On a day when Pakistan extended the ban on social networking website Facebook to the online video-sharing platform ‘YouTube' for carrying caricatures of the Prophet, the Foreign Office urged the international community to address the issue which is an extremely sensitive and emotional matter for Muslims across the world.

Asked whether the Foreign Office intended to take up the issue with diplomatic missions in the country, spokesman Abdul Basit said Pakistan had always raised its voice against such acts at international fora, including the United Nations and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and in bilateral interactions with various countries.

Condemning the publication of blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet, Mr. Basit described them as “malicious.'' They hurt the sentiments of Muslims the world over and cannot be accepted under the garb of freedom of expression.

“Attacks on sacred religious beliefs, symbols and personalities are a violation of the fundamental rights to freely profess and manifest one's religion. Such acts are also not helpful in the context of promoting inter-faith harmony and cooperation,'' he said. There was a growing trend of tarnishing the image of Islam and the Prophet, he added.

Earlier in the day, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had ordered all Internet Service Providers to block YouTube and over 450 links to web pages containing “objectionable” material. This order came after PTA found caricatures, first featured on Facebook as part of the ‘Everyone Draw Mohammad Day' contest, finding their way on to other websites, to sidestep the block on the social networking website.

According to a statement, PTA took recourse to this drastic action after “all possible avenues were used within its jurisdiction, including using regular channels available on Facebook and YouTube, to launch protest, to avoid appearances of derogatory material available on their websites.''

The decision, according to the PTA, is not only in line with the wishes of the people of Pakistan but also an extension of the orders of the Lahore High Court and directions of the federal government. To begin with on Tuesday, the PTA had instructed all concerned to block the “objectionable” link on Facebook but with “sacrilegious content swelling'' and the Lahore High Court order coming in on Wednesday, all service providers were told to block the website.

The PTA also found the attitude of the administrators at Facebook and YouTube to be in contravention of the World Summit of Information Societies resolutions and their own policies advertised on the Internet for the general public.

The Facebook contest had triggered nationwide protests which culminated in the Islamic Lawyers' Forum petitioning the Lahore High Court for a ban on the website.