Authorities in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province on Thursday banned Skype,Whatsapp and Viber to facilitate security operations,triggering angry reactions from numerous users of the instant messaging applications.
The decision to enforce the ban for three months was made at a meeting chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah to review the law and order situation.
Following the meeting,provincial Information Minister Sharjeel Memon announced the ban on the use of Skype,Whatspp,Tango and Viber.
“Terrorists and criminal elements are using these networks to communicate after the targeted operation was launched (against them),” he said.
Sindh’s Home Secretary will contact the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to have these applications banned in the province. According to Memon,the Sindh government would contact the federal government to ensure that illegal SIMs too are shut down.
Memon said the brandishing of weapons too had been banned and an operation will be conducted against individuals possessing illegal weapons.
Many people took to social networking sites to vent their anger over the ban on the instant messaging and Voice Over Internet Protocol applications.
People described the decision as absurd but Sharmila Farooqi,a leader of the Pakistan People’s Party that rules Sindh,tweeted it was a small price to pay for security.
“If we can cleanse (Karachi) from criminals. Back to trunk calls,telegraph and chitthi for 3 months!” she tweeted.
But other Twitter users complained that people were being banned from using the applications while Taliban leaders were free to communicate with media outlets and journalists.
Ironically Pakistan was on Thursday placed among the bottom 10 countries in the Freedom On The Net 2013 report,which measured internet and digital media freedom in 60 countries.
The annual report from Freedom House,an independent watchdog,gave Pakistan a low rating as internet penetration in the country of 180 million people is just 12 per cent.
Senior lawyer Fareed Ahmed said there was ambiguity about the ban by the Sindh government as imposing restrictions on the internet was a federal subject. “We have to wait and see whether they implement this ban all over Pakistan or just in Sindh,where the operations are being conducted,” he said.