Facebook blocked in Pakistan

Students protest against Facebook caricatures competition
Lahore, May 20: Students across the city openly questioned on Wednesday the motive behind Facebook's holding of a competition of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

The Young Doctors Association with students from the Kind Edward Medical University, Fatima Jinnah Medical College and Islami Jamiat Taliba protested at different parts of the city against the social networking website for holding the competition.

"This is the limit, first the blasphemous caricatures were published and now a Jewish lobby is using a sophisticated method to hurt sentiments of Muslims around the world. The government is clearly doing nothing in this regard and it's evident that they are incompetent and cannot take any steps," an angry protester said.

Slogans: Moreover, participants of the Al-Muhammadia Students Pakistan also held a massive protest outside the Lahore Press Club and walked towards the Assembly Hall. They chanted slogans against America, Sweden, Norway, Israel and Denmark for publishing the blasphemous caricatures.

"First they published the caricatures and now they are spreading them on a popular medium like Facebook. They want to change the mindset of the upcoming generation. The Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool has also scheduled a protest at the Masjid-e-Shuhuda today (Thursday)," one of the protesters said.

Salman Kazi of the YDA said they are preparing for countrywide protests "for which we have contacted students of all medical colleges and universities".

Maintain image: Musician Ali Azmat said the issue should be dealt with sternly so that no such thing takes place in the future. "Every Muslim condemns this act, but it should be handled responsibly because we have to maintain our image. I have registered my condemnation of the relevant Facebook page."

The Lahore High Court had asked the Foreign Ministry to launch an international protest over the issue and seek an apology from the people responsible, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said, adding the issue had already been taken up at the Human Rights Council, Organisation of Islamic Conference and the UN General Assembly.

Apology: "Now Facebook is being used to do the same thing which is not acceptable at any level. We are also seeking the stance of like-minded countries after which we will form a different strategy to seek apology from those responsible," Basit added.

While the LHC has ordered banning Facebook across the country, the IT Ministry on Wednesday issued a notification stating that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has directed all operators concerned in Pakistan to block the website until further notice. Daily times

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"well its a really good thing that our muslims are taking action against it but i guess the person who abused the name of our beloved prophet Muhammad (S.A.W)APOLOGIZED ! and so the facebook shouldnt be block any more"
Name: Mala
Email: mala_abidi@yahoo.com
City, Country: karachi , pakistan

"i think its a great idea but what about those who have their loved once abroad? their family? their kids? wifes? this site was just a click away to hit them, because of that someone SON OF A ***** who made our Holy Prophets (saw) drawings authority should kill him to death! Not by blocking the site permanently but by punishing him to DEATH! Ask the government to kill him for doing such thing. My wife recently went to Italy its been a week... i used to talk to her on facebook till she lost her Phone.. n i was suppose to know her number by Wednesday but they blocked the site! Now this is killing me inside too... but hope they take a fine step next time."
Name: ali
Email: alimurtaza_16@hotmail.com
City, Country: isb

"I love to be able to connect with people every where. It is sad there are people out there who abuse such a great tool. I share my feelings with those that are upset in Pakistan. There is no room for such silly behavior that disrespects something others hold dear. I hope this will clear up and we can reconnect again in the future. I am just a simple man whos dream is to make a living, raise a family, have grandchildren, and, ultimately get to heaven. I dont think this is much different then most peoples dreams."
Name: john keller
Email: johnkeller1716@yahoo.com
City, Country: Bismarck, United States

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Facebook to miss 2.3m Pakistani users
Islamabad: About 2.3 million Pakistanis could not access their facebook accounts on Wednesday when the government blocked the website for publishing 'profane anti-Islamic' content.

Following orders from the Lahore High Court, the government blocked 'Facebook' and all other internet links displaying sacrilegious caricatures of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

The Ministry of Information Technology issued a directive to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to remain alert and watchful and block all such links that displayed profane caricatures immediately.

The ministry also set up a dedicated line and an email address and requested public at large to contact and convey information about objectionable material posted online such as the caricatures displayed at the Facebook website.

The PTA had directed all concerned operators in Pakistan to block website www.facebook.com until further orders.

On May 18, the PTA had issued instructions to all operators to block the objectionable link/URL on Facebook.

"Objectionable material had been popping up from different URLs that came into notice of the court and thus ordered blockage of the entire website," said the convener of Internet Service Provider Association of Pakistan, Wahajus Siraj.

