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In October 2013, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government ordered local police to keep records of cybercafe users and data, and recommended cafes install hidden cameras to monitor people sending threatening emails. The PTA is the regulatory body for the internet and mobile industry, and international free expression groups and experts have serious reservations about its openness and independence. The prime minister appoints the chair and members of the three-person authority, which reports to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication. The repeated failure to make these appointments in the past year further undermined the PTA’s reputation.You Tube remained blocked since ISPs blocked it on government orders in September 2012.During 2012 Pakistan Day celebrations, mobile service was cut “to implement national security policy” in the southern province of Balochistan, where a conflict between Baloch nationalists and state security forces or antiseparatist militias has persisted since 1948.At least one local official denied security concerns and characterized the shutdown as routine maintenance, but many Baloch people saw the move as discriminatory. Urban areas nationwide saw similar interventions in 20, and in the past year, the new government disappointed businesses and civil society groups by maintaining the same tactics.The Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Evaluation of Web Sites (IMCEW) established in 2006 includes PTA and governmental representatives, as well as “men from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Inter-Services Intelligence, and Military Intelligence.” A range of overbroad provisions in the 1996 Pakistan Telecommunications Act support censorship for the protection of national security or religious reasons. Authorities also cite Section 99 of the penal code, which allows the government to restrict information that might be prejudicial to the national interest, to justify filtering antimilitary, blasphemous, or antistate content. Critics believe these issues can serve as a cover for politically motivated censorship of dissenting voices.Information perceived as damaging to the image of the military or top politicians, for example, is also targeted.
In the central province of Punjab, several people faced blasphemy charges based on SMS or Facebook messages, including one couple in their forties who were sentenced to the death penalty, though the phone they were accused of using was not in their possession.
The majority government-owned Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) controls 60 percent of the broadband market. It also owns the Pakistan Internet Exchange (PIE), having three main nodes in Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore, with 42 smaller nodes nationwide.
PIE operated the nation’s sole internet backbone until 2009, when additional bandwidth was offered by Trans World Associates on its private fiber-optic cable, TW1. PTCL controls access to the undersea fiber-optic cables SEA-ME-WE 3 and SEA-ME-WE 4, named for connecting South-East Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe, and I-ME-WE, between India, the Middle East and Western Europe. In the past, damage to these cables disrupted half of the country’s connections. Most remote areas lack broadband, and a large number of users depend on slow dial-up connections or EDGE, an early mobile internet technology.
Human rights monitors accused them of bolstering military and police powers, instead of addressing past abuses. Though framed as necessary to combat terrorism and preserve Islam, censorship in Pakistan continues to reflect political motives or the influence of religious extremists.
Religion also influenced a series of incidents which eroded user rights during the coverage period.