KARACHI: The Sindh government has decided to ban instant messaging and voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) clients Skype, Viber and other communication networks, possibly including Tango and WhatsApp, for three months in the province for security reasons, Express News reported on Thursday.
The decision was taken during a meeting between Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and other officials including the additional IG Karachi, DG Rangers and representatives of intelligence agencies.
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon confirmed the decision in a press briefing. He said that the networks would be banned because terrorists are using them, having switched over from regular mobile services. Memon said the Sindh government has also requested the federal government to contact these companies and ask them for “access”.
This is not the first time communication services have been blocked in the name of security. A number of temporary cellular service blocks were implemented in 2013 by the government as an anti-terrorism measure.
In 2011, the government ordered all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to discontinue all virtual private network (VPN) services in Pakistan to prevent extremists from using the secure networks for communication. It is unclear whether this order was fully implemented.
News of the upcoming blockage comes the same day as Freedom House, an independent watchdog organisation, launched a report ranking Pakistan among the bottom 10 countries on net freedom.
The report stated that various political and social obstacles to net freedom have been put in place by successive governments in the name of fighting terrorism.
In blocking these services, Pakistan follows in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia, where Viber is banned.