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Internet censorship in Pakistan

Internet censorship in Pakistan is government control of information sent and received using the Internet in Pakistan.

Pakistan made global headlines in 2010 for blocking Facebook and other Web sites in response to a contest popularized on the social networking site to draw images of the Prophet Mohammad. In general, Internet filtering in Pakistan remains both inconsistent and intermittent, with filtering primarily targeted at content deemed to be a threat to national security and at religious content considered blasphemous.


  • Overview 1
  • Pakistan Internet Exchange 2
  • Pakistan Telecommunication Company 3
  • National URL filtering and blocking system 4
  • Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons 5
  • Ethno-separatism websites 6
  • YouTube 7
  • Netsweeper usage 8
  • Torrents ban 9
  • Other notable bans 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


In mid-2012 Pakistanis had relatively free access to a wide range of content, including most sexual, political, social, and religious sites on the Internet. The OpenNet Initiative listed Internet filtering in Pakistan as substantial in the conflict/security area, and as selective in the political, social, and Internet tools areas in August 2012.[1] Additionally, Freedom House rated Pakistan's "Freedom on the Net Status" as "Not Free" in its Freedom on the Net 2013 report.[2]

Internet filtering in Pakistan is regulated by the

  • "Ban on the web in the national interest" (Urdu), Reba Shahid, BBC, 29 July 2006, (English translation)
  • Karachi Union of Journalists, website

External links

  1. ^ a b c d "ONI Country Profile: Pakistan", OpenNet Initiative, 6 August 2012. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Pakistan", Freedom on the Net 2013, Freedom House, 30 September 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  3. ^ a b Pakistan, Freedom on the Net 2012 report by Freedom House
  4. ^ PTA approved: Over 1,000 porn sites blocked in Pakistan The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2011
  5. ^ "The current state of the Internet in Pakistan", Tee Emm, e-mail, archived by the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC), 27 May 2004
  6. ^ "The National Access Point: The Dilemma of Vision", by Zubair Fasial Abbasi, e-mail sent to s-asia-it, archived at the Asia Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC), 14 July 2000
  7. ^ "KARACHI: PTCL begins blocking proxy servers: Proscribed sites", Bahzad Alam , Dawn, 28 July 2003Khan
  8. ^ a b c National ICT R&D Fund (March 2012). "Request for Proposal" (PDF). National ICT R&D Fund. 
  9. ^ "Cartoon Body Count". Web. 2 March 2006. Archived from the original on 26 March 2006. 
  10. ^ "Arson and Death Threats as Muhammad Caricature Controversy Escalates". Spiegel online. 4 February 2006. Retrieved 26 April 2007. 
  11. ^ "Embassies torched in cartoon fury". 5 February 2006. Retrieved 26 April 2007. 
  12. ^ "Blasphemous websites be blocked, orders SC". Dawn. 2 March 2006. 
  13. ^ "Websites blocked, PTA tells SC: Blasphemous material". Dawn. 14 March 2006. 
  14. ^ "Blogspot ban lifted in Pakistan", Wikinews, 6 May 2006
  15. ^ a b "Pakistan lifts YouTube ban".  
  16. ^ a b "Access to YouTube blocked until further notice because of "non-Islamic" videos". Reporters Without Borders. 27 February 2008. 
  17. ^ PTA letter blocking websites, Pakistan 451, 25 April 2006
  18. ^ "Mush the Nervous", The Glasshouse Blog, 28 April 2006
  19. ^ "Pakistan blocks Facebook in row over Muhammad drawings", Declan Walsh, The Guardian, 19 May 2010
  20. ^ "Pakistan blocks YouTube website", BBC News, 24 February 2008
  21. ^ a b "Pakistan blocks YouTube for 'blasphemous' content: officials", Agence France-Presse (AFP), 24 February 2008
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Section 295-C", Pakistan Criminal Code, 12 October 1986
  24. ^ "Pakistan move knocked out YouTube". (Asia). Natalie Bookchin ( 25 February 2008. Retrieved 5 March 2008. 
  25. ^ "Pakistan blocks Facebook over Mohammed cartoon", Waqar Hussain, Agence France-Presse (AFP), 19 May 2010
  26. ^ Walsh, Declan (20 May 2010). "Pakistan blocks YouTube access over Muhammad depictions".  
  27. ^ "YouTube ban lifted by Pakistan authorities", Joanne McCabe, Metro (Associated Newspapers Limited, UK), 27 May 2010, accessed 18 September 2012
  28. ^ "Pakistan lifts ban on YouTube", The Times of India, 27 May 2010
  29. ^ "YouTube blocked in Pakistan", Hayley Tsukayama, Washington Post, 17 September 2012
  30. ^ "YouTube blocked in Pakistan for not removing anti-Islam film".  
  31. ^ "Pakistan blocks 20,000 websites".  
  32. ^ "YouTube ban may be lifted after Eid".  
  33. ^ "Pakistan senate panel on Human Rights revokes ban on YouTube". IANS. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  34. ^ Azhar Khan (14 June 2015). "Exclusive: 1,000 days on, YouTube remains blocked in Pakistan".  
  35. ^ "YouTube to remain blocked 'indefinitely' in Pakistan: officials".  
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ "Pakistani government using Netsweeper for internet filtering" The Express Tribune. June 20, 2013.
  39. ^ "Top 10 most popular torrent sites of 2013" TorrentFreak. January 6, 2013.
  40. ^ "Top Torrent sites banned in Pakistan" TorrentFreak. July 25, 2013.
  41. ^ "ISPs gratuitously filter Torrent sites" The Nation. July 25, 2013.
  42. ^ "Are Torrents banned in Pakistan? For the time being, yes" ProPakistani. July 24, 2013.
  43. ^ "IT Minister's Twitter account deactivated amidst critique of policies" The Express Tribune. July 24, 2013.
  44. ^ "Top torrent sites and Richard Dawkins blocked in Pakistan".  
  45. ^ Nighat Dad (November 23, 2013). "Why was IMDB blocked?".  
  46. ^ Pirzada, Usman. "Xbox Live, Playstation Network and GameRanger blocked in Pakistan – Accidentally". WCCFTech. WCCFTech. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 


