The video-sharing website was blocked in the country on September 17, 2012 over blasphemous material, which sparked furious protests around the world. The ban remains in place till date.
In its verdict at the time of ban, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that the site should be banned until a way was found to block all blasphemous content.
Earlier in February this year, the minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Anusha Rehman had told the Senate that YouTube matter was reviewed numerous times, but it could not be progressed further.
She had told the Upper House government doesn’t want to take any chance and wants to make sure no offensive or sacrilegious content remains viewable to Pakistani users on YouTube.
During the month of February, YouTube was accessible on some internet services across the country, fuelling rumours that the video-sharing website had been unblocked in the country.
However, minister Anusha Rehman turned up before the media and said it was a “technical fault” that had been fixed.
Pakistani users at the time wished if only this “technical fault” stayed for a longer period.
NA, Senate body’s resolutions make no difference
The National Assembly on May 7, 2014 had unanimously adopted a resolution to lift the ban on YouTube.
The resolution was moved by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Shazia Marri. She contended that all Muslim countries have lifted the ban on this website, and there is no need to have it in place in Pakistan.
The resolution further read: “A US appeals court in February ordered Google, which owns YouTube, to remove the film after a lawsuit brought by an actress who says she was tricked into appearing in it, but the Pakistani ban remains in place.” Marri in her resolution said that students and researchers were suffering as a result of the blackout. “We have been disconnected from the world by the ban on YouTube,” she said.
On April 21 2014, the Senate Committee on Human Rights had recommended the government to remove ban on YouTube. It said Pakistan was the only Muslim country where this facility had been denied to the public.
Senator Afrasiab Khattak, the chairman of the committee, had said that the ban was not useful as users could still access YouTube and other banned websites through different means.
Free speech campaigners have long complained of creeping censorship and have described the ban on YouTube as a violation of civil rights.
In 2010 Pakistan shut down Facebook for nearly two weeks over its hosting of allegedly blasphemous pages. It continues to restrict thousands of online links.