The government in Pakistan is at it again. They’re trying to cut off the nation from the outside world via technology by placing a three-month ban on several of the most popular Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) apps. Included in that ban are Skype, Whatsapp, Viber and Tango. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s YouTube service has also been banned.
And this time, the government body that’s attempting to impose this ban doesn’t even have the right to do it.
Pakistan’s Sindh government blames terrorists for the bans
The ban was announced today by the Sindh government in Pakistan after a high-level meeting. Sindh Provincial Information Minister Sharjeel Memon announced the ban on the five popular apps, saying that terrorists and criminals are using the apps to coordinate attacks.
He said the Home Minister would get in touch with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to have them banned in Karachi and the rest of Sindh province. Then he said that the province would contact Pakistan’s federal government to shut down illegal SIM cards.
Interestingly enough, the law states that Pakistan’s provincial governments don’t even have the right to impose a ban on technology. Senator Rehman Malik tweeted that the federal government is the one with the right to block these apps. The provincial governments are not supposed to have the power. Here’s his tweet:
According to law it is the federal Govt which can ban what’s up,sky and viberas provincial govt has got no authority to block such services.
— Rehman Malik (@SenRehmanMalik) October 3, 2013
Pakistan’s other technology bans
This isn’t the first time Pakistan’s government has attempted to cut off its citizens from the rest of the outside world. The government banned YouTube for more than 100 days last fall, and that ban is now being challenged in court.
In June of this year, Pakistan IT Minister Anusha Rahman was said to have warned Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) would be banned just like YouTube if it keeps publishing what the government considers to be offensive material on YouTube. YouTube is owned by Google. Later the minister said her words were misreported.
Blaming terrorists for the bans in Pakistan?
The government usually claims that the bans are an anti-terrorism measure, but the fact remains that there are plenty of other similar services, like Google Talk / Hangouts and others. Both the iOS App Store and the Google Play store also offer plenty of alternative apps which will still make it possible for terrorists to communicate and carry out their attacks. Those who want to get around the ban can simply visit the app store on their mobile devices to find these alternative apps.
In other words, what this three-month long ban amounts to is punishment on law-abiding Pakistani citizens—particularly those who are unaware that less popular apps exist and can still be used. Terrorists have their way to get around these bans imposed by the government, so banning these apps do essentially nothing but allow the government to bully citizens who don’t know that they can get around these bans.