Islamabad/ Lahore: Pakistan on Thursday blocked
popular video sharing website YouTube for hosting
"sacrilegious content", a day after severing access to social
networking site Facebook over a page featuring blasphemous
caricatures of Prophet Mohammad.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority directed
internet service providers to cut off access to YouTube after
a special monitoring cell determined that "objectionable"
content on the site was increasing.
PTA initially blocked about 450 web-pages and links
with "blasphemous" and "sacrilegious" material but
subsequently decided to completely cut off YouTube, an
official spokesman said.
The move also affected access to popular websites like
Wikipedia and Flickr.
Blackberry services too were blocked for almost 12
hours before being restored late this afternoon.
Messages sent out by mobile phone companies offering
Blackberry services said users would not be able to access
Facebook or other blocked websites.
In a statement, PTA said its actions were "in line
with the constitution of Pakistan (and) the wishes of the
PTA had yesterday blocked access to Facebook on the
orders of the Lahore High Court over a page hosting a contest
to draw blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Mohammed.
At the weekly briefing at the Foreign Office,
spokesman Abdul Basit condemned the publication of blasphemous
caricatures of Prophet Mohammed on Facebook.
"Such malicious and insulting attacks hurt the
sentiments of Muslims around the world and cannot be accepted
under the garb of freedom of expression," he said in response
to a question.
Attacks on religious beliefs and personalities are
"not helpful" for efforts towards promoting inter-faith
harmony and cooperation.
Islamabad wants "stern action to prohibit such acts
that incite religious and communal hatred and hurt the
feelings of millions of Muslims around the globe", Basit said.
The efforts of Pakistani authorities seemed to be
aimed at preventing violent protests such as those witnessed
across the country when blasphemous caricatures of Prophet
Mohammed were carried in European newspapers in 2005.
YouTube was earlier briefly banned in Pakistan in 2008
for carrying material deemed offensive to Muslims.
Even before the Lahore High Court temporarily blocked
Facebook till May 31, protests were organised by religious
parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam in
The Islami Jamiat Tulba, the student wing of the
Jamaat-e-Islami, today organised protests in Islamabad and
Lahore, calling for a boycott of Facebook and supporting the
ban on websites.
Members of the organisation shouted slogans like "We
love Prophet Mohammed" and "Al-Jihad, Al-Jihad" and called on
people to lay down their lives for Islam and the Prophet.
The protestors planned to march on the US embassy but
were dispersed by police before they could reach the heavily
guarded diplomatic enclave and they dispersed.
A separate rally was held in Lahore by the
Jamaat-ud-Dawah, blamed by India for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The protestors urged people to stand united against a
"conspiracy against Islam" and to boycott blasphemous
However, several users of social networking websites
complained about the crackdown.
Mehmal Sarfraz, the op-ed editor with the Daily Times
newspaper and an avid user of Facebook, said Pakistani
authorities had more pressing problems to contend with than
websites with sacrilegious content.
"To all those Pakistanis who are supporting the ban:
please stop using the internet altogether. Let`s see if you
can do that," Sarfraz said in a message posted on Twitter.
Pakistan has about 20 million internet users and 2.5
million of them are members of Facebook.
The Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan
estimated that the blocking of Facebook and YouTube would
slash up to 25 percent of all internet traffic in Pakistan.
However, PTA said it had resorted to blocking the
popular websites only after "all possible avenues" within its
jurisdiction had been used to protest the appearance of
"derogatory material" on the sites.
"The attitude of administrators at Facebook and
YouTube was in contravention to the (World Summit on the
Information Society) resolutions and their own policies
advertised on the web for the general public," PTA said in its
"PTA would welcome the concerned authorities of
Facebook and YouTube to contact the PTA for resolving the
issue," the statement added.