The poor governance of the PPP was seen at its worst on Saturday when after more than three months YouTube was unblocked by the government but the ban was re-imposed by the prime minister a few hours later.
The premier re-imposed it when the media exposed the fact that the blasphemous material for which it was originally banned was still available. It is the same material which caused riots and killings within Pakistan and had triggered worldwide protests by Muslims.
The government had announced the unblocking of YouTube on Friday but as soon as the website was unblocked the blasphemous film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ was found available on the internet by Pakistani users.
The confusion and lack of coordination in the government was exposed as soon as Geo TV broke the story on Saturday afternoon revealing that the blasphemous film could be accessed.
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf sprung into action and issued orders to re-block YouTube forthwith.
Sources said the prime minister issued the orders to re-block YouTube, fearing that continuous access to the anti-Islam film would again trigger protests and demonstrations, which in the past had turned extremely violent.
However, he avoided initiating an inquiry to find out who had pressed for the unblocking of YouTube despite the reservations of the intelligence agencies and without ensuring complete blocking of the blasphemous material.
There is also no explanation available as to why despite a lapse of three months neither the Ministry of Information Technology and PTA could sign an agreement with the Google/YouTube administration to get such sites blocked in Pakistan nor a filtering system could be installed despite a directive issued in May this year.
The PTA and other relevant agencies had recommended a few months back to the prime minister as well as the Supreme Court of Pakistan to completely block YouTube to prevent access from Pakistan to the anti-Islam blasphemous film available on the internet.
While countries like India and Indonesia have successfully got such blasphemous sites blocked through the intervention of the Google/YouTube administration, Pakistan was helpless because of the incompetence of the IT authorities as it had neither any such agreement with Google nor had the filtering system installed to block blasphemous and pornographic sites.
It was unanimously recommended that as a short-term measure YouTube should be blocked altogether and with immediate effect. The long-term solution, it was discussed, was to enter into an agreement with Google (which owns YouTube now) which enables the signatory state to get any such sites blocked from the Google.
In the absence of any such treaty with Pakistan, Google despite earning a huge profit from Pakistani internet users has not been there to cooperate with the local authorities.
The government a few months back had realised that an agreement with the Google administration was direly needed, but despite the lapse of three months it has failed to enter into such an agreement.
A PTA official, when approached, said that during these three months the authority has been getting the objectionable sites blocked on the basis of complaints. The official admitted that this blocking system does not work as the blasphemous material is uploaded on other sites.
It is also said that Pakistan does not have any filtering system installed as in countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Iran. In addition to the much needed agreement with the Google administration, it is said that the installation of a filter system is a must to block blasphemous and obscene sites.
Interestingly, the incumbent prime minister had issued the directive to PTA in May this year, when he was IT minister, to immediately get the filtration system installed. However, it has not been done as yet despite the lapse of seven months and in spite of the fact that the then IT minister has become the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the then IT secretary has become the chairman PTA.
Without doing the homework, the PTA through its assistant director enforcement on Saturday afternoon at 2:26pm issued the following order to all internet service providers: “You are requested to immediately unblock/restore complete “YouTube” website provisionally till further orders. Please submit compliance through return email by 15:00 hours today.”
But within hours of the restoration of YouTube, it was found that the blasphemous American film was also available.It was Geo TV that immediately broke the story about the availability of blasphemous film on the internet following which the prime minister passed an immediate direction to re-block YouTube forthwith.
Consequently, the PTA issued fresh directions to all internet service providers at 4:51pm and conveyed the following: “In pursuance of withdrawal of earlier MoIT directive of opening of YouTube website, you all are now requested to block complete “YouTube” website immediately in Pakistan from all possible routes. The website will remain blocked till further orders. Moreover, you are also requested to block the particular IPs of following versions of YouTube without disrupting the non-YouTube traffic. https://www.youtube.com/ and https://m.youtube.com. Please submit compliance through return email before 17:30 hours today i.e. 29th December 2012.”
Who is behind this mess and who got the YouTube unblocked prematurely, and what punishment does he deserve, is now for the prime minister to figure out and decide. But the confusion and bad governance continues.