IT ministry shelves plan to install massive URL blocking system

Published: March 19, 2012

Pakistan's great Electronic Great Wall may yet not come.

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) has apparently decided to shelve its plans to install a massive URL blocking system.

The MoIT, through its research arm, the National Information & Communication Technology Research and Development Fund had thorough a public advertisement on February 23, 2012, sought bids for a system that “should be able to handle a block list of up to 50 million URLs with a processing delay of not more than 1 millisecond.”

On Monday, Member National Assembly Bushra Gohar confirmed to The Express Tribune that the MoIT had decided to reverse its decision. “Secretary IT Farooq Ahmed Awan said to me that the URL project has been withdrawn due to the concern shown by various stakeholders,” the legislator from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa said.

Welcoming the move, Gohar said that she would ask Secretary IT to launch an inquiry against those posted the advertisement without proper consultation.

Meanwhile, the MoIT has neither confirmed nor denied the report. Naseem Akhter Bhatti, the MoIT spokesperson, said that the ministry was not the only stakeholder, and that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority  (PTA) too was a stakeholder. A statement over the project will be issued tomorrow.

The PTA had earlier stated its determination in taking steps that blocked “blasphemous and objectionable content.” PTA sources had said last week that, being the telecom regulator in the country, they would implement policies to block websites with “blasphemous, un-Islamic, offensive, objectionable, unethical, and immoral material,” as per their mandate, and or per instructions from the government.

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Reader Comments (39)

  • Ammar
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:18PM

    I don’t want to live on this planet any more.

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  • Mar 19, 2012 - 10:23PM

    we want to put ban on all porn sites

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  • Mar 19, 2012 - 10:24PM

    @Ammar:
    why??

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  • Ali
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:26PM

    porn sites must be banned to save our youth.

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  • Akhtar Rind
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:28PM

    Finally they listened us. Yes a welcome move.. Plz dump this idea of Internet censorship

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  • IZ
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:33PM

    Well that’s good news. To the commenter above who wants to ban porn sites, why not install software to block such sites on your own personal/institutional/family computers to block whatever you feel is objectionable? I would rather that I block whatever I find objectionable at my own discretion rather than put so much power in the hands of our government who might decide to block who-knows-what and control the information available to the public.

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  • Ammara K
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:43PM

    What a joke! the youth of Pakistan indulged in all sort of unethical stuff even before Internet emerged in Pakistan! Why don’t they ban the underground parties, prostitution and the availability of liquor? !! These are the factors decaying the society, and not porn sites! First try to eradicate the unethical issues in the society! It is just that banning websites is easier than any other thing else!

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  • Mir
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:49PM

    this look like good decision if ban is taken back, does this prove we are moving towards free & democratic society, or it’s an illusion?

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:53PM

    Options of browsing unethical websites should be left on the users.

    A healthy mind will not go for an unhealthy practice at any cost.

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  • Ali
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:00PM

    This plan shouldn’t be shelved. Its very necessary to protect the youth from filth and garbage online. Garbage sites like ET warrants immediate ban

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  • Pinky
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:04PM

    ET must be rejoicing ;p they were spearheading the campaign against internet censorship

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  • Azim
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:05PM

    Excellent decision!

    We as a nation should be more careful of choices we make while visiting different website, and if we want to protect our kids then there are many internet tools that can be installed to avoid unwanted sites.

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  • biryani
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:25PM

    bad decision ! media whether TV or internet must be controlled to save generation from corruption……. we need to block obscene sites !!

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  • John
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:26PM

    The minister like all politicians is not telling the real story.

    The truth of the matter is that IT giants voluntarily did not participate in the bidding process as they deemed violation of basic net rights as the system was termed similar to great Chinese firewall.

    The question that should have been raised is that if this money was coming from “Research and Development Fund”, did this project had any thing to do with R&D?

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  • Falcon
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:35PM

    Well. That’s a positive sign. Its not about blocking porn but the temptation of the govt. to regulate content. The objective should be shift the responsibilities to individuals on how they want to live their life and what information they want to pursue. Govt. already has too many other challenges of education, healthcare, and economy to face. That should be the priority at least in the short-run.

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  • Ranjah
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:46PM

    Porn saves lives!

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  • Mar 19, 2012 - 11:48PM

    This seemed like an idea out of the book 1984, where the only “research” that takes place, is to increase repression within a society. And that is apparently what the people at the MoIT’s research department were being paid to do.

    This country’s bureaucrats really need to come out of their paranoid Cold War mentality.

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  • Hasham
    Mar 20, 2012 - 12:23AM

    HAHAHAHAHA at the dimwit who compiled the list of 780,000 XXX sites for PTA. Hope he learns a lesson and gets a life.

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  • Meekal Ahmed
    Mar 20, 2012 - 12:40AM

    @IZ:

    very correct; every computer has a parental controls option; parents should take a bit of trouble and take more interest in the well-being of their children — and spend less time gossiping and partying.

    Even then, computer savvy kids will kind a way round. In that case, they are beyond help.

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  • faraz
    Mar 20, 2012 - 12:43AM

    Porn is the only good thing in my life.

