NIGERIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net wastefulness in spending significant resources on celebrations of Nigeria’s fifty years of independence. “Protest Against Wastage At ‘Nigeria At 50’ Anniversary: Hackers Hijack National Assembly Website,” Sahara Reporters, October 2, 2010, http://www.saharareporters.com/news-page/protest-against-wastage-nigeria-50-anniversary-hackers-hijacknational-assembly-website.
NIGERIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net PAKISTAN 2009 POPULATION: 184.8 million INTERNET FREEDOM n/a Partly INTERNET PENETRATION: 11 percent STATUS Free WEB 2.0 APPLICATIONS BLOCKED: Yes Obstacles to Access n/a SUBSTANTIAL POLITICAL CENSORSHIP: Yes Limits on Content n/a BLOGGERS/ONLINE USERS ARRESTED: No Violations of User Rights n/a PRESS FREEDOM STATUS: Not Free Total n/a INTRODUCTION With the explosion of mobile-phone use and the gradual spread of broadband internet in Pakistan, access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) has increased, as have citizen journalism and online activism. In response, over the past three to four years— under both military rule and an ostensibly democratic civilian government—the authorities have adopted various measures to exert some control over cyberspace and the sharing of information online. Although the authorities often frame new restrictions as necessary for national security, the war on terror, or protection against blasphemous content, research has revealed that in many cases, hidden under such justifications is an ulterior motive that is political.
In the early 1990s, text-based internet was introduced to the country and the first email service provider in Pakistan, ImranNet,1 was established. The spread of e-mail and digital technologies began to expand with the initiation of the Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) in December 1992.2 With financial assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),3 SDNP succeeded in enhancing computer literacy and providing dial-up internet and e-mail services to urban centers across “Brief History of IMRAN.PK, Internet Email in Pakistan,” http://www.imran.com/imran.pk.html, accessed January 14, 2011.
“Project Document for Sustainable Development Networking: Pakistan,” Sustainable Networking Development Programme (SDNP), http://www.sdnp.undp.org/countries/as/pk/pkpdoc.html, accessed January 14, 2011.
“SDNP Pakistan: Success in Networking for Development,” Sustainable Networking Development Programme (SDNP), http://www.sdnp.undp.org/stories/pakistan.html.
PAKISTAN FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net the country4 from five nodes based in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar.5 In 1994-95, Digicom, an entrepreneurial Internet venture, launched the first internet service access point in Karachi.6 This heralded the beginning of the internet industry in Pakistan. By 2002, the then-Minister of Science and Telecom and his team brought more than 8007 cities online across the country via dial-up connections. Internet and mobile-phone penetration spread further with the deregulation of the telecom sector, though a large urban-rural divide persists.As of 2009, the number of internet users stood at around 20.4 million 9 and there were about one million broadband users as of mid-2010.10 Mobile-phone penetration is greater. According official figures released in December 2010, there were more than million mobile-phone subscribers11 with 7 mobile companies12, and teledensity including fixed telephone lines, wireless and mobile phones reached 65. percent of the population.OBSTACLES TO ACCESS According to International Telecommunications Union (ITU) statistics, the penetration of internet in Pakistan was slightly over 10 percent in 2009.14 By contrast, the penetration of mobile phones stood at 61.7 percent by the end of 2010.15 Factors such as poor infrastructure, high costs, low literacy, difficult economic conditions, age, and culture are “SDNP Pakistan's effective use of dial-up UUCP technology to promote communication in absence of connectivity,” Sustainable Networking Development Programme (SDNP), http://www.sdnp.undp.org/countries/as/pk/pkuucp.html.
“SDNP Pakistan: Success in Networking for Development.” Tariq Mustafa, “Internet Access in Pakistan: A Brief Review,” Network Startup Resource Center, June 24, 1998, http://www.nsrc.org/db/lookup/report.phpid=898710351381:488973341&fromISO=PK.
“ICT Profile- Pakistan,” Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme, http://www.apdip.net/projects/digrev/info/pk/.
Ministry of Information Technology, “De-Regulation Policy for the Telecommunication Sector,” Government of Pakistan, July 2003, http://www.pakboi.gov.pk/pdf/Derregulation%20Policy.pdf.
