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Musharraf muzzles a voice on the margins

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    Musharraf muzzles a voice on the margins

    On Pakistan's independence day (August 14) this year, hundreds of men from Gilgit and Baltistan, two sensitive places in Pakistan's Northern Areas, brought out a protest in Islamabad to demand their political rights, which have been denied to them for decades. The protesters called Pakistan's independence day a ``day of deprivation'' for the people of theNorthern Areas.

    Back in the Northern Areas, a political weekly, K-2, named after the highest peak that stands tall in this mountainous and largely barren area,covered the event to the satisfaction of many readers. Most of them are from the area and are upset over the fact that they can neither vote to elect their representatives nor have any representation in the centre.

    But the authorities were having none of that. Last month, the Government closed down the paper and had the editor arrested. But this is not the first time that the paper's editor and owner, Raja Hussain Maqpoon, has been arrested. It has been an uphill battle for him ever since he brought outthe newspaper in 1996. However, this time round, the Government cancelledthe declaration of the paper -- thereby taking away the permission ofMaqpoon to continue publishing K-2.

    Protests by newsmen all over the Northern Areas resulted in the release of Maqpoon, but the paper remains closed as the Government has said that it isnot willing to allow the publication to restart. The reason for theGovernment's nervousness is that K-2 is one of its kind in the NorthernAreas. As a weekly political newspaper, the publication has got atremendous response from people of the Northern Areas, including thoseliving in cities like Karachi and Lahore.

    ``I received over 5,000 letters in the first few months of publishing the paper in 1996,'' recalls Maqpoon, who sold his ancestral lands in theNorthern Areas as well as taking loans from his relations to set up thepaper. But K-2's popularity and its policy did not go down well with theauthorities in Islamabad, who control the Northern Areas directly.

    Maqpoon said that since he has brought out his paper, he has been constantly harassed and the administration initiated several cases againsthim. Maqpoon said that he faced various problems like theft of newspapersfrom the post office as well as distribution problems.

    In July 1996, Maqpoon was abducted from his office and released after eight hours. In August, he was again taken into police custody and freed after 16hours. He claims that a murder attempt was also made against him in Gilgit.

    But K-2 has continued to be harsh in its criticism of the bureaucracy in the Northern Areas and criticised the federal government for not grantingpolitical rights to the people of the region. It demanded a constitutionalstatus for the Northern Areas -- detaching them from Kashmir and merging them with Pakistan as a separate province.

    Maqpoon has been regularly targeted by the intelligence agencies and his paper's coverage of the Islamabad protest was considered the last straw.Now K-2 is no more but Maqpoon is challenging the military government to honour its commitment to a free press by allowing his paper to be published.

    The Pakistan government argues against a change in the status of theNorthern Areas, the cause closest to the heart of Maqpoon. Since theseareas are historically a part of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistani officials saythat the government is bound by UN resolutions not to change their status until the final settlement of the Kashmir issue. If it does so, it willlose its stand vis a vis India for a UN-sponsored solution of the Kashmir problem.

    Indian who are hindus (thats mostly all_) indians ,forget that 'jinke ghar sheeshe ke hotein haine woh doosro pe pathar nahi pheka karte"With many factors responsible for social problems &unrest ,they remain focussed on muslim-islam-pakistan as there scapegoat.It makes there existence meaning full knowing that they are not as bad as Pakistan after all.(or are they??)matter of opininon!
    Click here: VSNL under fire for blocking "communal" email

    : News: VSNL under fire for blocking "communal" email

    VSNL under fire for blocking "communal" email

    Seema Kazi, 37 and a freelance researcher, was scanning her box for
    email from an e-group called the Middle East Socialist Network (MESN).
    The group conducts debates on socialist activism, political economy,
    democracy, religion and politics in the Middle East--all of which are
    subjects that Kazi, as a human rights researcher, tracks avidly.

    Frowning, she noticed that for the last few days there was no email from
    MESN. For the next two weeks she tried to figure out why. Till the
    moderator of the list told her that her ISP--the Videsh Sanchar Nigam
    Limited (VSNL)--had blocked all email to and from the group.

