Lahore: A Pakistani court on Wednesday directed authorities to temporarily block Facebook till 31 May over the holding of a competition on blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Mohammed as protests against the social networking website were held across the country.
Justice Ijaz Chaudhry of the Lahore high court issued the order to block Facebook while acting on a petition filed by the Islamic Lawyers Forum, which sought a complete ban on the website.
The court directed the foreign ministry to raise the issue of the blasphemous caricatures at the international level.
The judge also directed the foreign secretary to register a protest with the concerned countries.
He also sought a response on the issue from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
Following protests in several parts of Pakistan against the posting of the caricatures on Facebook and a competition on the blasphemous cartoons that will continue till 20 May, several Internet Service Providers restricted access to the website.
Protests against the caricatures were organized by religious parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami, Islami Jamiat Tulba and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam in Lahore, Kasur, Narowal, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi and Peshawar on Tuesday.
“An American organization which has some 35,000 members is responsible for posting the caricatures of Prophet Mohammed on Facebook and for holding the competition on blasphemous caricatures,” said Mohammad Azeem, a student of Punjab University in Lahore.
In 2005, Lahore and other Pakistani cities had witnessed violent protests when blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Mohammed were first published in Europe.
Several business outlets of multinational companies were torched during these protests.
People across Pakistan also received an SMS message on their cell phones that read: “Not to use Facebook on May 18, 19 and 20 so that Facebook faces big loss, so that they never dare to celebrate draw Mohammad (peace be upon him) Day”.
A Pakistan Telecommunication Authority official said, “Despite thousands of requests, Facebook didn’t pull down this page even though it violated Facebook’s own terms of services”.
Chaudhry Zulfikar, the lawyer who filed the petition on behalf of the Islamic Lawyers Forum, said that a competition on the caricatures was announced on Facebook on 20 April and it would continue till 20 May.
Members of the website were invited to draw caricatures of the Prophet and participate in the competition, he said.
Zulfiqar said Article 2A of the constitution bars any practice against Islam in the country.
Websites having various features against the injunctions of Islam have already been banned in several Islamic countries, he said.
The PTA has already blocked several blasphemous and contemptuous websites but is reluctant to act against Facebook, Zulfiqar contended.