Targeting social media for terrorists -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Targeting social media for terrorists

Pakistan Press Foundation

What will Sindh government ban next? Using motorcycles? Apparently, in all the banning that goes on, a certain class is constantly being targeted. Earlier they did it in the whole country, and now luckily for the rest of the country, they only can do so in Sindh.

Ban on pillion riding, ban on Youtube, ban on cellular networks, and now ban on all these free calling and communicating apps and software like Skype, Whatsapp, Viber and Tango, will impact the working class the most.

The decision was taken during a security meeting attended by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, Additional Inspector General of Police Shahid Hayat, DG Rangers and representatives of intelligence agencies. Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon has confirmed the decision.

The reason given by the PPP led government is ‘security’, an excuse given countless of times in the last tenure of the PPP led Central government on religious festivals like Eid.

Interestingly, cellular network jammers were never put in place during the three-day Manghopir Ijtema in Karachi that was reportedly attended by close to 500,000 people. Neither did that gathering need sniffer-dogs and detectors to check the thousands of motorcycles for bombs and other explosive materials.

For many citizens like Business Manager Hur Ali, the idea seems to be in favour of those who are run the telecom industry. “Banning free apps and software means that people will have to use paid services to reach their loves ones, especially since Eidul Azha is around the corner,” Ali said, who is not the only one to think so.

A marketing manager at a private firm, Mohammad Muzammil was concerned about communicating with his brother in USA. “If I call my brother every day from PTCL, I have to pay Rs 2.50 per minute, which means it will cost Rs 150 per call, and Rs 4,500 per month. My budget will suffer a major hit, because that is as much as my daughter’s school van fee,” he explained worriedly, and asked if this scribe knew of another free app or software to make calls.

While Ali and Muzammil are worried about their monthly budget increase, Ismail thinks people have countless other options like MSN, Google and Yahoo to choose from. “The only thing people will have to compromise on is the quality, because Skype, Whatsapp and Viber are better in terms of connectivity, as well as voice quality,” explained Ismail. “At least they are trying to curb terrorism, and that is something we should give credit for,” he said.

Industrialist and musician of Kuttay fame, Tabish Javed on the other hand is more concerned about how far the government would go in this whole banning communication and social media business. For him, banning is not the solution, and instead government should focus on enhancing vigilance. In response to a question Javed disagreed if any specific group or class was being targeted or favoured. “Illegal outfits are using these free services, hence the problem. Genuine ones will always suffer, just the way they do because of the Youtube ban. This ban too will just increase the use of VPN and proxy servers, so the net effect will be on a few non-techies who use it for daily purposes.”

Just as there were different views about the banning of Youtube more than a year ago, people hold countless diverse ideas about this ban as well. However, Noorjahan does not care about what people think or say, for her, this means she will have little chance of talking to her husband living in Europe as an unregistered worker.

“I pay Rs 100 at a cyber café in my area to talk to my husband on Skype at least once a week. If they ban Skype, I will have to call international from a landline, that is too expensive,” she related sadly, and asked why is it that such bans always affect people like her the most.

Daily Times