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The Good, the Ban and Pakistan

by Dilawer Soomro
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Pakistani Government Unblocks YouTube, Only to Ban it Again Minutes Later

I am a Pakistani Citizen, and here is my take…

YouTube is the world’s most popular video streaming site. It offers a great platform for people to share their videos with the whole World. However, the officials in Pakistan don’t seem to understand the benefits of the site.

Back in September 2012, YouTube was officially banned in Pakistan due to some blasphemous content, especially a blasphemous movie called “Innocence of Muslims”. The movie targeted the Prophet Muhammad and other companions of the prophet as well.

The whole Muslim world was enraged and started anti-US protests in many Muslim countries including, Libya, Egypt, and Pakistan. The protests even led to the death of a US Ambassador in Libya. Even in Pakistan, the initial protests were rather violent and led to a burnt KFC, and damage to a couple of other US food franchises.

The Pakistani government soon took the matter into their own hands, and started negotiating with YouTube to take down the video; but Google, the owner of YouTube, denied their request and said that the video doesn’t break any of the rules. Therefore, Pakistani officials took the matter into their own hands and imposed a ban on YouTube, which hasn’t been lifted so far.

This step has upset most of the Pakistani citizens, especially ones who rely on YouTube for most of their stuff, such as entertainment, education, etc.

This move has proved highly disturbing for most of the Internet users in Pakistan. Personally, I have been affected as well. I am a student and YouTube has been the source of my studies for years; in effect the ban has made it worse for students, like me who rely on YouTube for any study related help.

Although, accessing YouTube from Pakistan is not impossible, most of the tech-savvy internet users are taking advantages of Proxies and VPNs to access YouTube without any hassles, but this leaves many others, who are not-so-techy, wishing for the ban to go away – they only want to enjoy full access to their favorite video streaming site.

Recently, on 29 December, 2012, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik declared that the ban would be lifted over the weekend; this was because of high demand from the whole society. The government even followed through with their promise and lifted the ban….for a couple of minutes and then banned it again. Geo News (A Pakistani News Channel) has been the target of criticism for the re-imposed ban, as one News Anchor, Mansoor Ali Khan mocked the government for any security measures taken against the blasphemous video, he also stated that the first ban has been ineffective. Soon after Ali Khan’s remarks, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Raja Pervez Ashraf ordered the ban to resume, because the video “Innocence of Muslims” was still live and viewable.

The whole YouTube blocking/unblocking fiasco has made the whole country very angry. People claim this ban is a direct attack on their rights. It feels like nobody cares about what people want, Government officials have no concern for their citizens.

The only solution, to the whole “filter the blasphemous video” situation is to actually “Not Search for the video”. People search for the video and then start tweeting how the video is still there and how the government has failed to contain the situation leading to childish bans.

If everyone could just ignore the existence of the video and keep doing what they did on YouTube, it’d be much simpler for others, who want YouTube to be unblocked again in the country.

There are no words on when or whether the ban will be lifted, but we will keep you posted with any development regarding the matter.

Let me  know what your thoughts are on Pakistan’s banning and unbanning fiasco.

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