YouTube also shut down
Islamabad, May 21: Pakistan has blocked the popular video sharing website YouTube indefinitely in a bid to contain "blasphemous" material, officials said on Thursday.
The blockade came hours after the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) directed Internet service providers to stop access to social network site Facebook indefinitely on Wednesday because of an online competition to draw the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
Any representation of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is deemed un-Islamic and blasphemous by Muslims.
Wahaj-us-Siraj, the CEO of Nayatel, an Internet service provider, said PTA issued an order late on Wednesday seeking an "immediate" block of YouTube.
"It was a serious instruction as they wanted us to do it quickly and let them know after that," he told Reuters.
YouTube was also blocked in the Muslim country in 2007 for about a day for what it called un-Islamic videos.
PTA spokesman, Khurram Ali Mehran, said the action was taken after the authority determined that content considered blasphemous by devout Muslims was being posted on the website.
"Before shutting down (YouTube), we did try just to block particular URLs or links, and access to 450 links on the Internet were stopped, but the blasphemous content kept appearing so we ordered a total shut down," he said.
He regretted that the administrators at the Facebook and YouTube had not taken the content off despite Pakistan's protests.
"Their attitude was in contravention to international resolutions and their own policies advertised on the Web for the general public," Mehran said.
The PTA issued a statement Thursday saying, "PTA would welcome the concerned authorities of Facebook and YouTube to contact the PTA for resolving the issue at the earliest which ensures religious harmony and respect."
The PTA decision to block all of Facebook also cut Pakistanis off from groups and pages dedicated to opposing the competition, which have thousands more supporters than the competition does.
Along with the ban, some popular websites, including Wikipedia and Flickr, have been inaccessible in Pakistan since Wednesday night. But the spokesman said it happened purely due to a technical reason and no orders were passed against them.
He said the authority was monitoring other websites as well.
Siraj said the blocking of the two websites would cut up to a quarter of total Internet traffic in Pakistan.
"It'll have an impact on the overall Internet traffic as they eat up 20 to 25 per cent of the country's total 65 giga-bytes traffic," he said.
After the PTA's directives against Facebook and YouTube, Pakistani mobile companies blocked all Blackberry services on Wednesday night but restored services used by non-corporate users later on Thursday.
"We have intimated to the Blackberry service administrators in Canada to block them and once it's done, the service will be restored fully," said Farhan Butt, an official at Pakistan's biggest cellular company, Mobilink.
The closure of services worried Blackberry users.
"The biggest concern for us ... is the delay in decision making," said Zahid Sheikh, head of information technology department at National Foods Limited in Karachi city.
"Our top officials and senior management are not always in office. They do travel and work from remote locations, and with this shut down, they can't access emails."
Publications of similar cartoons in Danish newspapers in 2005 sparked deadly protests in Muslim countries. Around 50 people were killed during violent protests in Muslim countries in 2006 over the cartoons, five of them in Pakistan.
Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on Denmark's embassy in Islamabad in 2008, killing six people, saying it was in revenge for publication of the caricatures.Your Comments
PTA blocks access to YouTube
Islamabad: Online social network users in the country were pushed into deeper troubles on Thursday when the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked the video-sharing website YouTube a day after blocking access to Facebook.
YouTube was the fourth most accessed website from Pakistan.
The PTA said in a statement it had asked all operators to shut down www.youtube.com because of its sacrilegious content.
It said it had decided to block the sites from being viewed within the country after making all possible efforts within its jurisdiction, including using regular channels available on the Facebook and YouTube, to launch protest against an increase in derogatory material online over the past two weeks.
The PTA has so far blocked more than 450 internet links containing such material.
It said the move was in line with the Constitution and the wishes of the people.
It said the attitude of administrators of Facebook and YouTube was in contravention of their own policies advertised on the web.
Yet the PTA would welcome reconciliatory dialogue, the statement said.
Prime Minister's Adviser on Information Technology Latif Khosa claimed responsibility for blocking the sites.
"Purity of our faith and religion has been maintained because we have shown zero tolerance towards sacrilegious contents. I have instructed the PTA to exercise maximum authority to block sites that mock our Prophet (pbuh) and disrespect feelings of Muslims," he said.
He said the government was not denying the people, especially the youth, the technology, but "our reaction has to be prominent against evil". However, it was yet to be seen how successfully the government could keep more than 20 million Pakistani internet users from accessing the blocked sites.
YouTube was more than just a video-sharing website. It was widely used by the young and the old to log on to local news channels like Geo, DawnNews and ARY.
It was a major source of information when the previous military dictator had banned some TV channels.
Besides news, people could access religious, educational, musical and science programmes, talk shows and documentaries through YouTube. It is also a popular website which has often served the interests of Muslims and Pakistanis by carrying videos which highlight the plight of Kashmiris and Palestinians as well as the atrocities of Taliban.
Facebook too was more than a social network and had become a source of income for students, young entrepreneurs and multinationals which could place their advertisements and announcements on it.
Reuters adds: Some other websites, including Wikipedia and Flickr, have also been inaccessible in Pakistan since Wednesday night.
But a spokesman for the PTA said those sites had been blocked because of a technical reason and no orders had been issued against them.
However, he said the authority was monitoring other websites. Dawn
Karachi: The sensitive nature of the controversy regarding Facebook, a social networking site, was on full display on Thursday, where emotions ran high leading to an altercation outside the Karachi Press Club.
Initially, civil society activists held a press conference questioning the extensive blocking of websites by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), which they termed to be Internet censorship.
