ISLAMABAD,April 01 : The absence of ministers from the Senate sessions has become so consistent that the treasury senators, along with those belonging to the opposition, on Friday demanded that the chairman should take notice of this matter.
Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, who was presiding over the proceedings of the upper house of parliament, assured the lawmakers that he would take up this issue with the prime minister.
During Question Hour, PPP Senator Rubina Khalid said that the government appeared to be helpless on the issue of blasphemous and derogatory content on the internet.
She added that the matter had been taken up several times during the meetings of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and it was the responsibility of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take action against such content.
Minister of State for Law and Justice Shahadat Awan replied that online hate speech against any religion would be blocked immediately.
Elaborating further, Awan maintained that around 35,000 pages on Facebook and over 5,000 Twitter handles had been blocked.
He added that 5,800 accounts on YouTube had been blocked as well.
He further informed the House that the incumbent government was working on legislation to compel the social media platforms to register themselves in Pakistan.
He added that the prime minister had formed a National Social Working Committee in August last year to suggest proper legislation for this purpose.
Awan told the House that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had processed 59,253 URLs related to sectarian or hate speech complaints on social media so far.
Of the total complaints, 47,674 URLs had been blocked over hate speech till February, he added.
The state minister pointed out that the PTA had also blocked Wikipedia on the directives of the high court for 48 hours.
Awan explained that under Section 37 (1) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) 2016, the PTA had been empowered to remove or block access to information through any system if it considered it necessary in the interest of the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan.
He continued that under Section 37 (2) of Peca, the federal government had approved the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguard), Rules, 2021.
PML-N Senator Dr Asif Kimani drew the attention of the chairman to the empty front row, regretting that the absence of ministers indicated their lack of interest in Senate proceedings.
Awan told him that a few ministers were busy and were unable to attend the Senate session.
An enraged Kirmani asked him that the senators had no other business to attend to that they were participating in the proceedings.
The Petroleum Act 1934 Amendment Bill 2022 and Trade Disputes Resolution Bill 2023 were presented in the House.
Both the bills were sent to their respective standing committees.
Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman informed the Senate that electrical vehicles were very expensive and any ordinary person could not import them.
She noted that India’s Tata company was locally manufacturing electrical vehicles.
However, she added that unfortunately in Pakistan, there existed no such facility to manufacture electrical vehicles or batteries.
She informed the House that in Pakistan, a policy for electrical two and three-wheelers had been framed.
The minister said around 3.3 million tons of plastic waste was generated in Pakistan but its recycling facility was available in a few European countries only.
To another question, she said the prime minister had launched the “Protected Areas Initiative” to improve flora and fauna of 15 places extending over 7,500 square kilometres.
The Senate session was adjourned till 11am on Monday.
After the conclusion of the sitting, Sanjrani called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to inform him about the absence of ministers from the Senate proceedings and ensure their presence.