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Pakistan

Pakistan telecom authority blocks Ahmadi website

Site managers say they were threatened with a $3m fine and warned of blasphemy charges

Pakistan telecom authority blocks Ahmadi website

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s headquarters in Islamabad. (Photo supplied)

Pakistan has blocked a US-based website propagating the faith of the minority Ahmadi community because of allegedly blasphemous content.

In a press release issued on Jan. 22, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced the blocking of trueislam.com for viewing in the Islamic republic.

“In accordance with the provisions of Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguard) Rules, 2020, the administrator of the website was directed to remove the unlawful content,” it stated.

“The platform was also given an opportunity of a hearing (virtual/physical) to explain its position before the authority, which it did not avail. Given the sensitivity of the matter, PTA, in exercise of powers conferred under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and the Rules, blocked the website.” 

The site's managers say they were also threatened with a US$3.1 million fine and warned of charges under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, which can carry the death penalty for insulting Islam.

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An Ahmadi official who works in the community’s press office declined to comment.

Last month PTA issued notices to Google and Wikipedia to remove “caricatures of Holy Prophet (PBUH) and dissemination of misleading, wrong, deceptive and deceitful information through articles published on Wikipedia portraying Mirza Masroor Ahmad as a Muslim.”

Last week police in Sharaqpur Sharif in Punjab province registered a case against 11 Ahmadis and organizers of the community under Section 298-C of the blasphemy laws for inscribing Islamic phrases on gravestones.

In 2018, the federal government put further bans on “Qadianis’ social activities” and blocked Ahmadiyya publications, website and their use of social media. These included periodicals meant for Ahmadi children and women. Muttahida Ulema Board, a body of Islamic clerics, had already banned the Quran published with translation by Ahmadis.

Pakistan’s four million Ahmadis have faced many challenges including murder, persecution, intimidation and a sustained hate campaign for decades at the hands of majority Sunni Muslims and a legal system that protects Sunni interests, they claim.

Activists say they are punished for their belief system, which posits sect founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet and Masih Maud as the promised messiah, or a metaphorical second coming of Jesus. This is considered heresy in mainstream Sunni society.

Then prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto declared Ahmadis non-Muslims via a constitutional amendment in 1974. Military ruler Zia-ul-Haq followed up by promulgating an ordinance that made it a punishable offense for Ahmadis to practice Islam.

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