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  • Hassam Tahir
    Mar 20, 2012 - 12:53AM

    @Ali:
    @Pakistan politics:
    and all others who want to ban porn:

    What will this do? those who want to watch porn will continue to through proxies. Secondly who are you or the government to decide for someone what is appropriate and what’s not? The government is not a baby sitter. Thirdly its the parents job to know what their children are up too, educate them

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  • ht312
    Mar 20, 2012 - 12:56AM

    @biryani:
    I think your face is quite obscene. Should we ban it?

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  • Cautious
    Mar 20, 2012 - 1:26AM

    When resources are tight you need to spend your money where you get the best return — controlling the internet shouldn’t be high on your priority list.

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  • Shakky
    Mar 20, 2012 - 2:01AM

    Very welcome news indeed! Nobody ever turned into an extremist by viewing porn. Anyway, it gives the mullahs something else to do instead of preaching hatred. Perhaps the Difa-e-Pakistan lot should try it. Perhaps they already have ;-)

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  • Faraz
    Mar 20, 2012 - 2:06AM

    @Ali:
    Then why do you come to this site and even comment?

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  • Fudge
    Mar 20, 2012 - 2:14AM

    Those proudly advocating banning porn sites, what will our youth do then?? rape people or just simply get more frustrated?? like giving women those dirty looks!!! this will surely increase if you cut down on their means of release!!! Why do Pakistanis have to pretend that they are some God-sent ANGELS on earth and they don’t need all this!! I am not saying rape people but some things are natural and porn provides a simpler, easier way to get over them. What else will my unmarried brothers do?? Can we stop being HYPOCRITE for one minute, please?? Those who don’t want their (underage) children to see this can use parental control on their computers.

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  • alpha
    Mar 20, 2012 - 2:25AM

    some people are asking for a ban on porn sites?!!! god save them

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  • Ravish
    Mar 20, 2012 - 2:30AM

    LOL Why do people want to block all porn sites? Life would be so dull. Recommend

  • hasan ansari
    Mar 20, 2012 - 2:44AM

    I cant believe the lengths they are going to control our lives. We have to form a strong group so that they cannot pull something like this again.

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  • Tony C.
    Mar 20, 2012 - 3:13AM

    @biryani:
    Dear biryani,
    Which is the most obscene, visual displays of male/females carrying out boring, nude gymnastics, or governments being given a license to block the limited information we are able to determine about them? We know that all governments withhold information at every chance available to them, but do not let us make it too easy for them. Another point to consider, is that I am reasonably certain that my children have not used their computers to indulge in pornography, and I have not heard of any other parents complaining about it either. In any event one can always carry out a computer history check if you have any doubts. Having said all that of course, there will always be somebody who wishes to indulge in the murky side of life, and from what I can gather there is a lot of somebodies. However, I do not think I am obliged to worry about the somebodies who gets a kick out of porn. There are many worse thing happening on film such as violence and all the other undesirable acts, which help to fill our prisons. Unfortunately, society just cannot help everybody to live up to a high standard, although by and large I think the Muslim religion does a good job in that regard for the majority of people.

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  • Arsalan Ghumman
    Mar 20, 2012 - 4:05AM

    They are afraid of Social Media Power :-) I say let them test the water. We are ready.

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  • asdf
    Mar 20, 2012 - 4:29AM

    I don’t think banning websites/urls in “islamic” countries has anything to do with porn, but everything to do with banning “anti-islamic” or “exposing islam and prophet Muhammed” websites.

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  • Bilal
    Mar 20, 2012 - 4:40AM

    BAN on Porn must be done, because in west they watch and then go to clubs and have fun but in our country this PORN result in form of rape crime.Recommend

  • Hassan
    Mar 20, 2012 - 5:16AM

    Good job, internet censorship would have been the down fall of the Pakistani IT sector. Leaving the mass even more uneducated and backward. If you have a problem with porn or “unethical” you can block them from your own computer by Installing a program on your OWN computer. But asking to ban 50 million URL requests in less them 1 millisecond is asking for trouble. Look at India and its booming software industry. The only folks who want to see internet censorship are those who actually want Pakistan to fail.

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  • MarkH
    Mar 20, 2012 - 5:54AM

    @Hasham:
    I almost forgot about him. Now I’d sell my body to science for just one look at his reaction to the news. That’s hilarious.

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  • faizan
    Mar 20, 2012 - 9:54AM

    the idea of this ban must have been from PTI and IK….and salman rushdie was the one who stopped it.
    on a second note, banning pornsites will only increase sales of retailers on Hall-road..

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  • ht312
    Mar 20, 2012 - 9:56AM

    @Bilal:
    if you watch porn, i think you are quite tired to go to the club. if you know what I mean.

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  • Mansoor
    Mar 20, 2012 - 11:26AM

    Banning porn wont help! banning porn on yourself comes from within! Like you quite smoking or quit drugs, just quit porn, and utilize your time in learning there is so much learning we can do these days for free i.e. on YouTube. its just that we are lazy to learn, give 10 min., watch tutorial of your choice on youtube or vimeo or itunes university archives its all awesome or TED talks!!

    All the best to everyone who wants to quit porn! and Trust me ONLY U can do it, promise Allah you wont do it again he will help! you

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  • Hafiz Shah Ali
    Mar 21, 2012 - 8:34AM

    Wise decision

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