ISLAMABAD: The ban on YouTube remains in Pakistan despite several promises by Interior Minister Rehman Malik to have it lifted. Almost five months have passed since the ban went into effect and there seems no end in sight. It is clear that the ban has been in force for so long not because of any religious reasons now but because of the incompetence of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to deal with the technical side of things. One has to say that this is similar to the ban on mobile phones since that also doesn’t seem to serve any real purpose or benefit the ordinary Pakistani.
Furthermore, hate material is not confined only to YouTube and can be found on many other websites as well. However, it is not possible or advisable to shut everything down. Raising awareness against racism, hatred and hate material should be done and, in this regard, the PTA can also set up a hotline for people to call in and register complaints.
The incompetence of our organisations is not something new. A culture of corruption, nepotism and disregard of merit creates an atmosphere of mediocrity and complacency. The end result is that organisations don’t do their job right, or often not at all. Practically speaking, it affects society in a very tangible way, since our key institutions neither have the ability nor the expertise to deal with technical issues. Secondly, and most importantly, it is done at the cost of students who suffer badly for no fault of their own.
The reason for writing this letter is to talk specifically about the second point. I am a student and I have used YouTube for help in my studies many times. Recently I registered for a course at MIT and that started this week. But because of the YouTube ban I am unable to access the course lectures. I know the argument for banning it was based on blasphemous content but the government should understand that thousands of students all over the country are losing out because of the ban. Who knows a day will come when Facebook, Twitter and even Google may be banned in Pakistan.
Top international universities like MIT put their lectures on YouTube and this is a great opportunity for students of developing countries such as Pakistan. Other study-specific content has always been helpful to students as well. Videos put up by the world-famous Khan Academy is one such example.
I request the federal government and especially the PTA to see the bigger picture and lift the ban immediately so that, at least, students don’t get affected in their studies.
National University of Science and Technology (NUST),
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2013.
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