ISLAMABAD ( MEDIA ) There is no possibility that the internet users in Pakistan will be able to access YouTube in the near future.
At least this was the message conveyed to the Senate standing committee on information technology which met on Thursday.
Though the unblocking of the site was not on the agenda, it was discussed before the 12 items were taken up by the committee members. However, the subject ended as soon as it was taken up.
Senator Zahid Khan, the chairman of the committee, said a negative impression was sent out about the nation that it could not decide if the site was to remain blocked or not.
“We are getting tired of the confusion. People are being denied access to a vital information-based website. We want to know if the government is unblocking the site or not,” Senator Khan said. However, there was no clear answer.
The site was blocked in September 2012 after a blasphemous US film, Innocence of Muslims, was uploaded on it.
Dr Ismail Shah, the chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), repeated before the committee what he has been saying: “The controversial film cannot be blocked 100 per cent.”
He also said YouTube could not be unblocked until the Supreme Court and the inter-ministerial committee were satisfied about the removal of the blasphemous contents.
“The blasphemous video can still be viewed on secure websites. It cannot be blocked no matter how many state-of-the-art filters are installed. Until the objectionable contents are removed completely, the site is likely to remain blocked,” said Mr Shah.
Coming to his rescue, State Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman read out the Supreme Court order of September 17, 2012: “We direct the chairman PTA to immediately block the offending material on YouTube and on any other website.”
An official in the Ministry of IT told Dawn after the meeting that the ministry had explored all possible options to block links that carried the controversial film. “There is no way to block the film completely. Unblocking YouTube is a political decision,” he added.
PTCL: Similarly, there was little hope that the government would get the $800 million that Etisalat owed to it since 2007.
Ms Anusha Rehman told the committee that there were some 50 properties that still had to be handed over to the company.
Ms Rehman has been critical of the entire sale agreement between the government and the Emirates-based telecommunication company.
She argued that the sale agreement did not contain termination clause and that it benefited Etisalat more than the interests of Pakistan.
She was also critical of giving 26 per cent share of the PTCL and transferring over 3,200 properties in Pakistan to Etisalat. Etisalat purchased the PTCL in 2004 and paid up front $1.2 billion.
A representative of the ministry of law informed the committee that his ministry was not taken on board while drafting the PTCL sale agreement.
Senator Zahid Khan and other members of the committee were surprised how the ministry of law could be excluded from such an important transaction.
While a member from the Privatisation Commission tried to convince the committee that all the properties would be transferred to Etisalat and that the telecommunication company would pay the remaining $800 million before the end of the financial year, the committee was reluctant to believe it.
Nonetheless, the chairman of the committee gave both the ministry of law and the Privatisation Commission two weeks to prepare a complete report on the sale agreement, particularly informing the committee about the termination clause if Etisalat failed to pay the remaining $800 million. Courtesy Dawn