Pak revokes obscene words ban; Robber, Idiot not bad anymore

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Islamabad, Nov 23: With Pakistan intending to go after those who send lewd SMSs containing obscene words, the matter has faced a roadblock after some of the words it considered obscene has drawn flak from both users and campaigners. Earlier the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had distributed a list of 1695 words that it considered offensive in both the English and Urdu language.

The PTA had given operators a 7-day period to implement the filtering system. The words that had created an uproar among users are words like Jesus Christ, lotion, athlete's foot, robber, idiot, four twenty and harder.

The PTA spokesman Mohammad Younis Khan has suggested that the authorities will consult civil society representatives and mobile phone operators on refining the list and employing the rule under no time-frame for the blanket ban. He added, "At the moment we are not blocking or filtering any word," Khan said. "No final decision has been taken in this regard."

The final list on the "objectionable words" will be finalized and will only be a dozen. He said, "We have no plan to block any word until and unless it is approved by that committee and it will take time to reach that decision."

The letter accompanying the list on Nov 14 had said that filtering was legal under the Pakistan Telecommunication Act of 1996 that prohibits people from transmitting messages that are "false, fabricated, indecent or obscene". The PTA had stated that the list was merely "preliminary" and "advice" for operators to adopt a filtering system. The mobile operators have expressed their opinion on the issue and have sought clarifications from the PTA.

Lawyer Syed Mohammad Tayyab has been quoted as saying to agencies, "Most of the words mentioned in the list are used legally. Like 420. It is a section of the Pakistan Penal Code. The PTA policy is unjust and unfair on the face of it. It needs judicial review." Tayyab is also a senior prosecutor on terrorism cases.

Various groups had raised a hue and cry on the issue citing it was "a new, ruthless wave of moral policing" and violated free speech and privacy. Pakistan had earlier banned Facebook for nearly two weeks and briefly banned Youtube as well.

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