YouTube ban lifted
Islamabad, May 27: The Ministry of Information on Wednesday lifted the ban on popular video sharing website YouTube after banning it in the wake of public outrage over "blasphemous" content. "YouTube has been unblocked, but the links to sacrilegious content would remain inaccessible in Pakistan," Khurram Mehran of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) told AFP. Earlier, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Pakistan was to lift a ban on Facebook in the next few days. The PTA banned access to Facebook and YouTube and other links, and restricted access to Wikipedia, last week over what it called "growing sacrilegious content". Daily times
Facebook protests fuel American flag business
Karachi: In a row about Facebook, censorship and religious sacrilege means booming demand for replica American and Israeli flags to go up in flames at protest rallies across the country.
That means one thing for 31-year-old Mamoon ur Rasheed - business - and he is working long into the night to churn out the paraphernalia beloved of activists taking to the streets.
"I have nothing to do with any political party, but it is really enjoyable when you see your work on TV screens," a laughing Rasheed said.
"I'm busy every day making banners and placards for different religious and political parties, but work gets a boost - especially when international controversy concerning Muslims breaks out," he said.
Several thousand Pakistanis have taken to the streets at the behest of right-wing religious groups, who turn to Rasheed when they need flags to burn and banners to write.
"Generally, we receive orders for banners for a couple of demonstrations a day, but due to the blasphemous drawings issue, the number of orders for flags and banners has increased by 10 to 12 per day," said Rasheed.
"Flags are made for burning. They symbolise what our clients want to express and we are paid for it, so I'm happy to see our work go up in flames."
Rasheed owns a workshop where he employs four craftsmen to paint flags and write calligraphy, and a small printing press.
"We have received continuous orders for American and Israeli flags. Normally we paint them but when demand surges into the hundreds we print these flags to get them to our clients in time," he said.
In the wake of the blasphemous drawings contest, Pakistan blocked hundreds of web pages to limit access to the profane material, banning access to US-based Facebook and YouTube - the two most popular websites in the country. The Lahore High Court ordered the block on Facebook until at least May 31, when it is scheduled to hear a petition from lawyers.
Rasheed runs his business on times of stress. Different periods mean demand for the flags of India, Norway and Sweden and Britain.
Whenever elections approach or protests start, wholesalers stock huge quantities of cheap cloth and reap handsome rewards. "We are getting bigger orders from scores of painters and printers nowadays," cloth merchant Mohammad Siddique said.
"Pakistan is the country of protests and for this Karachi is undoubtedly its capital and our business gets a boost in such circumstances," Siddique said.
Waqar Ahmed, owner of a printing press in Karachi's southern neighbourhood Pakistan Chowk, says orders are flooding in for posters, pamphlets and placards, temporarily overtaking his main business in books and wedding cards.
"I get orders for pamphlets and posters in the event of controversies or elections," Waqar says. May 15, when Palestinians marked Naqba day - the catastrophe of Israel's creation in 1948 - is another landmark.
"I got some orders to print flags of Israel and United States - 100 a piece - during Naqba rallies. We have also sold some American and Swedish flags during the protests against Facebook," Ahmed said. Afp
Ban on Facebook drives Malik to Twitter
Islamabad: After Pakistan banned Facebook in a bid to stop it hosting blasphemous pictures, the interior minister found a new way to get his online fix. He jumped on Twitter. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said his son told him that if he couldn't get on Facebook, where he has his own page which hosts pictures of dignitaries and has 691 fans, he should Tweet.
"Only a few days back I came in (as a Twitter user). I like it," Malik told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. "There are lot of questions, are you real, are you fake?" Malik already has more than 270 followers, according to his page, far less than the "countless" ones he said he had after only a few days. Many people writing to him question if indeed the account is real (it is) or complain that he should be governing instead of tweeting. Malik's tweets give no hint the digital hecklers bother him. He calls for unity in the face of violence in Karachi and comments on how nice it is to meet so many women parliamentarians from around Asia. He also freely engages with his followers, an unusual practice in Pakistan's stratified political culture. "Thank you for your appreciation," Malik wrote to one well-wisher. "I will hunt the terrorists to their demise."
It's been a week since the Lahore High Court banned Facebook. I am still trying to figure out the logic behind this ban. As a Muslim, I am, without a doubt, deeply offended by the campaign against the Prophet (PBUH) on Facebook. But, is banning Facebook really the answer? Not only have we caused a stir among the people of our nation but we have also confirmed the west's opinion about Muslims. We have, yet again, managed to make an international spectacle of ourselves. All this, and the group on Facebook still hasn't been deleted. I just have one question to ask the people who were so quick to protest against something that could have been handled in a more effective and peaceful manner. Where were these protests when innocent people in Gojra were being killed in the name of religion? Why didn't these champions of Islam raise their voice when a video of a young girl being flogged in Swat was released?
