The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has blocked Facebook over a competition encouraging its users to post caricatures of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) on the social networking site. Earlier in the day, the LHC ordered authorities to block Facebook until May 31..
The depiction of any prophet is strictly prohibited in Islam as blasphemous and Muslims across the world staged angry protests over the publication of satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in European newspapers in 2006.
Controversy erupted in the conservative Muslim country last month when a Facebook user set up a page called "Draw Mohammed Day", inviting people to send in their caricatures of the Muslim prophet on May 20.The move angered thousands of young people and Muslim faithful in Pakistan, unleashing an online campaign and isolated protests that grabbed the government's attention and the controversial page was blocked on Tuesday.
But a group of lawyers went a step further Wednesday and petitioned the court to order a blanket ban on Facebook in Pakistan.
Lahore High court Wednesday ordered authorities to block Facebook in the country over a page encouraging users to post caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) on the site.
Thousands of members of the social networking site have launched an online campaign demanding a boycott of Facebook over the offending page.
Justice Ejaz Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court directed the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to block Facebook after a group of lawyers moved a petition in the court.
An interim order has been issued until May 31, when the court is to start a detailed hearing of the case.
A spokesman said PTA would move to implement the ban once the order has been issued by the ministry of information technology.
“We will implement the order as soon as we get the instructions,” Khurram Mehran told AFP.
“We have already blocked the URL link and issued instruction to Internet service providers yesterday,” he said.
Members of the social networking site told AFP on Wednesday that they were still able to access Facebook.
“We moved the petition in the wake of widespread resentment in the Muslim community against the Facebook contest,” lawyer Rai Bashir told AFP.
The petition also called on the government to lodge a strong protest with the owners of Facebook, he added.
Bashir said a PTA official told the judge his organisation had blocked the page, but the court ordered a total ban on the site.
Publications of similar cartoons in Danish newspapers in 2005 sparked deadly protests in Muslim countries. Around 50 people were killed during violent protests in Muslim countries in 2006 over the cartoons, five of them in Pakistan.
Pakistani people welcomed the court order and called for a complete ban on all Western websites “promoting liberal culture and obscenity”.
“The West, Europe and America are doing such things deliberately to hurt Muslims and to create divides between Islam and other religions,” said Atif Raza, a Karachi University Student.
“They are doing this because the want to use such sentiments to continue their war on terror justifying extremism within Islam,” he added.
Pakistan briefly banned YouTube in February 2008 in a similar protest against “blasphemous” cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) on the popular website.
YouTube said an Internet service provider complying with Pakistan's ban routed many worldwide users to nowhere for a couple of hours, which sparked a worldwide outage.