Inter-Ministerial Committee that decides if a website should be accessed or blocked in Pakistan has been put on hold by Islamabad High Court in response to a petition filed by Bolo Bhi.
For those who don’t know, its not Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) or Ministry of IT and Telecom (MoIT) that decides to block a website, instead there is this Inter-Ministerial Committee that does the job. This committee forwards its decision to MoIT for execution and PTA just makes sure that orders are executed in timely and orderly manner.
So if you are asking us technically, YouTube isn’t banned by PTA, instead this inter-ministerial committee is responsible and PTA is just the executioner.
Now if you are planning to ask me that why did I address PTA the other day when I was maintained that YouTube ban had become meaningless and asked PTA to either unban the website or ensure cent percent blockade, then it was for very reason that Islamabad High Court today decided to issue a restraining order against this committee, and here are reasons:
- No one knows where this inter-ministerial committee sits,
- Who are the members,
- On what merit these members are chosen,
- How do they work,
- What’s is its postal/email address,
- How do they evaluate the blockade of websites?
- Where is the list of blocked website and why were they blocked?
- How to get a website unblocked?
This is exactly why we addressed PTA and not a ghost Committee. Now have a look at the petition seeking hold on this committee, and it said:
Petition contended that the IMCEW was unconstitutional. The petitioner through its counsel adopted before the court that IMCEW was constituted through an executive order in 2006 and since then it had been issuing orders to take down contents.
Committee is prone to political hijacking and pressure and had been used to personal and political ends to stem ‘undesirable’ and dissenting opinion.
This committee has become a prime example of arbitrary and ad hoc executive action and abuse of power.
The petition requested the court to declare the IMCEW as illegal and contrary to the Telecom Act and Rules of Business 1973.
Committee, as per directions from the court, is now on hold to block any further website till the hearing of the petition.
Court has asked Secretary ministry of information technology, IMCEW and the Chairman PTA for their comments.
You may also want to read following, where we had discussed exactly the same questions: