Pakistan… or Ban-istan?

Apr 18, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Expressions, Opinions

The government of Pakistan has become notorious for its “ban this / ban that” attitude over the past few years.

In September 2012, the government decided to block the YouTube website after its administration and Google Incorporation refused to take down the trailer of the American, anti-Islamic movie ‘trailer’ called “Innocence of Muslims”.

Written and produced by Nikoula Basseley Nikoula, this 14-minute video allegedly depicted the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Two versions of the video were produced, titled The Real Life of Prophet Muhammad and the Muhammad Movie Trailer. Anti-Islamic content was added post production to the video(s) without the actors’ knowledge.

The trailer created havoc amongst Muslims all over the world, leading to several protests demanding YouTube and Google to take it down in September 2012. The same month protests in Pakistan escalated to a violent degree and were broadcast on both national and international platforms.

Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed had earlier stated in a press conference in Lahore last month that the blanket ban would be lifted very soon.  Contrary to his statement, the YouTube website remains blocked to this day.

Regarding the ban, the Sindh High Court on Wednesday asked the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for its comments following a petition jointly filed by 24 citizens, including students, teachers and bankers.

A division bench headed by Justice Irfan Saadat Khan heard the petition, which asked the court to declare such ban(s) a violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens. It also stated that it fell to the government authorities to safeguard the internet along with other forms of electronic and print media as a platform of expression.

The petitioners protested the adverse effects of the ban on students, teachers, entrepreneurs and the like, who used the website for educational, religious, and/or entertainment purposes. Speaking with regards to other countries where only the web-address of certain anti-Islam film(s) was banned, they said that the Pakistani could not put a blanket ban on the entire website without curbing the citizens’ right to privacy as under Article 14 of the Pakistani Constitution.

The court adjourned the hearing until May 17, ordering the petitioners to place before it a list consisting of names other informative websites which had been blocked.

While this is definitely a step in the right direction, Pakistanis will still be forced to resort to using proxies in order to access most of the websites that have been blocked by the PTA; unless any action is taken soon.

This continuous inaction has caused a dilemma for the citizens; whether to abide by the law or twist it in order to access a website which should rightfully be allowed.

However, given that the present regime is different from the one which introduced the ban, it is hoped that they will now pursue a faster course of action and provide the citizens of Pakistan with their fundamental right to information as is given in Article 19A of the Constitution.

This will greatly help improve Pakistan’s international image as a more tolerant and progressive nation – something we sorely need, especially if we’re being called “Ban-istan” by the rest of the world at present.

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