International Telecommunications Union (ITU), “ICT Statistics 2009—Internet,” http://www.itu.int/ITUD/icteye/Reporting/ShowReportFrame.aspxReportName=/WTI/InformationTechnologyPublic&ReportFormat=HTML4.0& RP_intYear=2009&RP_intLanguageID=1&RP_bitLiveData=False, accessed March 4, 2011.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, “Telecom Indicators—Broadband Subscribers by Technology,” http://www.pta.gov.pk/index.phpoption=com_content&view=article&id=269:telecom-indicators&catid=124:industryreport&Itemid=599, accessed January 14, 2010.
“Mobile Phone Users Cross 99m Mark,” The Express Tribune, August 17, 2010, http://tribune.com.pk/story/40007/mobilephone-users-cross-99m-mark/.
Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, “List of Mobile Operators,” http://www.pta.gov.pk/index.phpoption=com_content&task=view&id=850&Itemid=625, accessed February 24, 2011.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, “Telecom Indicators,” http://www.pta.gov.pk/index.phpoption=com_content&view=article&id=269:telecom-indicators&catid=124:industryreport&Itemid=599, accessed February 24, 2011.
ITU, “ICT Statistics 2009—Internet.” Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, “Telecom Indicators—Annual Cellular Mobile Teledensity,” http://www.pta.gov.pk/index.phpoption=com_content&view=article&id=269:telecom-indicators&catid=124:industryreport&Itemid=599, accessed January 14, 2011.
PAKISTAN FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net some of the constraints that have particularly limited the development and proliferation of the internet in Pakistan.16 High prices, poor copper wire infrastructure, and inadequate monitoring of service quality by the government regulator have further limited the expansion of broadband internet penetration.17 Even though the prices for internet use have fallen considerably in the last few years,18 access remains out of the reach of the majority of people in Pakistan. Most users in Pakistan access the internet either at their workplace or as students at universities and colleges. Cybercafes provide some internet service but are limited to major cities.
In June 2010, the minister in charge of information technologies reported a growth by 150 percent in broadband access since 2008;19 however, these figures can be misleading given the poor quality of the connections. High quality broadband services remain concentrated in large cities like Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad. Wireless service providers using WiMAX and EVDO along with mobile operators Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Warid, and Zong have also been struggling to attract consumers due to high prices and poor performance and coverage. Pakistan does not yet have a third generation (3G) network, which is also a hindrance for the spread of broadband internet and other wireless services.Remote areas of the country have no access to broadband, and are left with only a slow, intermittent dial-up connection, rendering any meaningful online activities very difficult.This situation is particularly challenging for students in rural areas who seek to study via distance learning, but are then deprived of multimedia lectures and tutorials. In addition, most of the areas in the conflict-stricken Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly Northwest Frontier Province) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are without internet access at all.
Promoting access to the internet for the masses has not been a development priority for the government, and few resources have been allocated for this purpose. The only example of such an investment has been the establishment of 365 Rabta Ghar22 (public telecenters in rural areas) by the PTA as a pilot project; however, little information is A. Khan, Gender Dimensions of the Information Communication Technologies for Development (Karlstad: University of Karlstad Press, 2009).
Muhammad Jamil Bhatti, “Broadband Faces Obstacles in Pakistan,” Ohmy News, December 20, 2006, http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.aspat_code=381272.
Ahmad Sajjad, “Pakistan Broadband Free Fall,” blog post, Ahmad Sajjad Blog, March 3, 2008, http://sajjadzaidi.com/2008/mar/pakistan_broadband_free_fall/.
“3G Mobile Phones but no 3G Networks in Pakistan,” blog post, Mobile Phones Blog, June 16, 2010, http://www.bestmobiles.com/3g-mobile-phones-but-no-3g-networks-in-pakistan/.
Pakistan Ministry of Information Technology, “Broadband Penetration in Pakistan: Current Scenario and Future Prospects,” http://188.8.131.52/wps/wcm/connect/9a156580487ff5f7adaefd84e866145a/MoITStudyonBroadbandPenetration.pdfMO D=AJPERES&CACHEID=9a156580487ff5f7adaefd84e866145a&CACHEID=9a156580487ff5f7adaefd84e866145a&CACHEID =9a156580487ff5f7adaefd84e866145a, accessed January 14, 2011.
