Did the new IT Minister really threaten to ban Google in Pakistan?

Published: June 14, 2013
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Even if we want to, we cannot block it out of our lives.

There is a lot of hype on the social media about a report that the new Minister of State for IT, Anusha Rahman Khan, allegedly threatened that Google will be banned if it does not remove the blasphemous videos from Google-owned YouTube.

Well, I am not a journalist but as a concerned ICT professional, I tried to authenticate this news from different sources. So far I have not been able to find any confirmation.

However an outright denial is also missing. But to be fair, the little that I know of the Minister (and I must admit that it is very little), I don’t think she could have said something like that.

Either she has been misquoted or quoted completely out of context. Otherwise her very first tweet after taking office (June 8, 2013) would not be:

Ever since the report has surfaced, she has tweeted several times:

As someone who has been in the ICT field, the Minister surely knows that if there is anyone who is getting hurt with the ban on YouTube, it is us, Pakistanis. Normally our country is full of conspiracy theories, but strangely no one seems to have thought that taking advantage of blasphemous material on YouTube, getting it banned in Pakistan, might be a conspiracy against us?

After all who, except our enemies, would benefit from keeping us away from all the information and knowledge?

For those who think YouTube is just a collection of short entertainment video clips, it has much more to offer, including hundreds of thousands of hours of educational and training videos, with many more being added every minute.

Just the number of educational videos of Khan Academy is over 3,000, teaching everything from arithmetic to physics.

Blocking Google is even more unthinkable.

We all know that for any knowledge-enhancing activity nowadays, Google is of paramount importance. It has become so ingrained in our everyday activities that even if we want to, we cannot block it out of our lives.

Initially Google was just a search engine, but now it has a large number of other services/applications/tools, like Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Translate, Google Books, Google Patent Search, Google Analytics and so on – I counted up to 40 and stopped.

It is next to impossible to do any academic work – especially related to ICTs – without touching Google in one way or the other. No wonder youngsters refer to it as “Google-baba” or “Google- guru” etc.

Let us hope and pray that the right solution is found, as the Minister tweeted on the second day in office:

Read more by Pervez here or follow him on Twitter  @Parvez_Iftikhar

Parvez Iftikhar

Parvez Iftikhar

Former CEO of the Universal Service Fund (Pakistan), he works as an Information and Communication Technology Consultant in various countries in Asia and Africa on ICT regulatory issues. Before USF he was country-head of Siemens Telecom in Pakistan. He tweets @Parvez_Iftikhar twitter.com/Parvez_Iftikhar

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Falcon

    Not a big fan of Anusha Rehman’s style of communication. However, I agree with your assertion that she might have been misunderstood. Recommend

  • http://pok darbullah

    Is google still not bannedRecommend

  • kanwal

    The ban on Youtube must be overturned now. It has taken far too long. Recommend

  • Bilal

    I wonder what is wrong even if she has threatened to block Google? I’m an ICT professional and I can surely live without Google services. I know at least a billion people in China are thriving without all Western internet giants. Google has an enormous workforce and it can easily start a localized version of YouTube with proper filtering in place. This time, the fault lies totally on Google’s side. They have to respect the local laws.Recommend

  • Something Clever

    “If they persist with their stance, we can block Google in Pakistan as a last resort as there are many alternative search engines available on the Web.”
    That’s a quote from the minister in regard to it. Links don’t usually make it through comments but considering you said you’re an ICT professional, it should be sufficient for you to find what you’re looking for.Recommend

  • Huma

    I guess you never read any of the news reports. Recommend

  • Rabeea

    During the past few days I’ve noticed many ads on this website hovering on the middle of the page, making it impossible to read the article. Clicking somewhere on the screen doesn’t seem to help. Any idea how to get rid of them? This is getting annoying.

