It has been officially submitted by the Interior Ministry of Pakistan to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) today that Facebook has been removing blasphemous content on government of Pakistan’s request.

Interior Secretary Arif Khan appeared before the court and said that Facebook had responded to the ministry’s letter and already removed 85 percent of the blasphemous content.

He further revealed that three suspects had been taken into custody as part of the online blasphemy probe. Two of them were directly involved in posting blasphemous material that had also been discovered from their laptops and cell phones by law enforcers. A joint interrogation team is looking further into the matter.

Mr Khan reiterated that suspending Facebook in Pakistan is not the solution to the problem, especially since Facebook has been cooperating with the government. Facebook had earlier decided to send a delegation to Pakistan to investigate the content deemed blasphemous.

Meanwhile, Chairman PTA Ismael Shah said in the court that a 25-member team has been searching blasphemous content online, and that action has been taken against 40 such pages.

Court’s Response

IHC Chief Justice Shaukat Siddiqui praised the government for hosting a meeting of 27 ambassadors from Muslim countries in which a strategy was proposed for dealing with blasphemous content on social media.

However, he inquired as to why the ambassador of the country where the offence originated, was not invited. The Interior Secretary responded that Pakistan’s embassy in Washington was taking the matter further there.

Juctice Siddiqui also voiced displeasure over the lack of other ministries in pursuing this matter. “Where are IT expert[s], Ahsan Iqabal, Minister for Religious Affairs? The entire government has left the job to Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan,” Justice Siddiqui was quoted as saying.

He also ordered IT Minister Anusha Rehman to appear before court and explain why the issue had not been resolved yet.

The hearing of the case will resume on March 31.