One of the greatest of mysteries in Pakistan is who makes the policies. A day after a ban was imposed on facebook, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) also banned YouTube. A PTA statement just released claims that the website was banned on “objectionable content”. PTA of course is a government owned regulator and since a democratic government is in place one would have expected that the government would at least consult the general public before banning any more websites. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

On Thursday morning this scribe found out that other websites like Wikipedia also were momentarily blocked in Pakistan. These sites were eventually restored. However facebook is continuously off line. An important point to note is that while a court ruled yesterday to ban facebook until 31st May, no such fatwa or religious decree was issued regarding Youtube. That essentially implies that while the government can always claim that it is helpless before the courts, this step was essentially the government’s or the regulator’s own initiative.

Another interesting point is that content deemed by some to be against Islam has always been present on the internet. However never in the past such an elaborate witch hunt has never been conducted in a democratic rule. Pervez Musharraf indeed tried to block Youtube and hence managed to bring down the entire service for a few hours. And such bans of course apart from throwing aspersions on the democratic rule also cast a bad reflection on the country’s tolerance. Point to ponder is that no other Muslim country has gone ahead with such a ban.  These bans also make life difficult for Muslims living in non Muslim countries. And no wonder within hours of facebook ban in Pakistan, French cabinet approved a law imposing ban on Muslim veil or Hijab.

The saddest part of our helpless situation is that while the government coalition led by a liberal party is appeasing the fanatics in the country by imposing such bans, the country’s liberal class seems to have gone into a limbo. Since yesterday no human rights group, no civil society organisation or any champion of liberal cause has come forward to protest the ban. When the country is rapidly moving back to the stone age, there is no sign of conscientious or learned people who could tell the difference between right and wrong, and educate the masses on this infringement on their rights. Long live darkness, disappointment and helpless!

PS: If you want to register your protest with the concerned authorities here is the contact info of the Chairman PTA.:
Tel: +92-51-2878143
Fax: +92-51-2878155

Also the government should act responsibly and act now to investigate. If the Chairman PTA is doing it on his there should adequate reprimand.

The author is a Pakistani television journalist, columnist and commentator on security, political and media affairs. He can be reached through his website

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