of blasphemous content about the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions on social media,” reports GEO News.

“The resolution stated that blasphemous material is hurting the sentiments of Muslims and urged the government to take necessary measures to block and prevent circulation of objectionable material on social and other media,” it adds.

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