ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has lifted a two-day ban on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif urged the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to do so “immediately” on Monday.
According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, the decision was made on the recommendation of a three-member ministerial committee comprised of Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar, Minister for Economic Affairs and Political Affairs Ayaz Sadiq, and Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb.
PTA said on February 1 that it was “degrading” Wikipedia services in Pakistan due to the presence of “sacrilegious content,” which the platform had been requested to remove but had failed to do so.
After the encyclopedia failed to answer the objections, it was totally prohibited two days later, causing indignation throughout the country.
Following this event, the ban was brought before the Prime Minister on February 6 (today), and he formed a ministerial committee to conduct a preliminary investigation.
The committee concluded that “Wikipedia was a helpful site/portal that encouraged the transmission of knowledge and information for the general public, students, and academia,” according to the statement.
“To restrict access to some problematic contents/sacrilegious items on the site, blocking the entire site was not an appropriate solution. As a result, the unexpected repercussions of this blanket ban outweigh the benefits “According to the statement.
The prime minister, thereafter, directed that Wikipedia be restored with “immediate effect”. Furthermore, in accordance with the Rules of Business, 1973, PM Shehbaz established a new cabinet committee to investigate the situation further.
This committee will include the following ministers: the ministers of law and justice, economic affairs and political affairs, information and broadcasting, commerce, and communications, as well as the minister of IT and telecommunications, who will also serve as the committee’s chair.
Moreover, the order created possibilities for the committee to “co-opt any expert members or seek opinions from expert individuals/organizations to obtain its findings”.
The aim of the committee is to review the suitability of PTA’s ban on Wikipedia, while exploring and recommending alternative technical measures for the removal or blockage of objectionable content on Wikipedia or any other online information sites, keeping in view the “social cultural, and religious sensitivities” of the country.
The committee has also been entrusted with presenting any further proposals with the goal of managing illegal internet content in a balanced manner and has been given a week to provide its findings and recommendations for consideration.