If these people claim to be the followers of the Prophet (PBUH) then I would request them to follow the example set by him. It is because of his teaching that Islam is known as the religion of peace and tolerance. Protesting against whatever is popular in the world does not make a good Muslim. One can't pick and choose some tenets of Islam to follow and the rest to ignore. Religion doesn't work that way. If you protest against the pictures of the Prophet (PBUH) because they are blasphemous then do it in a manner that God would approve of, and not by rioting and making death threats to the administrator of the group. Maham Ali - Bahria University, Islamabad
The ban on Facebook and restriction on YouTube, Wikipedia and Twitter are disturbing. These websites have provided a valuable platform in the past to dissenting voices, especially during the lawyers' movement. These websites brought into the limelight the issues that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Does anyone remember the videos posted on YouTube showing rigging in Karachi's polling stations during the 2008 elections? These websites are a valuable source of information. People voice their protest and organise through them. That it is so easy for the authorities to ban these websites and trample over our right to free speech is a threat to democracy.
The ban on Facebook has set a dangerous precedent. It is sad how blasphemy laws and public sentiment could be interpreted. Imagine if the competition for blasphemous cartoons on Facebook had coincided with the anti-dictatorship movement of 2007. What would stop the authorities from banning the internet altogether claiming that it contained blasphemous material? If freedom of speech is used by anti-Islam elements, we should also use freedom of speech against them as a powerful weapon. Undermining ourselves by doing away with modern tools of engagement will not solve any problem. It is time we learned the value of our right to free speech. It is a lesson we should have learned when Musharraf banned news channels. We demand that free speech should be protected fully and effectively. It is a right that no one should have the power to violate. Wahee Saajid, Islamabad
I absolutely agree with the Lahore High Court's decision to ban Facebook in Pakistan because only this will ensure the international media's coverage about the countrywide protests against blasphemous cartoons. As we have seen in the past, blasphemy against holy figures has been done on a regular basis. But no action was ever taken against the elements behind this offence. I hope that after this ban at least Facebook administrators won't allow such blasphemous material on their website. Afzal Khan, Lahore
It was a right decision to block Facebook in Pakistan. Muslims can never tolerate blasphemy. I suggest that Facebook should be banned permanently because it is nothing but a waste of time. Students sit in front of computer for hours surfing Facebook while their parents think that they are doing some research work. Maryam Munir, Lahore
I find it difficult to grasp that while our government can ban Facebook with such ease, it condones other actions which are committed by us Muslims. I read news reports of murders almost every day. Also, the targeted killings are a matter of routine now. The government should look into these matters as well. Why is all the focus on Facebook alone? - Ibrahim Rizwan, Karachi.
Facebook to simplify privacy controls
New york: Facebook is simplifying its privacy controls.
The changes come amid complaints about recently announced features, including "instant personalization" that tailors other websites to users' Facebook profiles. Protesters have been organizing campaigns to quit Facebook and privacy groups have complained to regulators. One complaint has been over the fact that while Facebook allows users to hide their list of interests on their personal profile pages, the user would still show up elsewhere as "liking" that band, company or hobby. The new privacy settings will be extending to those other places as well. In a news conference Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is also making it easier for users to decline the instant personalization feature. It's not yet clear whether the latest changes will quell user unease.
GSIS students protest against Facebook
Islamabad: Teenage students of Global System of Integrated Studies (GSIS), wearing angry looks on their faces and chanting heated slogans, protested against the Facebook blasphemy here on Wednesday, says a press release.
Slogans like 'Stop stop blasphemy; crush crush Facebook' and 'Quit quit Facebook' could be heard, as the students emerged from the school's main gate that faces Pitrus Bukhari Road and came to a short halt by the roadside.
All boys and girls were holding placards, displaying their hurt sentiments, coupled with appeals to the 'civilised world', especially the UN, to ban the 'blasphemous' Facebook. One such placard read, "V Respect Others' Religion; Why Don't They Too?"
The GSIS youngsters demanded the issue to be dealt with sternly, so that no one dares commit such a nasty thing again in future. "Every Muslim condemns this act, and we appeal to the whole Muslim Ummah to stay off Facebook in future. The news