ISLAMABAD ( ABRAR MUSTAFA )
One of the biggest hurdles in opening “Youtube.com” in Pakistan is the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) established to control websites against the interests of Pakistan and its social and religious values. State Minister Anusha Rehman has publicly stated several times that the video streaming website You Tube will soon be unblocked. However without the Inter Ministerial Committee this was not possible.
The body members of the Inter Ministerial Committee includes representatives from Ministry of Interior, IT and Telecom, Finance, Foreign affairs along with military and civil security agencies. It is through their meetings decisions regarding unblocking of websites and internet censure.
In latest developments, Anusha Rehman has sent a summary to Prime Minister Secretariat that seeks to abolish the Inter Ministerial Committee. The summary proposes that the powers vested in this committee should be transferred to PTA.
The News Islamabad reported on Sunday that Ministry of information technology (MoIT) has forwarded a summary to PM for disbanding the existing Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) for identifying objectionable and blasphemous contents at Internet and granting powers to PTA to undertake this crucial assignment.
Mr. Mehtab Haider quoted in his story official sources of Moit. confirmed on Friday “Now we have proposed creation of a separate cell within PTA to perform this important task. We are awaiting formal response of the competent authority after which the ministry will issue a directive to PTA for establishing this cell under its jurisdiction,”.
Minister for information technology, Anusha Rahman, confirmed to The News that a summary has been moved to empower PTA for Internet content management.
It is strange as during the 3G/4G spectrum auction, PTA was not able to do its job properly. Many critical decisions that were to be taken by PTA were taken Ministry Finance. In light of this it seems that if the committee powers are transferred to PTA, the authority wouldn’t be able to exercise them under its mandate. What is also equally interesting is that the role of security apparatus of the country will also diminish as they are also key part of the committee.
Among the many reasons that caused YouTube.com to be blocked in the country one was the videos shared by TTP showing deaths of Pakistan Army personnel. These videos have caused the armed forces to ask for the blocking of the website. This has been stated by Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar in press conference that they cannot open the website due to this reason.
Two NGOs in country have filed a petition in Islamabad and Lahore High courts to have the website reopened. They have requested in their petitions that the website is crucial for education and for the supremacy for civil freedom. In response to the petition, PTA and MOIT have replied that this website was not closed by MOIT and PTA but it was under the decision by Inter Ministerial Committee and in the light of Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision.
Many now believe in Telecom sector that by sending the summary to PM Secretariat, Anusha Rehman has uplifted the case of the NGOs and in unblocking of YouTube.com. However it also goes against the interests of security agencies.
The News reported that Sources in PTA however say it was beyond PTA’s mandate under the existing Act to undertake content management so the government would have to change the PTA Act. The government sources however feel that after PM’s approval MoIT can issue a directive to PTA in this regard.
Under the existing law, PTA’s functions include regulating the establishment, operation and maintenance of telecommunication systems and provision of telecommunication services in Pakistan, receiving and expeditiously disposing of applications for the use of radio-frequency spectrum, promoting and protecting the interests of users of telecommunication services in Pakistan, promoting the availability of a wide range of high quality, efficient, cost effective and competitive telecommunication services throughout Pakistan.