Blasphemy or criticism on state? Laal the Band becomes ‘Laal the Banned’

Laal

ISLAMABAD – In order to make Pakistan more ‘sane’ the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has banned the facebook page of Laal the Band in Pakistan.

The page was banned hours ago that created an uproar from almost everyone from the Pakistan.

The lead vocalist and guitarist of Laal the Band Dr Taimur Rehman initially had no idea why his facebook page was taken off but later he told his followers that facebook and PTA have an agreement to take off any pages suggested by the authority.

Facebook says “We restricted access in Pakistan to a number of pieces of content primarily reported by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Ministry of Information Technology under local laws prohibiting blasphemy and criticism of the state.” 

“So apparently, PTA sent a request to FB which shut down access of our Laal page to users within Pakistan. Since when criticism of the state illegal content? This is nuts. Any government can use this law to curb criticism of its policies and keep FB completely pro-government,” Dr Taimur Rehman added in a facebook statement.

Moreover, the online freedom advocacy group Bytes for All Pakistan, commented on the PTA’s move and stated “This is very unfortunate but we are now witnessing the mass murder of free speech and political expression in the country. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) with assistance from the Facebook have removed a number of pages promoting progressive, alternate political discourse in the country. This is a shameful act by the authroities and will only demean the nascent democracy. We strongly condemn this hegemony by the authorities and these acts of censorship. For a long time now, we keep telling the authorities that Censorship is not a solution, its a problem itself!”

The group also added that “We can now confirm that following pages are not totally Removed from the Facebook platform but have been restricted and blocked for IPs originated from Pakistan:

1. https://www.facebook.com/laalpak
2. http://www.facebook.com/RoshniPakistan3
3. https://www.facebook.com/LashkareBhangvi
4. https://www.facebook.com/saeenjii
5. https://www.facebook.com/talibaansarezalimaans
6. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Zalaan/223785781093636
7. https://www.facebook.com/Bhensaa

Below is the complete account of Dr Taimur Rehman on banning the Laal’s facebook page:

PTA Blocks Laal Page

That’s right folks. The largest leftist page in South Asia with over 408,000 members has been banned by Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (along with a number of other secular pages). We have been running this page since 2009 when we started the band. And over the last five years it grew to become a very central hub for progressive ideas, especially with respect to the struggle against extremism and the Taliban. At our best we engaged over 100,000 people a week and our total viral reach would even cross 2 million people in a week. We were adding up to 12,000 people to our wall on a weekly basis at our best. Even working at average efficiency unto 40-50,000 people would write on our wall every week and a couple our total viral reach was always in hundreds of thousands. Without any doubt, it was the largest network that the left in Pakistan had been able to build in our times. 

Not only did we bring you entertainment, music, and jokes, we brought you lectures on philosophy, posts about the labour movement, women’s emancipation, struggles against national oppression, democratic movements, and so much else. Whether people agreed or disagreed with our philosophy or arguments, every democratic and progressive minded individual respected the efforts of the band and the group to educate young people in the spirit of progressive politics. 

Nor was this page only accessed by the rich and infamous. In fact, thanks to our hard fought grassroots activism we had factory workers, trade unions, peasant associations, even bhatta workers on our page. They would not write but they would always check the page for news and information about struggles. It was genuinely reaching out to the masses that we wish to organise. 

But sadly this seemed to have been too much for our masters. The page today is accessible to all those who are outside of Pakistan but if you are using the internet from within Pakistan (and that was 90% of our members) any attempt to access Laal will just bring you back to your own newsfeed. Almost like it simply does not exist. 

There has been no official notification. There has been no warning. There hasn’t even been a letter or an email of warning. They didn’t say, we don’t like the support your giving the Baloch, or your opposition to Islamic extremism. They didn’t say communism has been banned in Pakistan since 1954. They didn’t even send a tanga to pick me up and take me to the police station like they did with Faiz and Hameed Aktar sahib.

But fikir not. We are not the type of people who are easily dissuaded from our revolutionary goals and progressive politics by such dirty tactics. Vo Faiz sahib nay kya khoob kaha tha key: 

Matah e loh o qalam chin gaye tu kya gham hai.
Keh khoon e dil main dobo li hain ungliya mainay. 

So there is no question of losing hope. Here’s the plan of action my friends. 

1) Please click “follow” on @Taimur Rahman profile so that I can continue to disturb you guys with our progressive ideas and remind you again and again that we need to do something about the world in which we live. 

2) We will restart the page, even if we have to start from 1 member, and we will rebuild it not only to its former glory but even beyond. Please help us in this regard by rejoining our page once we have it up and running again and encouraging your friends to do the same. 

3) The most immediate gesture of solidarity that you can do for us is to share this very status so that everyone knows the dirty trick that PTA has played on the left in Pakistan. 

4) Perhaps this may be a good time for you my friend to realise that to turn the tide of this reactionary onslaught in Pakistan, we need to work together in an organised manner. Help us out my friends. We cannot do this alone. We need your support and solidarity. Not just in words but more importantly in deeds. We need an organised left in Pakistan. Not the inchoate informal network of personal friends that we continuously rely on whenever something goes wrong. You all know how its organised. I don’t need to tell you. If we get organised, things will get better.

About the author

Hissan Khan

Hissan Khan is currently working as the Editorial Head of Pakistan Tribe's Islamabad Office. Having work as current affairs host, news analyst and C4D expert, Hissan holds a good command over communication and development strategies.

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