LAHORE: As the ban on YouTube enters third year in Pakistan, the Ministry of Information and Technology is blaming the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for not doing enough to address the issue.
From former premier Raja Pervez Ashraf to sitting Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, there have been promises and promises that “the ban on YouTube will soon be lifted”. But on ground neither the PPP nor the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz governments have taken practical measures to address the matter. The PPP government had imposed the ban on YouTube following a blasphemous content was uploaded in September 2012.
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Those who moved the court against the ban and some officials involved in the process are of the view that the government, in fact, is hiding behind the court order in this respect to absolve itself of its responsibility to ensure the availability of the video sharing website to the people of Pakistan.
“The IT ministry had directed the PTA time and again to come up with a solution to the problem. IT was asked to either install filtration software or take up the matter with the Google to remove blasphemous content from the YouTube browsed in Pakistan,” said a source in the IT ministry.
‘Govt not doing enough to address the issue’
He said the PTA was also asked to take the example of India and Turkey where Google was operating. “But it seems nobody is serious in taking up the responsibility,” he said, asking as to why the PTA had not yet bought a filtration software fulfilling our requirements despite a passage of two years. “Why a parliamentary committee constituted to look into the matter has not come out with any solution either,” he further asked.
Sources in the PTA however claimed that it had requested Google to give Pakistan rights to control the website (YouTube) locally but it declined. In India and Turkey, Google is operating there but to operate here it had demanded certain securities which the government reportedly refused.
They said the PTA had informed the government that installation of filtration software was possible but it was very expensive. “And the regulatory body of the telecom sector is awaiting a response of the government in this regard,” the sources said.
They said, in fact, the government was not keen to resolve this issue by buying a filtration software. “The government believes that millions of dollars on acquiring filtration software will go down the drain as once the ban is lifted on YouTube another issue may crop up. So the government is playing safe,” they said.
PTA chairman Dr Ismail Shah did not respond to Dawn’s queries on YouTube issue.
Advocate Yasir Hamdani, who is also a petitioner in the Lahore High Court, told Dawn that the government was trying to hide behind the Supreme Court so that nobody could raise voice against it for its capacity to address the matter.
“I request to Justice Jawad S Khawaja to interpret the SC interim order (of Sept 17, 2012) so that the government should not hide behind it. Once the order is interpreted the onus will be on the government,” he said, adding the government was deliberately showing its incapability to address the issue.
Talking about the solution to the problem, Mr Hamdani said: “Filtration software will not be an ultimate solution to the problem in the long run as it will infringe the rights of the citizens,” he said.
He proposed that the government should request Google to at least install ‘warning software’ for the YouTube users in Pakistan cautioning them about blasphemous/objectionable stuff.
Mr Hamdani said all internet curbs were counterproductive and deprive Pakistanis the right to access of information as well as the right to counter any propaganda against the country.
Published in Dawn, September 27th , 2014