Pakistan Text Ban: No More Monkey Crotch, Jesus or Satan

Islamabad expands meaning of ‘offensive’ and ‘obscene’ to include ‘virgin.’

Police in Shabqadar, a town close to Pakistan’s main northwestern city of Peshawar, investigate a reported ‘glazed donut’ sighting. (Photo: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters)

Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

Monitoring your mate’s text messages is about to become far less inflammatory in Pakistan. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has dictated a list of 1,700 words and phrases in English and Urdu that it wants banned from the country’s cell phone screens.

Moral outrage is at times seen as a virtue in Pakistan. So-called honor killings of women who fail to maintain a one-sided standard of purity have long gone unpunished in the country.

The usual F- and C-word suspects bulk up the list, along with fanciful and baffling wordage such as athlete’s foot, monkey crotch, black out, flatulence, glazed donut, Jesus Christ, hostage, Satan, “flogging the dolphin,” suicide and virgin.

The list of objections was leaked from a letter written by the PTA’s Director General Muhammad Talib Doger that instructed mobile phone operators to filter SMS messages. In pressing for text censorship, Doger’s letter cited the Protection from Spam, Unsolicited, Fraudulent and Obnoxious Communication Regulations of 2009.

“The right of free speech extends to all subjects which affects way of life without limitation of any particular fact,” said the letter. “However, right of freedom of speech and expression is not unfettered and unbridled.”

“This is all part of efforts to end spam messages,” Mohammad Younis, a PTA spokesman, told the Hindustan Times. “The system will automatically block SMSs. There will be no penalties.”

Moral outrage is at times seen as a virtue in Pakistan. So-called honor killings of women who fail to maintain a one-sided standard of purity have long gone unpunished in the country. Maiming, rape and blood feuds are common reactions to perceived lapses in propriety.

So, insidious spammer or clever individual, think twice before you type in words such as lactate or Neon Deon and press SEND from Karachi or environs.

Comments ()