Anger over Pakistan Sindh instant message ban proposal

A Pakistan man chats with his friend on a online network in the port city of Karachi
Image caption Under the proposals most forms of online and mobile communications will be banned

Internet freedom activists in Pakistan have expressed anger over proposals by the government of Sindh province to ban messaging apps including Skype, Viber and WhatsApp for three months.

The provincial government says the move is necessary as a security measure.

It says the move "detaches criminals from modern communication means".

But the proposal has to be approved by the central government before it is implemented and so far no decision has been taken.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has said that he was not in favour of such a move.

"But I will go through the Sindh government's application in favour of the ban to see how much weight it carries," Mr Khan was quoted by local media as saying.

Image caption Critics say the proposals represent a serious breach of human rights and will hamper small businesses

Scores of social media users have condemned the proposals arguing that they are infringements of personal freedom and will impede small businesses and entrepreneurs from working effectively.

"The ban on Skype, Viber and WhatsApp in Sindh is a cyber-drone attack from the government," social media user Umer Pirzada tweeted.

Another critic wrote: "This is when you know the country has gone down the drain. Blocking WhatsApp, Skype, What's next? Blocking oxygen?"

But senior Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has spoken out in favour of the move arguing on Twitter that it was necessary to "catch some terrorists and save some lives".

Sindh has been plagued by serious militant, sectarian and criminal violence throughout 2013 with the port city of Karachi being especially badly hit.

Technology experts have pointed out that the proposed restrictions may be doomed to failure because they could easily be circumvented by criminals.

Correspondents says that Pakistan's mobile network has been switched off about 12 times over the last year.

Former PPP Interior Minister Rehman Malik frequently shut down cellular networks for extended periods on important national and religious holidays to "ensure the safety of the people".

A ban on video sharing website YouTube - deemed by the authorities to be blasphemous - was introduced by the central government in September 2012.

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