Beggar at Ghazi Chowk


The PPP’s Trouble with Free Information

25 Nov 2012

Cell phone services are down in Pakistan for another weekend.

I did not know this when my father told me he would call an hour and a half ago but never did. I waited, and tried finding him on Google Talk which he uses on his phone, but he wasn’t online. Worried, I tried calling both parents’ cell phones but both were off. My grandfather is in the hospital, and I felt there were a number of reasons for which to get worried. Just as I hung up on Skype calling my father’s cell phone, my grandmother Skyped me from her iPad telling me of the cell phone situation and that my father was at the hospital.

The Taliban have said that the cell phone ban will not stop them. It didn’t stop other hardline Sunni groups either. A roadside bomb near a Shi’ite procession killed at least 7, including 4 children today.

The explosion was so powerful that it hurled a young boy onto a rooftop from a street, where a man later carried away half of his body, as a policeman with a bomb detector and residents stood near blood stains.

That bomb was detonated with a television remote control.

Government bans on information flow do not end there.

Youtube has been banned since the uproar around The Innocence of Muslims. There are some ways around it though. (via Hasan Zuberi, DigitalRightsPK)

Other Google services also seem to be intermittent in their availability. Google Docs has definitely been a problem, harming both consumers and commercial enterprises. (In the meantime I switched my father over to Dropbox but he’s having a much harder time dealing with content outside the browser, especially with the file system. He emails heavily, and is one of the most powerful Gmail user’s you’ll meet. I guess Steve Jobs was right, file systems must go.)

The government recently banned late night cell phone packages because they were counter to the country’s values, prompting this from Cyril Almeida:

Who needs the Taliban; we already have the PPP govt … (Yes, I know PTA is allegedly an ‘independent’ regulator.)

Interior Minister Rehman Malik tweeted this, I think referring to the motorbike ban in Karachi during Muharram processions that was overturned by the Sindh High Court.

Is the life of my Pak sisters and brothers important or cosmetic image?sometimes drastic and unpopular steps become need of the hour.

You can’t really argue for convenience if cell phone outages are saving lives. Late night cell phone packages are another story though. This government has been brutal on the free flow of information, and this cannot be sustainable. Pakistan is worse off having to do this.