PAKISTAN FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net available on their current status or impact. Financial incentives, cultural traditions, language barriers, and most importantly, the lack of a robust telecommunications infrastructure, also weigh against great expansion of internet connectivity.
In recent years, the Pakistani authorities, either via government order or court decisions, have on several occasions blocked access to various Web 2.0 applications, such as the video-sharing website YouTube, the photo-sharing application Flickr, and the socialnetworking tool Facebook.23 Such blocks are often carried out under the rubric of restricting access to “blasphemous” content; however, further research into the individual incidents has found that the restrictions consistently corresponded to circumstances suggesting politically-motivated censorship.24 The blanket shut downs have affected a large number of users. For example, the most recent incident was a ban on Facebook that occurred on May 19, 2010 (see details below). At the time, there were approximately 2.million Facebook users25 in Pakistan, and according to Alexa.com, it was the country’s third most popular website. The first incident of blocking occurred at the end of February 2006 when the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) issued instructions to all internet-service providers (ISPs) in Pakistan to block any website displaying the controversial cartoon images of the prophet Muhammad that had been published in a Danish newspaper. The block particularly focused on Google and Blogspot, a blog-hosting service.27 The ban continued for approximately two months.28 More recently, upon orders from the Lahore High Court, the PTA, using the pretext of limiting the circulation of blasphemous content, instituted an extensive blockage of internet content from May 19 to 31, 2010.29 The heightened restrictions were in response to the creation of a “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” contest on Facebook and a legal appeal initiated by a relatively unknown organization called the Islamic Lawyers Movement. The ban resulted in the blocking of 10,548 websites and critical information sources like YouTube, Flickr, the user-generated online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and more.30 Mobile-phone providers also halted Blackberry services, at first completely, but then only web-browsing functions.31 The blocking was widely criticized by “Pakistan Blocks Access to Youtube in Internet Crackdown,” British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), May 20, 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10130195.
“How Come Content Against Salman Taseer can be Termed as ‘Blasphemous’” Bytes for All Pakistan ICT Policy Monitor Network, March 1, 2009, http://pakistanictpolicy.bytesforall.net/q=node/160.
Jefferson Morley, “Pakistan’s Blog Blockade,” blog post, Washington Post Blogs, March 8, 2006, http://blog.washingtonpost.com/worldopinionroundup/2006/03/pakistans_blog_blockade.html.
“PTA Unblocks Blogspot,” Teeth Maestro, May 3, 2006, http://teeth.com.pk/blog/2006/05/03/pta-unblocks-blogspot.
Waqar Hussain, “Pakistan Blocks Facebook Over Mohammed Cartoon,” Agence France-Presse (AFP), May 19, 2010, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iqKZNUdJFQ6c8ctdkUW0C-vktIEA.
“The Shameful Saga of the Internet Ban in Pakistan,” Association for Progressive Communication (APC), July 22, 2010, http://www.apc.org/en/node/10786/.
Aamir Attaa, “Blackberry Services Go Offline in Pakistan,” Pro Pakistani, May 20, 2010, http://propakistani.pk/2010/05/20/blackberry-services-go-offline-in-pakistan/; Aamir Attaa, “Blackberry Services Yet to be PAKISTAN FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net civil society circles, particularly given the collateral damage caused, whereby all users of these particular applications were affected. Responding to public protests, the blanket blocks were generally temporary, and as of the end of 2010, most of these services were available, though the authorities appeared to shift their efforts to blocking individual YouTube videos or Facebook pages instead (see Limits on Content). The exception was access to applications such as Facebook and Twitter via Blackberry devices, which remained restricted throughout 2010, though a range of tips for circumventing the blockage circulated online.As of December 2010, there were 50 operational ISPs33 throughout Pakistan, along with 10 broadband service providers and 2 HFC Operators providing broadband internet.
For its backbone, Pakistan is connected via the Pakistan Internet Exchange (PIE) with SEAME-WE 3 and 4, along with backup bandwidth provided by Trans-World Associates (TWA).34 The current total internet bandwidth landing in Pakistan is 105,000 Mbits.35 The licensing division of the PTA36 is responsible for licensing telecom service providers including ISPs and mobile-phone providers; cybercafes do not require a license to operate.