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[liberationtech] Pakistan: Civil Society Demand Transparency From IT Ministry on Proposal for URL filtering and Blocking

Fouad Bajwa fouadbajwa at
Fri Feb 24 00:22:41 PST 2012

Sana this was a well-needed response. We will be hosting an Internet
Society meeting in Lahore next week and discuss the same issue in detail.

-- Fouad

On Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 12:45 PM, Sana Saleem <sana at> wrote:

> Hi, Please find below press release we issued yesterday, online now. Apart
> from the press release, we have sent out letters to the ministry, written
> to allies in academia, research organizations and businesses. But we still
> need help in getting contact details of internet filtering firms. We have
> issued  letters to a few requesting they co-operate by not bidding in the
> proposal.  Can anyone help with contact details of the firms?
>  find link to the press release here:
> Press Release: 22/2/2012
>  <>
> Contact: Sana Saleem
> CEO- Bolo Bhi
> Email: sana at
> <>
> *Civil Society Demand Transparency From IT Ministry on Proposal for URL
> filtering and Blocking*
> *Press Release*
> On Wednesday, the 22nd of February, the ICT R&D Fund under the Ministry of
> Information Technology (MoIT), announced through newspapers and on their
> website, a request for proposal (RFP) for national “URL filtering and
> blocking system”. As an organization with core focus on policy, we at *Bolo
> Bhi*, feel this is worrisome.
> In Pakistan, only over 20 million out of 187 million people have access to
> the internet. Despite limited access the internet has brought positive
> benefits to Pakistan through economic growth, education, entrepreneurship
> and cultural sharing. The ICT R&D Fund was developed to further the use of
> ICTs and promote research in the field. It has been involved in doing that
> actively and therefore an announcement that is contrary to the progress and
> development of ICT’s from the same organization, comes as a shock.
> At a time when political parties, media, civil society and businesses have
> been engaging to promote the use of ICT, a national filtering and blocking
> system will have repercussions.
> The proposal invites academia, businesses and researchers to apply.
> However it is ironic that the decision of taking such an initiative came
> without consulting either. The ways in which this will affect the state of
> the internet is deeply worrying. Besides slowing down the internet
> considerably, it would negatively impact each one of the sectors the
> proposal wishes to pursue as partners. The proposal mentions that internet
> in Pakistan is relatively free – that is false. Pakistan Telecommunication
> Authority (PTA) has been actively involved in blocking and filtering
> content online and has thus far been successful, under the guidance and
> direction of the Ministry of IT. We feel that for successful implementation
> of a policy at all levels, transparency is crucial. We are a functioning
> democracy and therefore it is important to have stakeholders on board that
> could guide and assist on a policy before such a decision is made.
> We have sent a letter to the Ministry of IT and the CEO of the National
> ICT R&D Fund, to ensure transparency in the process and answer some crucial
> questions.
> The internet has increasingly become a tool for diplomacy. Countries have
> used it as a strong tool for PR and others have made use of it to advance
> tourism, business & economic growth, governance and entrepreneurship. At a
> time when we as a country are struggling to counter a popular narrative
> about us, further limiting the sphere would portray us as a grim
> totalitarian state, which is simply untrue. Elsewhere, we have seen
> governments supporting the internet and reaping the economic rewards.
> Malaysia, for instance are focusing primarily on building the internet
> ecosystem and getting small businesses online — and a recent study by
> McKinsey found the Internet contributed 4.1% to Malaysia’s GDP. We ought to
> follow examples of countries like Malaysia that have been effectively using
> internet and media as a PR tool, and not totalitarian states that continue
> to function in an information black hole and are seen as just that.
> We request the Ministry of IT and the national ICT R&D Fund to reconsider
> their decision of pursuing such a rigorous filtering and blocking system,
> for the state of the internet, for businesses, academia, research and the
> innumerable platforms that will inevitably be affected by this initiative.
> We don’t believe the internet should be a free for all; there are limits to
> content but a blanket filtering of up to ’50 million URLs’ with no
> transparency is not the answer. We are a functional democracy and in the
> presence of stakeholders and experts we demand the ICT R&D Fund and the
> Ministry of IT consult every sector before moving forward with such an
> initiative.
>  For more information please contact Sana Saleem
> CEO Bolo Bhi, at sana at
> --
> Chief Operating Officer
> Bolo Bhi
> Privacy-Advocacy-Research
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Fouad Bajwa
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