The 'hate material' was a violation of Facebook's Fair Use Policy that prohibited nudity and abusive, vulgar and derogatory material to be posted online, he said.

"People had been registering complaints with Facebook administration for almost three weeks. As a global social network Facebook should have realised their responsibility and blocked this particular community that was mocking a revered figure for the Muslims. Facebook has blocked communities spreading hate material before," said Wahajus.

According to the MoIT, Facebook.com was the third most accessed website from Pakistan, after google.com.pk and google.com. More than 2.3 million registered Facebook account holders from Pakistan made up 0.51 per cent of Facebook.com's percentage of Global Audience. Shutting down Facebook over the blasphemous cartoon competition drew mixed reaction from users. While many appreciated the blocking of the website, others called it unnecessary.

"Of course it's wrong. But it's going to take more than a comment from an unknown online community on Facebook to weaken or break Islam," said a

Facebook user who missed contacting her relatives abroad until Tuesday were only a click away.

Amna Agha, a frequent Facebook user, said Pakistanis did not have to get out of control to express their views and give the West a reason to declare them uncivilised. "There is always a peaceful way to protest. They should have blocked the link. And if they can't block all the links then incompetence lies with the government's IT departments."

Faisal Javed held almost a similar opinion. He said "True it's offensive to depict the Prophet (PBUH). But it would have been better to let people decide if they wanted to remain connected through Facebook. It's ridiculous to deprive more than two million people of a site that connected them with their loved ones across continents through the fastest means of communication possible."

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Facebook access blocked on LHC order
Lahore: The government blocked on Wednesday access to Facebook after the Lahore High Court ordered closure of the social networking website until May 31 for holding a competition of blasphemous drawings. Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry asked Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Director Mudassar Husain to file a detailed report on the matter.

The judge also sought assistance of petitioner Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ahmed and other lawyers on relevant international laws.

The PTA director told the court that the closure of the website would damage the national economy. He said the country could lose the internet facility after blocking access to the website.

He said the PTA had already blocked links to the controversial webpage which had hosted the competition, instead of blocking the whole website. He said the link had been blocked on Tuesday evening.

The official's remarks infuriated many lawyers present in the courtroom and Advocate Mohammad Azhar Siddique said that Muslims were ready to suffer any loss to curb blasphemy.

The judge asked both parties to sit together, find a solution to the dispute and return to the court after break.

Consultations held in the deputy attorney general's office remained inconclusive and the matter was left for the court to decide.

When the hearing resumed, the judge ordered that the website be blocked till May 31, the next date of hearing.

Chaudhry Zulfiqar of the Islamic Lawyers' Forum had said that Article 2-A of the Constitution envisaged that no practice against religion could be allowed in the country. He said the website having various features against the injunctions of Islam was banned in a number of Muslim countries.

After the court's decision, the PTA ordered all the operators in the country to block the website, www.facebook.com, until further orders. It said the directives had been issued by the ministry of information technology and telecommunication in view of the LHC's order.

On Tuesday, the PTA had instructed all concerned to block the objectionable link/URL on Facebook which was immediately blocked.

The authority has set up a crisis cell to monitor such contents and announced that toll free number 0800-55055 and email address "complaint@pta.gov.pk" can be used to notify it of URLs where objectionable material is available. Dawn

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Facebook still accessible on Blackberry net
Islamabad: Authorities in Pakistan acted promptly after a provincial court ordered to block the most popular social media namely Facebook for its intrusion into religious privacy of the Muslim world over by initiating a drive, which is blasphemous in Islam.

Public protests have become a consecutive routine since the website launched a drive provoking members to draw blasphemous caricatures of Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). On Wednesday, the Lahore High Court taking up a petition issued directions to immediately block the site.

"Thus, the country's IT and Telecom watchdog Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has directed all concerned operators in Pakistan to block website www.facebook.com till further order," its officials stated.

The website was blocked within minutes after the PTA instructions but it was accessible on mobile Internet being provided by the international operators mostly the Blackberry service of the Canadian company RIM (Research In Motion).

According to mobile operators in Pakistan, they have communicated to the RIM and other operators they are subscribing to, for immediate blocking of the website that has become illegal in Pakistan after the Lahore High Court's directions. A leading mobile operator has also vowed to unsubscribe the Blackberry service of the RIM, if they did not block Facebook in a couple of hours. However, the website was accessible on all international Internet services on mobile phones in Pakistan till filing of this report.

