TikTok says 'no communication' from Pakistan on why platform remains blocked

A man wears a protective face mask with the TikTok logo as he walks along dental shops in Karachi on July 14, 2020. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 17 October 2020

TikTok says 'no communication' from Pakistan on why platform remains blocked

  • Islamabad High Court calls on telecoms regulator to explain reasons for banning the app
  • Company hints at investing in Pakistan if the ban if its services are unblocked

ISLAMABAD: Chinese social media application TikTok said on Saturday it "received no communication" on why its service remains blocked in Pakistan despite recent engagement with the country's telecommunications regulator.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced on Oct. 9 that it had banned the popular app over failing to remove “immoral” content from its platform.
On Monday, the telecommunications regulator said representatives of TikTok held a virtual meeting with PTA officials at to arrive at a "mutually acceptable mechanism" for the app to be unbanned in Pakistan. The ban, however, remains in place.
"After TikTok was blocked in Pakistan, we continued to engage with the PTA to demonstrate our commitment to comply with local laws and further enhance our content moderation capacity,” TikTok spokesman said in a statement.
“Though the PTA acknowledged and appreciated these efforts, our services remain blocked in the country and we have received no communication from PTA.”
Also on Saturday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the PTA to present a senior officer at the next hearing of a petition filed against the TikTok ban. While hearing the petition against the ban on Thursday, the court issued notices to PTA, the federal government and the ministry of information technology and telecommunication over the decision to block TikTok.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah asked PTA to explain reasons for the move.
“In this way the entire internet will have to be shut down,” he said, reminding PTA that the court had already directed the regulator to frame rules to exercise its powers under the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act 2016, which PTA had failed to do.
The court also appointed president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Shehzada Zulfiqar, vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, Abid Saqi, journalist Mazhar Abbas and former information minister Javed Jabbar as amici to assist the court on the issue of the banning of online platforms and its implications for freedom of expression and speech and right to access information.
In August, Pakistan blocked five dating apps, namely Tinder, Tagged, Skout, Grinder and SayHi. On July 21, PTA said it had banned the Singaporean live-streaming app Bigo over “immoral, obscene and vulgar content” and issued a last warning to Tiktok for “similar” reasons. Bigo was subsequently unbanned. The hugely popular online game PUBG also remained banned in Pakistan through July.
In September, PTA said it had approached TikTok to immediately block “objectionable content” available on its platform in Pakistan and prevent the use of its platform “for disseminating illegal content.”
“PTA has done so keeping in view the negative effects of indecent/immoral/nude content available on the platform,” PTA said in a statement. “In addition, the platform has been directed to put in place an effective content monitoring and moderation mechanism to proactively remove indecent/immoral content failing which necessary action will be taken under the law.”
In its August transparency report, TikTok has said Pakistan was one of five markets in the world with the largest volume of videos removed due to breach of community guidelines and terms of service.
In its Saturday statement, TikTok hinted that if the ban is lifted, it may invest in the local market: "If the Government of Pakistan decides to reopen access to our services in the future, we can assess our allocation of resources to this market."

Pakistan's support for Kashmiri cause unwavering, Raheel Sharif says in Riyadh

Updated 29 min 44 sec ago

Pakistan's support for Kashmiri cause unwavering, Raheel Sharif says in Riyadh

  • Pakistani embassy in Riyadh held a seminar on the human rights situation in Kashmiri territory to mark Kashmir Black Day
  • Kashmiri self-determination is not only a moral and legally justified right, former Saudi ambassador to Pakistan says

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif said that Pakistan supports the Kashmiri cause with an "unflinching resolve."

The general's comment came during a seminar, "Human Rights Situation in Kashmir: Implications for Regional Peace and Stability," organized by the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday.

"Let it be known that every citizen of Pakistan stands united with the people of Kashmir and supports their struggle for freedom with an unflinching resolve," said Gen. Raheel Sharif, who now leads the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, a counterterrorist alliance of Muslim countries, which is headquartered in Saudi Arabia.

"The issue of Kashmir is very close to every Pakistani’s heart as we fully understand the cause and dynamics of this struggle right from the beginning. We have closely witnessed the sufferings of our Kashmiri brethren and appreciate their resolve and valor in pursuit of their goal and fundamental human rights."

Former Pakistan army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif participates in a seminar organized in Riyadh by the Pakistani embassy to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (Pakistan Embassy Riyadh via AN)

Kashmiri territory is divided between India and Pakistan, but both countries claim the region in its entirety. Crackdowns in the Indian-administered part have been escalating since August 2019, when New Delhi scrapped Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution, which gave Kashmiris limited autonomy and protected their domicile and employment rights.

If not reversed, the Indian regime's August move, Sharif said, will cause "further unrest in the region."

Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Awadh Asseri, who was one of speakers in the seminar, said that last year's change in Kashmir's status "through annexation and division of the internationally recognized disputed region," as well as subsequent lockdown and "enforced demographic shift currently underway" have aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the region.

"Kashmiri people are facing a more dangerous situation now as every passing day is marginalizing their political status and socio-economic space," he said during the seminar, as he recalled serving in Pakistan and leading Saudi relief efforts after an earthquake that devastated Kashmir in 2005.  

Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Awadh Asseri, participates in a seminar organized in Riyadh by the Pakistani embassy to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (Pakistan Embassy Riyadh via AN)

He said the relief could not reach the Indian-administered part of the territory, as New Delhi did not grant access. "We remember that Kashmir on the other side of LOC also faced devastating effects of the earthquake but could not do much due to lack of access by the Indian authorities."

"Kashmiri people want to live their lives according to their free will and India has denied this basic right and instead chosen the path of repression," Asseri added.

"The Kashmiri demand of self-determination is not only the moral right but also legally justified under UN security council resolutions."

India on Wednesday notified new laws that allow non-Kashmiris to buy land in the disputed region, rising concerns that the new regulation would dilute the Muslim-majority character of the region.

"Contrary to Indian claims of bringing development to the Kashmir valley, the real motive remains altering the demographics of the Muslim-majority territory," Islamabad's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Raja Ali Ejaz, told Arab News after the seminar.

He added that the Pakistani government remains "fully committed to the Kashmir cause."