Global Freedom of Expression

Zulfiqar Ali v. Pakistan

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    May 31, 2010
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Pakistan, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    Supreme (court of final appeal)
  • Type of Law
    Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Content Moderation, Content Regulation / Censorship, Religious Freedom, Surveillance
  • Tags
    Blasphemy, Social Media

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

A ban on Facebook access throughout Pakistan was enacted on May 19, 2010 and then subsequently lifted on May 31, 2010. The Lahore High Court lifted the ban only after it was assured by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority that the offensive material found on Facebook was no longer available.


On May 19, 2010, the Lahore High Court banned access to in response to a writ petition (according to article 199 of the Constitution) submitted to the court by Zulfiqar Ali, affiliate of the Islamic Lawyers’ Movement (ILM). [1] Under article 199 of the Pakistani Constitution, a High Court has jurisdiction to make an order in response to the application of an aggrieved party. [2] In this case, the grievance from Mr. Ali surrounded the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” Facebook page and the lack of government action to address the offensive material. [3] The petition asserted that according to the Constitution of Pakistan the government is responsible for “monitor[ing] and check[ing] the websites and … ensur[ing] that the emotions and belie[f]s of the Muslims of Pakistan [are] not distributed.” [4] Thus, because the government failed to address the offensive material on Facebook, the petitioner was permitted in evoking the jurisdiction of the Lahore High Court to ban the website. [5]


[1] Farieha Aziz, In the Name of the Law, (June 30, 2010),

[2] Pak. Const. art. 199

[3] Farieha Aziz, In the Name of the Law, (June 30, 2010),

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

Decision Overview

On May 31, 2010, after hearing the matter, the Lahore High Court lifted the ban on Facebook. Legal experts have stated that a blanket ban on violated several rights enshrined within Pakistan’s Constitution, including the right to freedom of expression and information (article 19). [1] However, a constitutional analysis was not utilized in the court’s reasoning to lift the ban. Rather, the ban was lifted after the government, specifically the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), assured the court “that the ‘blasphemous material’ would no longer be available in Pakistan.” [2]


[1] Farieha Aziz, In the Name of the Law, (June 30, 2010), Pak. Const. art. 19.

[2] Zeeshan Haider, Pakistan lifts Facebook ban but restrictions remain, (May 31, 2010),

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

The actions of the Lahore High Court restrict freedom of expression. While the ban on Facebook was lifted, the decision to do so was based off of an assurance that the offensive material was inaccessible in Pakistan, not based off of the constitutional rights of freedom of expression and access to information.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents

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