Yes We Ban

Fayes T Kantawala is mourning the loss of his Wordpress account. Well, kind of…

Yes We Ban
Our intrepid government decided to celebrate the glory of this great nation on Pakistan Day by doing what they do best: banning.

Wordpress, a website beloved of self-promoting bloggers and angst-ridden teenagers with far too many feelings, has been banned by the PTA under the catch-all specter of “security threats”. Now I maintain a blog on Wordpress, one I admittedly haven’t updated in a while because you can’t imagine the level of crazy on there, but that’s beside the point. Most Pakistanis may not be avid readers of blogs, but those that are know them to be the last vestiges of truly uncensored speech in this country.

A friend of mine used to run a fairly popular blog on the website about Pakistani politics. It was funny, irreverent, smart and angry. One day, after posting an open letter to a member of the government that went viral, he received a phone call asking him to attend a meeting with said official. The blog, it should be said, made no mention of his name and so the fact that they found out who he really was is just a confirmation that they are watching. But perhaps most surprisingly, it showed that government officials most definitely can track people down when they want to (shout-out to shadiness in Abbottabad).

The pretend-show of tanks, fighter jets and military personnel on Pakistan Day was somewhat reminiscent of North Korea
The pretend-show of tanks, fighter jets and military personnel on Pakistan Day was somewhat reminiscent of North Korea

Frankly, I knew it was only a matter of time before came after the blogs. It just made eminent sense to me. It’s the same feeling that allows me to predict that eventually twitter too will be banned here. (Yeah, like, within the next 5 years.) It’s bound to happen. There is no way that they want an entire generation of people speaking openly and publicly, anywhere, ever.

Some people speculated that the Wordpress ban was imposed because everyone was on high-alert due to the Pakistan Day celebrations on March 23rd. This is about as plausible as Peshawar opening a midrange sex shop called Mah-Boobs. They said the same about YouTube and it’s been three years since I’ve watched any Kim Kardashian interviews without some serious online hoop-jumping.

Which reminds me: there are three letters that tell you why the latest ban means as much as a fart in a hurricane. Say them with me: V. P. N. Almost the second the authorities banned the first porn sites, people with personal computers figured out how to download free VPN programs that allowed them to roam around the interwebs. That’s what makes all these bans ridiculous. I really want to ask the PTA (or whichever sad, invariably balding bureaucrat who is in charge of this banning mechanism) whether they actually believe banning something removes it from the Internet. Because, you know, it really doesn’t. Wordpress still exists, and YouTube still exists, despite the best efforts of The Great and Mighty State of Pakistan to cause them damage. It’s absurd to think otherwise.

If it makes you feel better, consider that we are not the only country that has banned things in an attempt to control the universe. The Philippines banned the actress Claire Danes, all of her. Apparently she said that Manila smells like cockroaches (lol) and so they got together to remove all her movies from their stores (RIP ‘Romeo + Juliet’) as well as bar her from ever coming back to the country, for which she’s presumably grateful.
Eventually twitter too will be banned. (Yeah, like, within the next 5 years.)

Saudi Arabia has basically banned women since its creation, and also Valentine’s Day (I guess because it involves loving women). Russia banned “emo clothing”, i.e. hipster loungewear. Iran has banned, among other things, any haircuts that bring to mind Western pop singers, the major upshot of which is that there are no mullets in Iran. Malaysia banned the color yellow for political reasons, and the French banned ketchup from schools in order to preserve the integrity of French cuisine. I would roll my eyes here but French food is like a religious experience and I totally get the point.

China is obviously the Boss of Banning. The Chinese government has banned gaming consoles (I suspect because most are Japanese-made), second children, Facebook, time travel (better to be safe) and, my personal favorite, reincarnation without prior consent. The last one was a mad-dash effort to control Tibetan monks, but I think serves as a perfect illustration of exactly the kind of mentality that is pervasive in countries that ban things. ?

But let’s come back to us. March 23rd went off fairly quietly, mainly because Pakistan Day now has more to do with celebrating killing machines and the Army that owns them than the actual people of this country, and you can make of that what you will in terms of national identity. It didn’t even happen in non-army-occupied Balochistan and vast tracts of Waziristan (and, come to think of it, much of interior Sindh). Which makes the pretend-show of tanks and fighter jets and military personnel somewhat reminiscent of North Korea. (I’m sure we all agree that’s not a Good Thing.)

Anyway, I hope you had a good Republic Day, and I hope it didn’t involve seeing your Wordpress account close down for no apparent reason. If it did, I’ll advise defiance and ingenuity, the two things we are really good at as a country.

See you on the other side of the VPN!

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