On behalf of all concerned citizens of Pakistan, Bytes for All have sent an Open Letter to His Excellency Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, the honourable Prime Minister of Pakistan on the issue of content filtering and SMS ban directive by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). We are very hopeful that the Prime Minister will himself look into this matter for redressal of grievances as raised in this letter. The contents of this letter are pasted below.
This letter aims to bring to your attention towards an issue of dire importance on behalf of the concerned citizens and human rights activists of Pakistan. We write to you with great hope, as you occupy the most important office of the Government of Pakistan, and represent the Pakistan People’s Party, which is appreciated for its progressive agenda to make Pakistan a tolerant and forward looking country. Ex-Prime Minister and martyred chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, was a stern believer in equality, gender rights and freedom of speech.
As you are already aware, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) recently issued a directive to all cellular operators of Pakistan to initiate a campaign of SMS content filtering to ban each and every SMS containing any words from a list of approximately 1600+ words compiled by them.
Sir, you will be proud to learn that following this directive, the concerned citizens of Pakistan exercised their democratic right of expression and protested until PTA was influenced to defer their decision indefinitely.
However, this act by the PTA has not only badly reflected upon the promise of PPP to safeguard the freedom of speech and expression in Pakistan but has also resulted into a global embarrassment for the entire nation and its government, making a mockery out of the country's institutions and democratic values. To date, international news channels and publications are making a joke out of our beloved country by highlighting this ungainly move by PTA.
What PTA has failed to realize that this act of moral policing - unheard of anywhere among the league of progressive nations - has dented Pakistan’s delicate fabric of whatever repute the government has been trying very hard to establish amidst turmoil, for years to come.
As citizens, who are absolute believers in your vision to carve a modern, progressive, tolerant, respectable, and democratic republic out of present day Pakistan, we are devastated.
We believe that moral values, especially those arising from variations in human speech, are subjective, and abstract, and cannot be used to penalize or control citizens of a free country.
Values develop in societies over years through initiatives of education and awareness based character building, gradual inculcation of responsibility and ownership towards the country, and acts of compassion and support from governing authorities.
It is also important to highlight that this act is an equivalent to desecration of the honorable and sacred Constitution of Pakistan based on the gross misinterpretation of Articles 14 and 19.
Furthermore, and very importantly, you will agree that under no circumstances can your government officially endorse intentional damaging of the rights of religious minorities of Pakistan. Unfortunately, in this one rash move, PTA has achieved that as well by placing words such a ‘Jesus Christ’ in the list of banned obscenities, hurling an unacceptable blow to the sentiments of Pakistan’s peaceful Christian community. This is unacceptable.
Sir, having faith in establishing accountability towards all those who take the repute of this country for granted, we humbly request you, as the head of the state and acting head of the Ministry of IT, to conduct an inquiry to identify the irresponsible officials, who made this decision, only to realize their blunder and revoke it later.
Bytes for All, Pakistan
On behalf of all concerned citizens of Pakistan
About Bytes for All, Pakistan
Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan is a human rights organization and a network of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals and practitioners. It experiments and organizes debate on the relevance of ICTs for sustainable development and strengthening human rights movement in the country. Its mission is “ICTs for development, democracy and social justice”. www.bytesforall.pk
Bytes for All, Pakistan public statement and three relevant attachments are accessible at: