Pakistan lifts ban on Wikipedia

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has removed ban on the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, following a two-day suspension after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to “immediately” do so on Monday.

The decision was made on the recommendation of a three-member ministerial committee comprising Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar, Minister for Economic Affairs and Political Affairs Ayaz Sadiq, and Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb, according to a statement from the PM’s Office.

On February 1, PTA announced that it was “degrading” Wikipedia services in Pakistan over the existence of “sacrilegious content”, which the platform had been asked to remove, but failed to do so.

Two days later, after the encyclopedia failed to respond to the objections, it was banned completely, sparking outrage in the country.

Following the development, the matter of the ban was placed before the PM on February 6 (today), and he constituted a ministerial committee for a preliminary examination of the issue.

The committee, according to the statement, deduced that “Wikipedia was a useful site/portal which supported the dissemination of knowledge and information for the general public, students and the academia”.

“Blocking the site in its entirety was not a suitable measure to restrict access to some objectionable contents/sacrilegious matters on it. The unintended consequences of this blanket ban, therefore, outweigh its benefits,” the statement said.

The prime minister, thereafter, directed that Wikipedia be restored with “immediate effect”.

Moreover, under the Rules of Business, 1973, PM Shehbaz also set up a new cabinet committee to look into the matter more closely.

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