Pakistan Telecomunication Authority blocked WordPress.com across the country on March 22, 2015.
Government unblocked WordPress.com today. Apparently, it was blocked for Pakistan day parade in Islamabad. Pakistani Army is fighting a terrible war against terrorism in the country. Pakistani government occassionally blocks mobile phone services too based on intelligence reports. This usually happens around national and cultural holidays and in selected cities only.
The blockage of WordPress.com was not due to censorship. Even though, the country’s strong establishment has a reputation for censoring information sources like YouTube, which is banned since 2012. While the government cites blasphemous content and a court order as the main reason for the ban. Critics believe that it is due to the growing number of propaganda videos by Islamists, Baloch separatists, and other anti-state elements that triggered the ban.
These things have a damaging impact on Pakistan’s growing ICT industry. YouTube is a very important cultural phenomena in today’s world. While Pakistani internet users can still access it using VPN and Tor, but its so much trouble that many users don’t even bother.
Some experts believe that the ban will give a chance for some local businesses to grow. For example, tune.pk a local site that has thousands of YouTube videos copied and displayed illegally and without permission or consent from their publishers and without any usage rights.
This kind of moral corruption in the IT sector of Pakistan is tolerated by local IT community at large. In fact, many in the industry even feel jealous that why didn’t they cashed in the idea first.
For a real, sustainable, and powerful impact on the country’s economy our IT industry needs to be innovative, inventive, and creative. Sadly, government’s policies are a major hurdle in that path. This includes a shitty educational system which produces dumb workforce, crazy monetary policies which make online micro-transactions extremely difficult and costly, and lastly the random blocking of internet which creates uncertainty and doubt in the hearts of foreign investors.
The short blockage of WordPress.com was just a small scene from a long and painfully predictable comedy. Pakistan needs to get smarter if we want to survive in the future.