Islamabad: Pakistan government briefly lifted its ban on YouTube which was imposed over three months ago to cut off access to clips from an anti-Islam film. The authorities reinstated the ban less than an hour after removing the restrictions on the video-sharing website.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority directed Internet service providers and mobile phone firms to unblock YouTube this afternoon and users of the popular website were able to access it briefly after over 100 days.
Within an hour, however, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf directed the PTA to ban the website after a right-wing journalist from the Jang news group reported on television that the anti-Islam film Innocence Of Muslims could still be accessed on YouTube.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik had announced on Twitter last night that Pakistani authorities would lift the ban on YouTube within 24 hours.
“I chaired a high level (meeting with) all stakeholders on the (YouTube). (Good) job by PTA (to) block anti-Islamic material! (Please expect YouTube) unblocked in 24 hrs,” he said in a tweet.
He acknowledged in another tweet that there was a “great demand to unblock (YouTube) from all sections of society”, especially users of Twitter.
Malik further said that PTA was “finalising negotiations for acquiring a powerful firewall software to totally block pornographic and blasphemous material”.
In mid-September, Prime Minister Ashraf had directed authorities to block YouTube for hosting “blasphemous material”, including clips from “Innocence Of Muslims”.
The film triggered violent protests by right wing groups across Pakistan and the government itself sanctioned a day of protests on 21 September, which was observed as “Love the Prophet Day”.
Twenty-three people were killed and property worth billions of rupees was destroyed during these protests.
People across Pakistan took to Twitter to poke fun at the government for its somersaults over YouTube.
Many criticised and made jokes about Malik while others pointed to the government’s lack of success in tackling serious issues like terrorism and a stagnating economy.
Leading columnist Nadeem F Paracha posted on Twitter: “YouTube blocked again? Ha! Wow, we are really, really fighting a tough war against anti-Islam forces.”
Omar Quraishi, the op-ed editor with The Express Tribune, tweeted: “This surely must be a world record of sorts – a country blocking YouTube for over 100 days, then unblocking it and then blocking it.”