The government uses different excuses to control our channels of communication. We have been monitoring cyberspace in Pakistan since 2007. Back then, they used the reason of ‘blasphemy’ to block content in Pakistan. Then they blocked content for reasons of national security. Then they added ‘war on terror’ as a reason. These are all excuses that they have been using to curb freedom of expression online. Recently they have added porn. Porn wasn’t blocked before, but recently they’ve started blocking it. It’s a kind of moral policing.
Message that greeted internet users trying to access 'Tumblr' when the site was temporarily blocked. Image sent to FRANCE 24 by Shahzad Ahmad.
Recently we have also seen an increasing trend of blocking mobile phones. For example, two or three days ago we had a religious festival, and we only got our mobile service back last night. They were blocked in most parts of the country in the name of national security. They have been saying since last year that mobile phones contribute to terrorism: terrorists use mobile phones to coordinate attacks, or as remote detonators for bombs. But we believe that banning phones won’t help fight terrorism.
"It’s arbitrary and it’s completely up to authorities"
The Pakistani Telecommunication Authority is supposedly an autonomous authority that governs Internet and communications in Pakistan. But they are now totally operating under the government’s directives. They get advice from an elusive inter-ministerial committee and this advice is forwarded to ISPs or service providers so they can block content. Now anything objectionable, offensive or obscene can be blocked: but something objectionable to you may not be objectionable to me. It’s arbitrary and it’s completely up to authorities.