Of course, I support the ban on Skype, Viber

Published: October 4, 2013
The writer is Web Editor of The Express Tribune and tweets @Jhaque 

The writer is Web Editor of The Express Tribune and tweets @Jhaque jahanzaib[email protected]

These are crazy times we live in. We are in this war against bloodthirsty, tech-savvy terrorists for the long haul, no holds barred. This fact must be drilled into naive minds who believe a violation of fundamental rights like freedom of expression, right to information and privacy are a gross overstep by the state. We must remember that our brave parliamentarians have already signed off on such stellar legislation as the Pakistan Telecommunications (Re-organisation) Act, 1996, which allows for communication services to be suspended in the name of ‘national security’.

Needless to say, I support and applaud the Sindh government’s move to block and ban Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and Tango. In fact, I am so deeply concerned about the terrorist threat, that, much like the diligent student who compiled a list of 780,000 porn sites for the PTA to ban in 2012, I have come up with a game plan for our security apparatus.

First off, we need to ensure that the current ban on messaging apps is extended to Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and all other visual-based means of online communication. As Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon so astutely noted, the “hoshyaar” terrorists switched from cellular service to online apps to avoid being tracked — what would prevent them from moving on to the next best alternative? I can already picture terrorists Instagramming their way through our vulnerable urban centres, setting up private Pinterest boards highlighting their favourite sites to bomb. Snapchat, in particular, is a threat, as the fact that exchanged photos exploding on a timer will naturally appeal to the twisted, militant mind. Let us not forget that these networks are also chock-full of young people of questionable moral character; the likelihood of these networks turning into a militant recruiting ground are high.

Ban them all I say, but remember, the ban on thousands of pornographic, blasphemous and anti-state websites has really not panned out, as citizens have turned to proxy servers, virtual private networks and tools such as Spotflux, HotSpot Shield and Tor Browser to circumvent such blocks. All these tools need to be banned and all future tools that allow workaround access to Skype, Viber et al must be banned too; else, this whole effort will be worthless.

I also noted that Memon has called on the federal government to contact the companies mentioned above to provide access to private user data. We all remember how successful the government was with Google on this front, so I recommend against turning to these terrorist-enabling scumbags. Instead, we should remember that our brave parliamentarians have recently signed off on The Investigation for Fair Trial Act 2013, which gives security agencies the authority to collect evidence online “by means of modern techniques and devices”. The Act has thoughtfully included broad definitions of who can be monitored and warrants are issued by a judge in their chamber — a process which is not public record.

Given this excellent legislative cover, I think the government should set up a secret agency comprising several hundred ‘online experts’, whose only job is to sit at the Pakistan Internet Exchange and monitor all these potentially deadly internet packets one by one. Billions of these packets will be unrelated, private exchanges between citizens, but I am sure these messages will provide plenty of fringe benefits to incentivise those carrying out this honourable work.

Once all communication in Pakistan is successfully blocked or monitored, we can then turn our attention to transport networks. Roads are used by terrorists far too often and must be banned. In case anyone feels this plan is ludicrous, we need only turn to Bilawal House to see a successful implementation. Remember, no sacrifice is too great in a time of war.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Jat
    Oct 5, 2013 - 12:01AM

    Caution: Remember, don’t overstep your limits by also asking for a ban on the terrorists and their “facilitators”.


  • Oct 5, 2013 - 12:05AM

    Hi Jahanzaib,

    All the facts are quite surprising but, yet another harsh reallity of Pakistan.
    If so, why do the “innocent public” always bear. On one hand if govt. is imposing ban on almost free service to call or text, the other hand govt. should decrease the taxes on telcom so that atleast in the duration of ban public have some relief. I guess.

    Being abroad i really feel bad for people facing all these “fresly baked” issues along with inflation, unemployment, power cutdown……so on.



  • Fappy
    Oct 5, 2013 - 12:32AM

    Excellent article, Every time when our fearless leaders come up with the word “BAN” I just cannot stop laughing and crying at the same, Who is the genius behind these plans? laughing for their stupidity to ban information on internet! there’s no such thing as “banned” as long as internet is working Crying for our collective misfortune to live under these incompetent, corrupt and coward rulers who made us a laughing stock in front of whole world.


  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Oct 5, 2013 - 1:32AM

    Methinks you were a little short on the sarcasm – the article appears to show you supporting the ban; when you clearly don’t. Ratchet up the sarcasm a little.


  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Oct 5, 2013 - 2:05AM

    Thanks God you were joking. What if rulers did not read last paragraph?


  • Midhat
    Oct 5, 2013 - 2:53AM

    I hope the Interior Ministry doesn’t read this Op’ed. I am afraid they might take it seriously and thank you for giving them some good ideas on what to ban next!


  • Erum
    Oct 5, 2013 - 6:59AM

    Brilliant. I’m part laughing and part crying.


  • Saad D
    Oct 5, 2013 - 7:00AM

    Lets hope Bilawal Bhutto reads this!


  • jssidhoo
    Oct 5, 2013 - 7:33AM

    You forgot to mention pigeons


  • IZ
    Oct 5, 2013 - 8:43AM

    Recent research suggests some terrorist even communicate by the written word – remember OBL and his ‘couriers’? I humbly suggest we ban all paper and writing implements to prevent them hatching their plots. I would suggest shutting down all schools too but hey they’re falling apart as it is.

    Banning roads is an excellent idea – we’ve already almost taken railways and PIA out of the equation. Once they can no longer move around then we’ll have them right where we want them.

    Banning weapons, explosives or militant sources of funding however should not be tried.


  • vibing
    Oct 5, 2013 - 10:42AM

    Awful satire unfortunately, there was hardly any humor or absurdity conveyed. Folks in the Interior ministry, the PTA and other associations will actually think you’re serious.


  • Talat Haque
    Oct 5, 2013 - 10:45AM

    Someone is making money out of banning free communication ……….. nobody is serious about terrorists ………… we have grown used to them [like flies and mosquitoes] ………… this is money making and raking it in!


  • iqbal javed
    Oct 5, 2013 - 11:29AM

    Great article, i support the ban and support all the content of the article


  • jks
    Oct 5, 2013 - 12:24PM

    Do you think they’re clever enough to get it?


  • GoP
    Oct 5, 2013 - 12:56PM

    Lets ban the internet


  • Oct 5, 2013 - 1:27PM

    Good write up. I like the underlying sarcastic tone in this.Recommend

  • Teena
    Oct 5, 2013 - 1:36PM

    I am relieved that someone has finally said this. No price is too high to fight off terrorists. Burger bachas don’t know what like it is to live in fear of death. All they care is about iphonee.

    Tell these spoiled kids to ;eave pK. These appps are time pass for these kids. Good job government! I hope rest of provinces come soon!! !


  • Danish
    Oct 5, 2013 - 2:02PM

    Do you think they are clever enough to get your Satire?


  • Salman Hussain
    Oct 5, 2013 - 5:29PM

    Should fb ban too ?


  • rohit950723
    Oct 5, 2013 - 10:34PM

    Roads are used by terrorists far too often and must be banned. –This line gave a laugh Boss. Seriously too funny… The problem with south Asia is that people select their leader with some expectation but the leaders are only interested in minting money.. What to do?


  • Rehan Hashmi
    Oct 5, 2013 - 11:44PM

    Excellent…Logical and informative as well about legislation, authorities trying to cure cancer from Disprin…that shows their experience and competency


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