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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 00:38:56 PST 2012

Let me see if we have remote participation enabled for the meeting. You can
then possibly log in online from Karachi at 11.15am on Saturday 3rd March
2012. I will keep you updated.



On Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 1:27 PM, Sana Saleem <sana at> wrote:

> Hi Fouad,
> That's brilliant, is there ways in which we can help?
> Please do keep us updated with the discussion,
> Thanks,
> Sana
> On 24, فروری 2012, at 13:22, Fouad Bajwa <fouadbajwa at> wrote:
> 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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> --
> Regards.
> --------------------------
> Fouad Bajwa

Fouad Bajwa
Internet Governance Advisor
ICT4D Social Practitioner & Researcher
Member Multistakeholder Advisory Group (IGF)
Member Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus (IGC)
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