ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani telecommunication ministry on Thursday barred the country’s telecom regulator from blocking websites without consulting relevant authorities, days after it blocked Wikipedia for not removing “sacrilegious content.”
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had blocked Wikipedia, a free, crowdsourced encyclopedia used by millions across the world, on February 3 after a deadline expired that the regulator had given to the platform to remove the controversial content.
The ban drew criticism and many condemned PTA’s action, calling it was a blow to digital rights and prompting Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to order removal of the ban just two days later. The prime minister also constituted a three-member ministerial committee to deliberate on the matter.
IT Minister Aminul Haque presided over a meeting of the committee on Thursday on the blockage of the online encyclopedia, according to the IT ministry. Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar and Commerce Minister Naveed Qamar were also part of it.
“Ministry of IT & Telecom must be consulted prior to closing any website in future,” Haque was quoted as saying in a statement by his ministry.
“Blocking of any website means disconnection to digital world which will lead to both social and economic disadvantages.”
Pakistan, the second-largest Muslim-majority country in the world, has banned video streaming platforms and dating apps in the past on charges of spreading “immorality” or promoting “blasphemous content.”
In September 2020, Pakistan blocked Tinder, Grindr and three other dating apps for not adhering to local laws, with the PTA saying it had taken the decision to curb the “negative effects of immoral/indecent content streaming.”
Haque, however, said his ministry was against the measures that could impede the development process and stressed the need to create awareness among masses about the objectionable content.