The Pakistani government has been sending text messages to millions of Pakistanis warning them against sharing “blasphemous” content online, a move rights activists said would cause more vigilante attacks.

The warning is coming in view of latest increase in mob violence connected to allegations of insulting Islam, including reported attacks in the past month.

“Uploading & sharing of blasphemous content on Internet is a punishable offense under the law. Such content should be reported on info@pta.gov.pk for legal action,” the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) posted to all mobile phone subscribers.

Blasphemy in conservative Muslim Pakistan is seen as a big offence, with many unsubstantiated accusations resulting in dozens of mass attacks or murders since 1990.

Former colonial masters, Britain was originally known to pass the law in Pakistan but made more effective by former dictator, Zia-ul-Haq in 1986 to accommodate a provision for death sentence in cases of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Civil rights activists asserted the legal provision may encourage mobbing, like the killing of a famous 23-year-old student for his liberal views at the hands of hundreds of fellow students last month.

“This mass messaging will only further fuel hatred among different sects and segments of the society. It is a very very bad move,” a digital rights activist Shahzad Ahmad said.

“PTA’s mass texting on ‘blasphemy’ smacks of insincerity & political exploitation of religion; it will embolden public to greater violence!,” popular television anchor Moeed Pirzada said on his tweeter handle.

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