PTA, IT Ministry at odds over internet censorship system

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Ministry of Information Technology are at odds over installation of a system to regulate and monitor websites, their contents and internet content filtration, Pakistan Today has learnt.
According to details, PTA had submitted a proposal with the ministry for installation of a system to regulate and monitor websites, their contents and internet content filtration. The system which is being imported from China is expected to control internet traffic and activities across the country per PTA policies.
PTA was holding consultations over this new project with other stakeholders for national security including Ministry of Interior, Armed Forces of Pakistan, various intelligence agencies and NTSC.
Sources privy to the Ministry for Information Technology told Pakistan Today that the ministry had a few reservations regarding the system, its capabilities and above all its massive cost, following which it rejected PC-I of the project that was forwarded by the PTA.
The source also said the ministry directed PTA to contact the cabinet division for approval of the project.
According to details about the project, a central point would be established by PTA from where all internet traffic inside the country would flow and objectionable content and pornographic websites would be filtered from there. Under the new mechanism, a URL filtering software worth $ 5 million would also be installed at four landing stations of ‘submarine cable’ which would control internet content on mobile phones as well.
According to media reports, various objections are being raised on such systems which contend that after installation of the particular system, electronic mails (e-mails), mobile phone internet traffic and mobile phone calls would likely be monitored by the government. On the other hand, PTA Chairman Farooq Ahmed Khan has denied the formation of a mechanism that would monitor emails and phone calls in Pakistan saying PTA does not have the mandate to implement such a system. However, he confirmed that in the next 60 days a new mechanism for blocking un-Islamic, pornographic and blasphemous material from websites will be activated.

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