    By the way, nice articleRecommend

  • Ahmed

    Even if she was misquoted about banning Google, she does support censorship and says that the government will spend resources to implement it. Being adults, we should be treated like adults instead of such authoritarian measures. The millions of dollars that we spend on censorship (which doesn’t work for someone eager enough to find the blocked content) could be much better spent on educating people who decide to seek out blasphemous material.Recommend

  • Gp65

    @Falcon: I think that just as Ishaq Dar says that IMF loan wil be on Pakistan’s terms and no dictation from IMF will be accepted, similarly Ms. Rehman tried to do some grandstanding by saying that it depends on Pakistan’s negotiating ability with google to make it do what Pakistan wants and listed banning google as a potential bargaining chip. Unfortunaely for them, old style politicians still have not realized that with proliferation of Internet and social media, different statements for different audiences are no longer possible. The statement that was possibly a big hit with a niche domestic audience has boomeranged badly Wth global audiences. I do not claim that no Indian media is ever irresponsible in its reporting, but The Hindu is one of he most responsible newspaper in India and I would believe it over any Indian or Pakistani politician who claims to be misquoted.

    @Bilal: Google has localized version of YouTube in 49 countries and the localized implementation comply with local laws. It is Pakistan’s failure to comply with conditions necessary to get a local implementation that is a problem here.Recommend

  • Uzair

    Is she minister for IT or minister for religious affairs? Secondly, surely we Pakistani Muslims can defend ourselves using logic against whatever accusations the anti-Islam elements make without resorting to censorship. Censoring/shutting down/killing those who speak against Islam only gives the message that our faith is not strong enough to withstand verbal arguments and our only defense is violence, which is very bad because it ultimately means we don’t really believe in our great religion.Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Brother, I saw that tweet by my self and replied to it. When she saw the response of people against this banning of google, she back tracked. Remember: There always is an option of deleting your tweet. I wish i could have taken a screen shot. Will do it next time. Recommend

  • Al_Chemisto

    It is not about living without google or not. it is about freedom of choice, freedom of speech!Recommend

  • zainulabadin

    Ban Google….and all its services in Pakistan….we Muslims can live without anything except Islam….Those who support the haters of Islam in the name of freedom of speech can please go out of Islamic Republic of Pakistan…. Recommend

  • Something Clever

    @Rabeea:
    I don’t know if what you use is compatible but, “Adblock Plus” is a firefox plugin (might have other version too, I don’t know) that works quite well. It’s free.Recommend

  • Ameenah Amin

    I live In Saudi Arabia and here you tube is open. So how come only Pakistani government think YouTube should be banned.. Can’t grasp it at all. Hope they act maturely on these matters.Recommend

  • Proletarian

    Stop justifying the limiting of people’s internet access based on superstious reasons.Recommend

  • Proletarian

    @zainulabadin
    why dont you go and live in a jungle or a caveRecommend

  • ashar

    YouTube is banned in Pakistan while the other Google applications are not. What the fuss you people are trying to make. Every body know in Pakistan why YouTube is banned, then why this matter is raised again and again like the devil who never get tired of leading people astray. Chill my dear friends no body would die without YouTube in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Yasin

    We have so many Pakistani IT specialists. Can’t we make our own Google base on Islamic principles?Recommend

  • Falcon

    @Gp65:
    An informative comment indeed. Recommend

  • Kaleem

    @Yasin, Thanks for the question although it is very naive. Google is much more intelligent than just a regular search engine. They are heading towards perfection with billions of dollars in their pocket. Recommend

  • Mlh

    Am I the only one who figures the author is the same Parvez who regularly comments on the blogs here?

    Hate admitting it but after reading every blog, I scroll down to see what Parvez thinks of it. :PRecommend

  • someone

    @zainulabadin:
    Then i wonder why such a fuss for electricity in Pakistan? Islam is going to stay in Pakistan even without electricity.Recommend

  • Tahir Chaudhry

    …as if Google cares ?!

    I say ban electricity which is the root of all evil.Recommend

  • safeer ahmad

    Hasn’t there been vociferous talk of free media?

    News such as this expose all freedom slogans. Slogans they are ONLY. Pakistanis are too immature, in the eyes of their highly qualified decision makers, to accept the good and reject the bad – or even recognise the good from the bad.Recommend

  • safeer ahmad

    Try to find out how much work has been done on Urdu on the internet. The results you will discover are because there is no money [email protected]: Recommend

  • leela

    When all the information that one needs is available in a single book, who needs Google? If Google is banned, then there will no longer be conspiracy reports of Pakistan being the leader in the search for perverted material. Google is the reason why there is a lack of piety among Muslims.Recommend

  • Gp65

    @Mlh- well I did not think it is the same person and it would be nice if the author either confirmed or denied this because it sure would be nice to know.
    Anyway you are not the only person who values Parvez’s opinion. Certain,y his comments that have a calm understated style with the dry wit are a pleasure to read and he happens to be one of the 4-5 Pakistani folks whose opinion I look forward to reading Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @Bilal:

    Why don’t you go live in China then? In Pakistan most of us want Google, and losing gmail would be a huge disruption to our lives.

