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Pakistan PM Orders Removal Of 'Blasphemous' Content From Social Media

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (file photo)

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered that "blasphemous" content on social media websites be removed or blocked.

Sharif also said those responsible for posting such material will be "strictly punished."

"Effective steps must be taken immediately to remove and block such content," Sharif said in a March 14 statement.

Blasphemy is a criminal offense in Pakistan and can carry the death penalty. It is also a highly sensitive issue in a country where dozens have been murdered over blasphemy allegations, according to the Center for Research and Security Studies.

Sharif instructed Pakistan's Foreign Ministry to demand the blocking of blasphemous content by foreign social media companies. No company was mentioned by name, but social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are popular in Pakistan.

"All relevant institutions must unite to hunt those who spread such material and to award them strict punishment under the law," Sharif said.

Sharif's move is likely to appeal to his conservative voter base ahead of elections next year.

Based on reporting by Reuters and