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ONCE again the government has resorted to suspending cellular phone facilities on a day when security concerns are high. In the approach to Ashura, it has gone one step further by also banning wireless phone services. Whether or not these steps are actually effective in averting a terrorist attack remains a moot point; we still await evidence to prove that such measures, which also restrict access to essential services such as police and emergency helplines, are necessary in the fight against extremism. While we can still take heart from the fact that the suspension of phone services is temporary, what possible defence can be found for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s first imposing a ban on night-time and low-rate cellphone packages, and now preventing cellphone operators from offering chat-room services to users?

PTA says it is following the directives of the Supreme Court, and that legislators say such services are being misused, especially by students. On the floor of the National Assembly, a few voices have raised such concerns, with one legislator tabling a private member’s bill on the issue: MNA Nosheen Saeed is reported as having commented “Are these mobile telephone operators offering telephone services or running other services to misguide young people?”

Obviously, then, in the view of certain circles the threat to Pakistan’s social fabric comes not from entrenched issues such as terrorism, poverty and the lack of education, but from the morality codes of the young. According to this regressive view, it is the state’s responsibility to take up the role of morality police. Nothing, perhaps, can be more repugnant to those who stand for civil liberties and who point out that the answer does not lie in curbing personal freedoms. Further, each such step becomes a precedent for the next that shifts the goalposts and imposes more restrictions. The state has already established that people’s online freedoms can arbitrarily be curtailed — YouTube has remained offline for several weeks now, and PTA has not yet clarified its position or made a firm announcement that it will be reinstated. Does the government really want to go down this path? Regression is what extremists in Pakistan also want. The state and its functionaries, as well as the representatives of the people, need to dwell on the fact that the citizenry needs to be empowered through increasing freedoms and choices, not disempowered still further with the state itself taking on the role of an enforcer of bans and a restrictor of liberties.

Comments (5) Closed

Samna Nov 24, 2012 09:39pm
The Problem of SIM Spoofing The problem of SIM Spoofing has been increasing day after day that ultimately creating harassment among customers. In SIM spoofing the customer SIM may use illegally for Calls and Text Messages, without his knowledge, although the SIM is active and in the use of the customer. Obviously to do SIM Spoofing for common people is not possible. Only who have high accessibility on customers? private information can do this activity as a result of illegal use of authority. The people who involved in SIM spoofing can informed the exact location including area and city where ever customer gone, they are clearly able to listen customer mobile to mobile and mobile to landline conversations also can interfere in the conversations, they can read the text messages (SMSs) including the delete ones, bugged the landline numbers and the last but not least they can use the customer SIMs illegally without his knowledge. No doubt the SIM spoofing create serious harassment among customer especially when he sees the unknown persons took the control of his SIM and received the incomings calls despite the fact that the SIM was with him and was active. Meanwhile whenever the victim customer changed the SIM within five minutes the same unknown persons trace SIM number and started to contact with him on new number. Many times the customer received calls from ?Private Number? and Text Messages from numbers that surprisingly not in anyone use. When the customer contacted to the SIM Companies he was informed that SIM was not issued yet to anyone and is available for sale. The government must ensure the privacy of customers and monitor those individuals and authorities that had actually given the responsibility to monitor others SMSs and calls. Necessary action should be taken against those who are illegally using their authority because that is not only creating harassment and mental torture among customers but also Samna Naz Karachi
M. Asghar Nov 24, 2012 10:28am
The problem of the mayhem of extremism/terrorism is becoming existenial for the countery. One has deal with it per se, but blocking the means of communications may come out to be just a diversion.
Gulfaraz Nov 26, 2012 05:23pm
Yes , its good step of gove't and we should accept and support it with open heart.
Intelektual Nov 26, 2012 08:27am
By already imposing a CNIC card requirment for a SIM card issuance does the dogma of "misguide young people" not become meaning less ! If SIMs are being issued to adults and being used under their CNIC's hence supervision Where do the law makers get off ! by curtailing the civil liberties and influencing free markets !! Is this the what the democratic and free government is supposed to be ! The religious Loony bin needs to keep their Over protective, undemocratic and uncivil stances on mobile phones to themselves !! We still have a family system ! The moral responsibility is not the responsibility of parliament but that of the head of family ! Moreover its not like that Govt is excelling at discharging their as are responsibilities !
BNS Nov 24, 2012 03:42pm
Thru these lines I strongly protest the rights and liberties curtailing approach be it low rate night cell phone calling or something else. Cell phone is just a tool and it can be used either ways that does not mean to deprive people of this good service at all. Further we dont need anymore moral policing. And by the way, these words are not from one of the affectees rather from their father.