Calls grow to lift Youtube ban in Pakistan

As the ban on video-sharing website Youtube in Pakistan entered its third year, calls to lift the controversial ban have begun to grow even as the government appears reluctant to take any chances, fearing backlash from Islamist extremists.

Lahore: As the ban on video-sharing website Youtube in Pakistan entered its third year, calls to lift the controversial ban have begun to grow even as the government appears reluctant to take any chances, fearing backlash from Islamist extremists.

The PPP government had banned YouTube in September 2012 after a movie, Innocence of Muslim, deemed blasphemous was uploaded on the website.

"Forget the PML-N government will unblock the video sharing website during its tenure," Supreme Court advocate Haider Zaman Qureshi told PTI.

"Like the previous PPP regime, the present government is only giving false hope to the people in this regard."

Qureshi alleged that lifting the ban on YouTube has never been a priority for the government.

"In fact the government is hiding behind the Supreme Court to absolve itself of its responsibility to ensure availability of YouTube to the people of Pakistan," he said.

Several petitions had been pending in the Lahore High Court, seeking that the ban on YouTube be lifted.

Advocate Yasir Hamdani, who is also a petitioner in one such case before the Lahore HC, said the government wants to hide behind the apex court so that nobody questions the ban.

"The Supreme Court should interpret its interim order of September 17, 2012 so that the government could not hide itself behind it. Once the order is interpreted the onus will be on the government," he said.

Talking about solutions, Hamdani said filtering contents on the website won't be a good idea as it would infringe the rights of citizens.

Instead, he proposed that the government requests Google to put up a "warning software" for Internet users in Pakistan, cautioning them about objectionable contents.

Hamdani said Internet curbs have been counter-productive and have deprived Pakistan the right to access information.

"Taking away YouTube's access is the modern equivalent of taking away the scholar's pen," Hamdani said.

"It hurts the material progress of Pakistanis."

On the other hand, the Information and Technology ministry has asked the Telecommunication Authority to install software to filter and remove blasphemous contents on YouTube.

It said the PTA has been asked to take the example of India, Turkey, China and Dubai in this regard.

"But it seems no body is serious to take up this responsibility," an IT official said, and asked why the PTA had not yet arranged a software to filter the contents despite a passage of two years.

PTA chairman Ismail Shah said the authority had requested Google to give Pakistan rights to control YouTube locally like it has done in India, but the Internet major declined.

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