They said that the basic issue was of specific blasphemous pages – and therefore the specific URLs of those offensive pages should have been blocked instead of a blanket bar on websites.
The PTA had blocked many websites across Pakistan – many of which had no connection with the ongoing Blasphemy controversy, including search engine Google.com.
"What is the point of banning Facebook, Youtube and Flickr and other websites? We are against events and websites which incite violence and hatred. But instead of banning websites, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority could have had simply blocked the offensive webpage," they argued.
They added that a number of small businesses, nonprofit organisations, media outlets use Facebook to conduct their everyday business. "All these businesses have now come to a standstill.
The action is having a negative impact on the country by infringing upon our civil liberties," they said, adding that they would appeal against the decision after May 31 if the websites remain inaccessible.
However, the nature of the message being given during the press conference was apparently misconstrued – with violent consequences.
While the aforementioned press conference was being held inside the KPC, outside assembled protestors belonging to a religious group, the Tehreek Ahle-Hadith, to condemn Facebook.
The activists caught wind of the press conference inside the KPC, and turned violent. Verbal threats and heavy abuse turned into a physical attack on one of the civil society activists by the religious group. Some journalists present on the spot intervened and stymied an attempt to lynch the man by the enraged activists of the religious party, who then laid siege to the premises of the KPC – demanding that he be handed over to them.
The police arrived on the spot to control the situation – after which the civil society activists, including Sabeen Mahmud, director of Peace Niche, and bloggers Awab Alvi and Zaheer Kidvai, were whisked away.
Later, Awab Alvi, who was attacked by the religious party's activists, said: "Just like the others, I am totally against the offensive webpage and condemn the event. However, [they] misunderstood my statement. I feel that PTA should have blocked the webpage and not the entire website."
Meanwhile, different religious parties, including the Tehreek-e-Ahle Sunnat Jamaat-e-Islami, Tehreek Ahle Hadith and Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan, held protests for a second consecutive day in different parts of the city to condemn the blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet (PBUH), and supported the government's move to ban Facebook.
Ban on Facebook lauded
Lahore: A majority of the Facebook crazy youngsters hailed the government's decision of banning the website on Wednesday evening and criticised the website's administrators for not stopping the discussion page containing blasphemous caricatures of Holy Prophet (PBUH) despite a huge number of votes.
Facebook can be termed one of the most visited websites in Pakistan and having an account on www.facebook.com is considered a mandatory thing for an internet user in the country, especially in big cities like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.
According to different web surveys, Facebook has grabbed 44 percent total share of the social networking websites while the share of Twitter, Yahoo and MySpace is (29pc, 18pc and 9pc respectively. Recently, Google has also launched its social networking service with the name of BUZZ, while its earlier social networking site www.Orkut.com was overtaken by Facebook.
Mehwish, a young teacher, said she was a daily user of Facebook and considered social networking a good time pass. She said people shared their views and comments with each other but no one had the right to defame the holy personalities of any religion.
"The government's move to block Facebook for allowing blasphemous caricatures of Holy Prophet (PBUH) but then it's useless that we unblock the site for people's entertainment later on," she commented.
She said now when the government had been officially protesting, it should demand cancellation of the contest and put the condition that only then such a social network would be allowed.
Hassan, a student of the Punjab University, said social networking did not mean defaming other's religions. He said the government should ban all other such sites which were allowing the same contest to go on.
He said while searching on internet one could find many such sites where this specific contest was being held.Muzamil Arshad, a resident of Samanabad, said the government should block all the proxy servers because people might use facebook through them.
"We love our Prophet (SAW) and will not tolerate any kind of defamation attempt against him as well as against our religion," he said, adding that he and his friends had decided not to join Facebook again.
Similar views were expressed by a large number of students and other people in telephonic survey conducted by The News. Majority of them have demanded the government as well as the judiciary to permanently ban the Facebook in the country so that no other social networking site could dare allow such blasphemy in future.
Leading varsities students hold protest demo against Facebook
Lahore: Dozens of students from leading universities and higher education institutes staged a protest demonstration on Thursday, strongly condemning the competition of blasphemous cartoons on Facebook.
The demo, organized by the Students Action Committee (SAC) at Liberty Chowk, was attended by students of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), FC College University, Lahore Schools of Economics (LSE), Punjab University, etc.
The students were carrying placards inscribed with slogans against anti-Islamic forces and demanding the Muslim countries around the world to ban the Facebook. They also appealed to Muslims in Europe and the US to stop using the website as a mark of complete unity and solidarity over the issue.
A large number of commuters and traders of the area also expressed solidarity with the protesting students, becoming part of the demo.
IIU students protest against Facebook
Islamabad: Students of the International Islamic University (IIU) took out a protest rally from their campus to Police Lines Chowk here on Thursday against a competition of blasphemous caricatures on social networking website, Facebook.
According to details, different students organisations took out a protest rally from Activity Centre of the IIU to Police Lines Chowk and urged on the incumbent leadership of the country to take stringent action against those involved in the heinous crime for hurting the religious sentiments of millions of Muslims all over the world.
Student leaders termed publishing of caricatures on Facebook website as an international conspiracy to agitate the Muslim World and dishonouring the religious sentiments of Muslims.
They also urged on the incumbent leadership of the country and Muslim Ummah to get united against the Jewish conspiracies and to boycott the countries accomplice in practice of blasphemous caricatures including Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Agitated students of IIU also chanted slogans against responsible countries and blocked road near Police Lines Chowk for an hour. The news