• November 23rd, 2011
  • Dafiq Hussein

Last week we brought you news that Pakistan telecoms authorities were set to enforce a ban on apparently “obscene” words being sent in text messages. The latest on this issue is that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has delayed the implementation of the ban.

As reported on the BBC website a PTA spokesman has told the AFP news agency that they are now looking to carry out further consultations in order to produce a shorter list of the banned words. However, as of yet, no time frame has been given for this.

PTA spokesman, Mohammed Younis, has explained: “At the moment we are not blocking or filtering any word. No final decision has been taken in this regard.” He went on to state that a PTA committee, comprised of representatives of civil society and mobile phone operators, would decide on a “final list of objectionable words”, and that there should only be around a “dozen” words on the final list.

The current “dictionary” of words is believed to have over 1,000 expressions on it; it is therefore expected to take some time to whittle these down to just around a dozen. Mr Younis added: “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.”

Mobile phone companies, Telenor Pakistan and Ufone, confirmed last week that they had received a “dictionary” of terms that were recommended by the PTA to be banned. The PTA wanted to begin screening texts messages by 21st November. Mr Younis, at the time, also added that the list was not exhaustive and that they were keen to continue adding words to it. Well, it is now evident that the PTA have seemingly taking a slight u-turn on such ideas.

I somewhat suspect that such a ban may never be enforced, and I wonder if they are still analysing car related terms, such as the ridiculous term “head lights” that was included in the initial “dictionary” of words. If you are contacting family or friends in Pakistan, over coming weeks and months, you may want to make cheap calls to Pakistan instead of sending text messages as it would be unfortunate to add to the glossary of terms the PTA are looking to ban.

If there are any further developments on this story, we will be sure to report them.