A pointless ban

Published: May 21, 2012

The Ministry of Information Technology decided to ban for around a day social media website Twitter In the name of protecting its citizens from blasphemous caricatures of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). DESIGN: SIDRAH MOIZ KHAN

Like Lazarus, the Pakistan government’s internet censorship efforts keep rising from the dead. In the name of protecting its citizens from blasphemous caricatures of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the Ministry of Information Technology decided to ban for around a day social media website Twitter, which has hundreds of thousands of users in Pakistan. Clearly, the ministry needs to change its name since it has no clue how the internet works and its action seems to betray a totalitarian streak. Tens of millions of people use Twitter to share links and photos and post updates. Given the freewheeling nature of Web 2.0, a tiny minority of these users will invariably end up posting items that will not be to the liking of Pakistanis – but does that mean the whole website be banned? Going by the same logic, why not just go ahead and ban the whole internet? (Of course, some bright minds in the IT ministry will think that this can be done!)

As we don’t have much of the world already laughing at us or looking at us in disapproval, we now saw this overreaction of monumental proportions from the government. While the site was eventually unblocked, on orders of the prime minister no less, by Sunday night, the fact remains that the restriction shouldn’t have been imposed to begin with. A plan to build a giant all-encompassing firewall along the lines of the one in China was shelved after a public outcry. For some reason, the website of US-based pop-culture magazine Rolling Stone is still banned.

These bans all reveal that the government is fundamentally insecure and unable to trust its citizens to use the internet. Censorship is a tool of the weak, used to deprive people of information because the government is worried what might be done with that information. Blocking access to information used to be easier in the pre-internet days; now it is doomed to failure. All the government can achieve is making itself look ridiculous by censoring the internet. The fact of the matter is that the government has no right to indulge in such censorship in this day and age, lest it wants to appear as a fool in the eyes of not only the outside world but its own citizens as well.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2012.

Reader Comments (8)

  • khan
    May 21, 2012 - 3:12AM

    the ban might not be ok for express tribune!! but no matter how painful the truth is that Pakistan is not secular country!!


  • Khalq e Khuda
    May 21, 2012 - 4:25AM

    It wasn’t pointless the only problem was that a bunch of pseudo liberal bloggers and journalists were to thick to understand that if a ‘trend’ which is likely to distrupt the fragile peace of this country can be avoided by a few hours ban on a site used by 0.1% of the population: its better than days of violence and rioting that would probably leave a dozen people dead.

    The government did a great job but alas the educated classes of this country are fast becoming its biggest liability!


  • 123
    May 21, 2012 - 9:10AM

    The most “takleef deh” reaction of the ban comes from express tribune ! Tiniest “potential threats” to the mission of Express Tribune gets them worried !


  • JAM
    May 21, 2012 - 9:14AM

    i disagree that “Censorship is a tool of the weak” government needs to ban certain stuff to avoid any thing bad for the country. every citizen is not at same level of maturity.


  • Abdullah
    May 21, 2012 - 10:40AM

    Its funny how Twitter is banned in Pakistan, and “Un Ban Twitter” is trending in Pakistan. The Government can’t even do the banning properly. :)


  • rizi
    May 21, 2012 - 10:56AM

    Any social networking/sharing site which hurts the sentiments of any religious group or of any ethnicity should be banned. I guess ET won’t like it. If they call it so called ‘Freedom of Speech’ then why do they censor comments from users?


  • Dr.Strangelove
    May 21, 2012 - 2:01PM

    Lot of people dont understand but “Pakistani-liberals” is an oxymoron. As usual, their self righteous indignation is phoney and betrays lack of understanding of the issue.

    What they dont understand is that people behind these websites/tweets are not western liberals but it is a cabal of far-right, like Anders Breivik, whose sole aim is to cleanse Europe of Islam.

    Bashing Jews is a crime so they have found another target, Islam, since there is no danger of being labelled as anti-semite. Their strategy is working as across EU far right is back in parliments(Greece, France, Sweden, Denmark, Hungry etc).

    May be next time these self styled liberals should do a little background research before they start calling everything pointless.


  • Sheeraz Khan
    May 27, 2012 - 3:49AM

    The ban definitely was not pointless. A person who is free to be in any political system can remain so only until that person robs another at knife point and kills them because if he is to be set free even after he has committed a crime like that you will find nobody alive in the system. Similarly, freedom of expression should be free from an ingredient of prominent offence, having freedom of expression doesn’t mean you will go bash, offend or mock anyone you like to in any meaner way possible, there are a certain limitations to the freedom of expression. Clearly it couldn’t be allowed that an organized anti-Islam campaign is launched to hurt Muslims’ sentiments every time on the ground that the faithless perpetrators have a right to expressly free, which in truth is a naked planned abuse of freedom of expression and is prohibited by the law too. The activity on Twitter is totally curse-worthy, illegal and solely intended to hurt Muslims’ sentiments.


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