See also

Other notable bans

In July 2013, Pakistani ISPs banned 6 of the top 10[39] public Torrent sites in Pakistan. These sites include Piratebay, Kickass torrents, Torrentz, Bitsnoop, Extra Torrent and Torrent Reactor.[40] They also banned the similar site Mininova.[41] However proxies for these torrent sites are still active and P2P connections are working normally.[42] This move lead to a massive public backlash, especially from the Twitter and Facebook communities of Pakistan. In the aftermath of such critique, the IT Minister of Pakistan, Anusha Rehman, deactivated her Twitter account.[43]

Torrents ban

According to the report published by the lab, “Netsweeper technology is being implemented in Pakistan for purposes of political and social filtering, including websites of secessionist movements, sensitive religious topics, and independent media.”[38]

In June 2013, The Citizens Lab, an interdisciplinary research laboratory uncovered that Canadian internet-filtering product Netsweeper is functioning at the national level in Pakistan. The system has categorized billions of URLs and is adding 10 million new URLs every day. The lab also confirmed that ISPs in Pakistan are using methods of DNS tampering to block websites at the behest of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.

Netsweeper usage

On 24 October 2015, forum members at a popular gaming and internet discussion website Pakgamers reported accessing YouTube by simply changing the DNS of their local devices to the ones provided by Google or OpenDNS.[37]

On 8 February 2015, the government announced that YouTube will remain blocked 'indefinitely' because no tool or solution had been found which can totally block offensive content.[35] As of June 2015 — 1,000 days on — the ban was still in effect and YouTube cannot be accessed from either desktop or mobile devices.[36]

On 21 April 2014, Pakistan's Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights requested the Federal Government remove the ban on YouTube.[33][34]

On 25 July 2013, the government announced that it is mulling over reopening YouTube during the second week of August. A special 12-member committee was working under the Minister of IT and Telecommunication, Anusha Rahman, to see if objectionable content can be removed. The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, the telecom watchdog in the country, has already expressed its inability to filter out select content.[32]

In September 2012, the PTA blocked the video-sharing website YouTube for not removing an anti-Islamic film made in the United States, Innocence of Muslims, which mocks Mohammed. The website would remain suspended, it was stated, until the film was removed.[29][30] In a related move, the PTA announced that it had blocked about 20,000 websites due to "objectionable" content.[31]

On 19 and 20 May 2010, Pakistan's Telecommunication Authority (PTA) imposed a ban on WorldHeritage, YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook in response to a competition entitled Everybody Draw Mohammed Day on Facebook, in a bid to contain "blasphemous" material[25][26] The ban imposed on Facebook was the result of a ruling by the Lahore High Court, while the ban on the other websites was imposed arbitrarily by the PTA on the grounds of "objectionable content", a different response from earlier requests, such as pages created to promote peaceful demonstrations in Pakistani cities being removed because they were "inciting violence". The ban was lifted on 27 May 2010, after the website removed the objectionable content from its servers at the request of the government. However, individual videos deemed offensive to Muslims that are posted on YouTube will continue to be blocked.[27][28]

YouTube was blocked in Pakistan following a decision taken by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on 22 February 2008 because of the number of "non-Islamic objectionable videos."[16][19] One report specifically named Fitna, a controversial Dutch film, as the basis for the block.[20] Pakistan, an Islamic republic, ordered its ISPs to block access to YouTube "for containing blasphemous web content/movies."[21] The action effectively blocked YouTube access worldwide for several hours on 24 February.[22] Defaming Muhammad under § 295-C of the Blasphemy law in Pakistan requires a death sentence.[23] This followed increasing unrest in Pakistan by over the reprinting of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons which depict satirical criticism of Islam.[21] Router misconfiguration by one Pakistani ISP on 24 February 2008 effectively blocked YouTube access worldwide for several hours.[24] On 26 February 2008, the ban was lifted after the website had removed the objectionable content from its servers at the request of the government.[15]

Internet users in Pakistan are prompted to this message when accessing blocked websites.