"They (RIM and other international mobile internet providers) will have to it because they also having pressure from other Muslim countries," one of the operator said requesting not to be named.

Earlier, the PTA officials stated, "These directions have been issued in compliance with the directions issued by Ministry of IT & Telecom (MoIT) in view of decision of the Honourable Lahore High Court (LHC). Earlier on May 18, PTA had issued instructions to all concerned authorities to block the objectionable link/URL on Facebook, which were immediately blocked," they added.

Intermittently, the Faceback has already been blocked in several countries including Syria, China, Vietnam, and Iran, after facing different controversies mainly relating to intruding the privacy one way or the other. According to Wikipedia, it has also been banned at many places of work to discourage employees from wasting time using the service.

Privacy has remained a constant issue and it has been compromised several times by this website. Facebook settled a lawsuit regarding claims over source code and intellectual property. The site has also been involved in controversy over the sale of fans and friends. The nation

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Countrywide protests against Facebook
Islamabad: Demonstrations were held across the country on Wednesday in protest against the social networking website, Facebook.

At a demonstration outside the Parliament House, protesters urged the government to raise the issue at the international level. They criticised the West for carrying out and encouraging blasphemous acts.

Addressing a press conference later, Talha Mehmood, chairman of the Senate standing committee on interior affairs, urged the government to redefine its relations with the West against the backdrop of an increase in incidents hurting religious sentiments of the Muslims. He appealed to the OIC to raise the issue at relevant forums.

The senator also condemned a decision of the French parliament to impose restrictions on wearing veil. Dawn

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Students slam unfettered freedom of speech
Karachi: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has made life easier for those who were planning to bid farewell to their Facebook accounts to protest the 'Everybody draw Muhammad Day' event, by issuing a blanket ban of the entire website.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the PTA public relations director said that the social networking site has been banned all over Pakistan till further notice, and all operators concerned have been directed to comply with the directions issued by Ministry of IT & Telecom (MoIT) in view of the decision of the Lahore High Court (LHC).

The controversy, which began with a popular animated TV series, South Park, eventually overflowed on to Facebook, where a group of artists got together and decided to invite other artists to sketch caricatures Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) on May 20, or what they referred to as 'Draw a Muhammad Day'.

A majority of the Facebook using community in Pakistan comprises students and youngsters. Incensed by the May 20 event, they said that concrete steps should be taken to prevent of such "untoward incidents" in the future. "I am happy that the website has been banned in the country because the Facebook administration had not taken any stance against the derogatory event," said Muhammad Farooq, a student of Iqra University. "Popular websites such as Facebook should implement policies which do not attack religions and faiths."

Similarly, a Aqsa Tariq, a social sciences student at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (Szabist), appreciated the ban of the website. "The sentiments of millions of Muslims have been hurt by these artists who are demeaning our religion and following the footsteps of the Danish cartoonists. The sanctity of every religion should be protected," she claimed.

Earlier, more than 43,000 users had joined groups vowing to boycott Facebook, specially on May 20, to protest the event. Many others had called for censuring hate groups against Islam and Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). Some, on the other hand, had opted to celebrate 'Bless Prophet Muhammad Day' instead of shunning Facebook on May 20. "The decision to ban the website won't do any good since the website is accessible through proxy websites and cell phones. I believe that the rational way to protest such incidents is to report the webpage and register complaints with the Facebook administration," said Yamna Sultan, a student at the Institute of Business Administration.

An auditing student, Saad Mansoor, said that instead of boycotting the website, Muslims should honour the prophet by following his teachings. "'Draw a Muhammad Day' was not an official Facebook event. Under such circumstances, Muslims should simply report the page so that it can be blocked by the Facebook administration," he said.

To get the message across, some students of the University of Karachi (KU) are distributing a booklet which tells Facebook users how to report the webpage. "I used penciled comic strips in order to raise awareness. Around 500 booklets have been distributed so far to tell students how to protest peacefully against the event. What the artists are doing is not freedom of expression, but freedom of defamation," Ema Ansari, a student of the KU mass communication department said.

Another student, Ahsan Raza, said that apart from banning the website, activities should be organised to promote tolerance and inter-faith harmony. The news

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