Pakistan shelves ‘obscene’ text message ban


Pakistan rowed back on Tuesday from demands that text messages containing nearly 1,700 “obscene” words should be blocked, following outrage from users and campaigners.
On November 14, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) distributed a list of 1,695 words in English and Urdu to operators, giving them seven days to implement a filtering system.
But the list was met with uproar, both at the attempt to censor messages and the inclusion of many seemingly innocuous terms, among them “Jesus Christ”, “lotion”, “athlete’s foot”, “robber”, “idiot”, “four twenty” and “harder”.
On Tuesday, PTA spokesman Mohammad Younis Khan told AFP the authority would consult civil society representatives and mobile phone operators on refining a much shorter list of words, giving no timeframe for any eventual ban.
“At the moment we are not blocking or filtering any word,” Khan said. “No final decision has been taken in this regard,” he added.
A PTA committee with representatives of civil society and mobile phone operators will decide on a “final list of objectionable words” which Khan conceded could be only around “a dozen”.
“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,” he added.
A letter accompanying the list on November 14 said filtering was legal under the Pakistan Telecommunication Act of 1996 which prohibits people from transmitting messages that are “false, fabricated, indecent or obscene”.
The PTA on Tuesday claimed that the November 14 list was merely “preliminary” and “advice” for operators to adopt a filtering system.
Mobile operators have already detailed their “concerns and reservations” and said they would seek further clarification from the PTA.
“Most of the words mentioned in the list are used legally,” lawyer Syed Mohammad Tayyab told AFP.
“Like 420. It is a section of the Pakistan Penal Code,” he said.
“The PTA policy is unjust and unfair on the face of it. It needs judicial review,” said Tayyab, who is also a senior prosecutor in terrorism cases.
Campaign group Bytes for All had vowed to challenge the order in court, saying “a new, ruthless wave of moral policing” violated rights to free speech and privacy, and made a mockery of the entire country.


  1. Its a good idea but some of the words are unneccesary. Apart from that I think youtube and facebook need some censors too. Some of the content is highly absurd.

    • You should not see it if some content is absurd, why should PTA be the big brother of society? Sharam har banday ko apnay hissay ki khud aani chahiye, nazar har banday ki apni neechi honi chahiye, there shouldn't be people "forcing" the concept on you.

  2. it is a good decision taken by PTA,but I will request the Higher authority to consider also to ban these words on Politicians too bcoz they ar using uncivilised and un-provoked words in their addresses before the General that a civilised and proper way of addressing will come out to create good autonomy in this country.

    • Exactly Younus Butt, "our" religious and moral duty, not the PTA's duty to force it on us. Each one of us is answerable to Allah in his or her own capacity. Each one of us should guard his or her own morals. Forcing things on people does not work, why don't we learn that much already?

  3. Never in the history of world people have learnt when being forced rather by setting moral, ethical and legitimate values. Keeping in mind the literacy rate, the flow of english language, atleast in SMS, is restiricted to a certain level.
    Our authaurities and majority of our citizens never try to ammend the root cause rather offering and implementing a forced action, yet claiming the freedom of voice. Maybe they should read carefuly the Newton's 3rd Law.

  4. Dont think it would help a bit. Ok those words would not be texted but so what. people wont stop using them on calls or in person. A total rubish move by PTA.
    These are measures to stop SMS flow against zardari and CO. Lately there have been a lot of jokes on Zardari. So all what they want is to stop it. Nothing else. These guys don't care about ethics. I bet they also use those offensive words as a routine which they are going to ban.

  5. The move by PTA is an exercise in futile, absurd, uncalled for. This is against freedom of speech./expression of one,s sentiments. Our society is already so much frustrated under the prevailing circumstances in the country and now PTA want to add fuel to the fire..

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