In 2006 the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority blocked five websites for "providing misleading informations".[17] Some allege that the websites' real crime was reporting on the Balochistan separatist conflict.[18]

Ethno-separatism websites

Allegations of suppressing vote-rigging videos by the Musharraf administration were also leveled by Pakistani bloggers, newspapers, media, and Pakistani anti-Musharraf opposition parties. The ban was lifted on 26 February 2008.[15][16]

The blanket ban on the blogs was lifted on 2 May 2006.[14] Shortly thereafter the blanket ban was reimposed and extended to Typepad blogs. The blanket ban on the blogs was later lifted again.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Chaudhry, summoned the country's Attorney General as well as senior communication ministry officials to give a report of "concrete measures for implementation of the court's order". At the hearing on 14 March 2006, the PTA informed the Supreme Court that all websites displaying the Muhammad cartoons had been blocked. The bench issued directions to the Attorney General of Pakistan, Makhdoom Ali Khan, to assist the court on how it could exercise jurisdiction to prevent the availability of blasphemous material on websites the world over.[13]

Consequently, the government kept tabs on a number of websites hosting the cartoons deemed to be sacrilegious. This ban included all the weblogs hosted at the popular blogging service, as some bloggers had put up copies of the cartoons – particularly many non-Pakistani blogs.

On 1 March 2006 the Supreme Court of Pakistan directed the government to keep tabs on Internet sites displaying the cartoons and called for an explanation from authorities as to why these sites had not been blocked earlier.[12] On 2 March 2006, pursuant to a petition filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan, the Supreme Court sitting en banc ordered the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and other government departments to adopt measures for blocking websites showing blasphemous content. The Court also ordered Attorney General Makhdoom Ali Khan to explore laws which would enable blocking of objectionable websites. In announcing the decision, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, said, "We will not accept any excuse or technical objection on this issue because it relates to the sentiments of the entire Muslim world. All authorities concerned will have to appear in the Court on the next hearing with reports of concrete measures taken to implement our order".

The [9] and included the bombing of the Danish embassy in Pakistan, setting fire to the Danish Embassies in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, storming of European buildings, and the burning of the Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, French, and German flags in Gaza City.[10][11] The posting of the cartoons online added to the controversy.

Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons

In March 2012, the Pakistan government took the unusual step of touting for firms that could help build it a nationwide content-filtering service.[8] The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority published a request for proposals for the “deployment and operation of a national level URL Filtering and Blocking System” which would operate on similar lines to China's Golden Shield, or "Great Firewall".[8] Academic and research institutions as well as private commercial entities had until 16 March to submit their proposals, according to the request's detailed 35-point system requirements list. Key among these is the following: "Each box should be able to handle a block list of up to 50 million URLs (concurrent unidirectional filtering capacity) with processing delay of not more than 1 milliseconds".[8]

National URL filtering and blocking system

In April 2003, the PTCL announced that it would be stepping up monitoring of pornographic websites. "Anti-Islamic" and "blasphemous" sites were also monitored.[7] In early March 2004, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) ordered Internet service providers (ISPs) to monitor access to all pornographic content. The ISPs, however, lacked the technical know-how, and felt that the PTCL was in a better position to carry out FIA's order. A Malaysian firm was then hired to provide a filtering system, but failed to deliver a working system.

Pakistan Telecommunication Company

Internet surveillance in Pakistan is primarily conducted by the PIE under the auspices of the PTA. The PIE monitors all incoming and outgoing Internet traffic from Pakistan, as well as e-mail and keywords, and stores data for a specified amount of time. Law enforcement agencies such as the FIA can be asked by the government to conduct surveillance and monitor content. Under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance (PECO), ISPs are required to retain traffic data for a minimum of 90 days and may also be required to collect real-time data and record information while keeping their involvement with the government confidential. The ordinance does not specify what kinds of actions constitute grounds for data collection and surveillance.[1]

The Pakistan Internet Exchange (PIE), operated by the state-owned Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd (PTCL), was created to facilitate the exchange of Internet traffic between ISPs within and outside of Pakistan.[5] Because the majority of Pakistan's Internet traffic is routed through the PIE (98% of Pakistani ISPs used the PIE in 2004), it provides a means to monitor and possibly block incoming and outgoing Internet traffic as the government deems fit.[6]

Pakistan Internet Exchange

Pakistan has blocked access to websites critical of the government or the military.[1] Blocking of websites is often carried out under the rubric of restricting access to “blasphemous” content, pornography, or religious immorality.[3] At the end of 2011, the PTA had officially banned more than 1,000 porn websites in Pakistan.[3][4]


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