The Drama of Banning Facebook
The controversy of "Draw Mohammad Day" most obviously being celebrated on Facebook has spun out of control in Pakistan. On 19 May 2010, Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered a ban on Facebook enforced by all internet service providers (ISPs) till 31 May 2010. The ISPs responded with varying degrees of promptness and by the end of the day, Facebook was blocked. In the evening, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) issued orders for all cellular companies to block GPRS and blackberry internet services till further notice. The orders to block GPRS services were taken back this morning but blackberry services are still blocked.
The logic behind these actions (or rather reactions) is hard to determine. The judiciary of Pakistan has once again suspended the rights of the citizens in the name of an (arguably) greater cause. After going through tumultuous three years fighting for the restoration and independence of judiciary, it is a cause of great disappointment and anger to the people that the "free" judicial courts have acted in a dictatorial manner which completely undermines the courts' fairness and judgment. PTA's actions, which are independent and a step ahead of the LHC orders, are unexplainable to say the least.
Right now there is a frenzy in internet-using circles of Pakistan. There are frantic messages going around with links to download clients to bypass the online ban. In addition, there's mounting confusion as to which sites have been blocked by the ISPs. The ISP I am using has not only blocked youtube it has blocked all google searches related to youtube. I am getting conflicting reports from friends on different ISPs about wikipedia, flick and even google being blocked. There are now calls by liberals for protests in the three major cities of the country against, not Facebook, but the judiciary of Pakistan.
The state has acted in a reactionary, irresponsible manner to deal with an issue which was an issue of free speech. By extension, that issue should have been dealt with in the similar manner by exercising free speech. It remains to be seen how far this drama will go before some judge in some chamber realises the insanity of the situation and takes a step to rectify this mistake.