    I’m an ICT professional and I can
    surely live without Google services.

    What does that have anything to do with anything?

    You don’t have to be a computer qualification to enjoy Google’s services. All of our Android phones utilize Google services. Do you think the millions using Google’s services in Pakistan do so because they have a degree in comp sci?

    Being an ICT professional doesn’t make you an expert on a search engine. That would be like saying, ‘I am a computer engineer and I think we should ban keyboards.”

    Foolishness. Recommend

  • HUM

    She might have been misquoted earlier but on her own twitter account she confesses to work towards filtration system. These filtration system always start benign but in the hand of a government it quickly becomes a mean to control the flow of information. For a progressive society, government should be kept out of information filtration business and let the people decide whatever they want to consume. Recommend

  • http://www.outlookpakistan.com Muhammad Awais

    She said in her office that youtube has a great link with google, so who did the disrespect of muslims by making the movie, youtube should remove that movie otherwise we have to cut off the google from Pakistan. She also said that people can use other search engine as google is not only famous search engine available in world.Recommend

  • Jan Shah

    Interesting comments. Banning YouTube or thinking of banning Google or implementing filtration systems is not about blasphemous material or respecting Islam or the piety of Muslims. If someone were to write a book criticizing Islam would there be a call to ban all books? If someone makes a movie or documentary should all movies be banned or all cameras that make movies or all cinema halls that show movies? Do we then start banning electricity as one person mentioned so that none of it could happen in the first place? Perhaps the majority of people expressing their opinions on this page do not remember what is was like pre 2000 in this country – there was no internet (imagine not being able to blog!), there where no cell phones, there were no radio stations except Pakistan Radio, there were no television stations except PTV. The only source of news besides this were newspapers where one’s opinion could only be expressed through a letter to the editor which may or may not be published (more often than not it was the latter). There was no HEC and very few Universities to choose from. Was the piousness of Muslims any better then than it is today? Piousness comes from your heart despite the environment around you. It is not made better or worse because we can access information. Instead of banning YouTube we could have used it to launch a counter campaign! Opportunity lost I guess. Why are we trying to show that Pakistan is somehow the moral barometer of the Muslim world. Really? I personally have never tried to search for blasphemous material on YouTube or Google, basically because I am not interested. The video in question got way too much attention because it was given way to much attention and we have all suffered for it. I used to enjoy listening to lectures from Harvard University professors and watching my favorite series on the mysteries of the universe. It is all gone now. The premise that we have to ban or block blasphemous material to save our moral souls is ridiculous. People are responsible and accountable for their actions and that is something that the State cannot and should not take responsibility for. Instead, we should defend the honour of Prophet Muhammand (PBUH) by living as he lived, by fighting injustice and corruption, by standing for the weak, oppressed and vulnerable. Now that would be something! Recommend

  • Umair

    @Jan Shah, well said, better than all the immature blabbing and emotional twisting of religious ideas some have posted without any restraint.

    Our business runs on youtube and facebook, when it got banned we lost almost all youtube contracts, our income was sliced by 62%!

    I am not a frequent youtube user but i do use it once a week for 8-10 hours and I haven’t ever encountered the blasphemous material our government talks about all the time. Proving the fact that it will only surface when someone actually looks for it…

    Also we all know that no matter what kind of filter gets implemented, proxies and vpn services will always bypass it so why waste billions of rupees on useless equipment. Those who want to see will see it!Recommend

  • haris

    As Umair sums it up nicely ^Those who want to see will see it!^ i think any muslim would never want to see any blasphemous content related to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) cuz that in itself would be a sin and although i am not a good muslim but it will behoove me to do any such thing BIG TIME so anyone ‘wanting to see it’ will most probably be a non muslim or he himself will be a blasphemer. Its finally up to our will and merely wanting to see the blaspheme content itself tantamount to a sin let alone you specifically search for it.Recommend

  • Abdullah

    What utter nonsense, but then again i expected nothing else from Nawaz sharif’s goverment, coming up with bullcrap is their forte after all.Recommend