    On October 31, 2000, armed with the response from MESN, Kazi confronted
    an official at VSNL's customer services section in New Delhi. The
    official confirmed that email to and from MESN had been blacked out. "I
    was told that Muslims have links with Pakistan. And MESN posed a
    potential security hazard. So they had to take this step," Kazi said.

    Kazi's case has outraged the online community. As word spread, after she
    wrote a letter to a newspaper protesting against the treatment she
    received, there was a flurry of email and telephone calls extending
    support to her.

    "This is a most arbitrary policy and against all customer rights. There
    is simply no reason for this except communal prejudice. Are we all to be
    collectively branded and placed in the suspect category due to the
    communal bias against us because we are Muslims?" Kazi said in anguish

    When VSNL was approached for its response to the outcry, the first
    reaction was one of denial. Amitabh Kumar, director (operations), said,
    "I do not think that anything like this is possible. It is definitely
    not true. We have not blocked email from anybody. We have had cases
    before where people have complained of their accounts being blocked, but
    it turned out that the account had been disabled. This could be because
    it had expired or some other temporary technical problem."

    But when told that Kazi's complaint filed with VSNL had been
    acknowledged by one of its deputy general managers and her account
    ‘unblocked’ in front of her, Kumar said, "If something like this has
    happened we will immediately look into it."

    Kumar declined to elaborate on what action, if any, would be taken
    against the official(s) responsible. Neither did he state what
    mechanisms would be put in place to prevent recurrence of such
    incidents. "I am not aware of the case and I cannot comment on it till I
    go through it in detail," was all he said.

    Kazi's case has once again focused attention on the larger question of
    an individual's rights online and the powers granted to ISPs and
    security agencies to restrict or tap into them. The issues now being
    debated on the various mailing lists and forums online is the ISP’s
    •Right to filter and block messages and •Right to eavesdrop onto
    activities of a user, deliberately or even as a matter of routine

    Experts are clear that the IT Act passed by the Parliament earlier this
    year does not confer any powers on the ISP to restrict or intrude into
    an individual's freedom online. But, in the interest of national
    security, the government has the right to monitor the activities of
    citizens online or otherwise.

    Pawan Duggal, cyber law expert and advocate with the Supreme Court,
    explained, "The only chapter in the Act that covers network service
    providers is Chapter XII which talks of their liability. The power to
    access computers and data and intercept information has been given only
    to the Controller under Chapter VI of the IT Act. Nowhere in the Act is
    there any mention about an ISP's power to intercept data or restrict
    access under any circumstances."

    A gray area
    Tapping remains a gray area under the Act. "The IT Act," added Duggal,
    "is silent on the issue of tapping into an individual's online
    activities. But an earlier judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of
    phone tapping has held tapping per se as illegal except under
    circumstances where the nation's security is at stake."

    To prevent violations of an individual's basic rights, the Supreme Court
    in its judgment in a phone tapping case has ensured that tapping is
    acceptable only if it conducted by officers who are specially authorized
    under a specific procedure laid down by the court.

    But Amitabh Singhal, president of the Internet Services Providers
    Association of India, said that ISPs would soon be forced to monitor
    traffic and check for "illegal activity" all the time. "Under the
    license conditions that were laid down,” said Singhal, “ISPs have to set
    up monitoring mechanisms and provide 24-hour access to the security
    agencies. Though it has not been implemented yet, ISPs have to slowly
    move towards it."

    Singhal conceded that the cyber rights of every individual needed to be
    guaranteed. He was also emphatic that this could not be at the cost of
    compromising the nation's security.

    "In case of any event where the nation's security is at stake--like
    war--the government takes control of all the networks. And then
    monitoring does take place by security agencies like the Intelligence
    Bureau (IB) or the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Freedom from
    intrusion into an individual's privacy needs to be protected at all
    costs. But the Internet is not just about technology anymore. It is a
    very powerful tool and can be misused," Singhal said.

    Not the first time
    Kazi's case could have been dismissed as an aberration except that it is
    not the first time that censorship on the Internet in India--covert or
    otherwise--has been tried.

    At the peak of the Kargil war between India and Pakistan, VSNL had
    blocked access to the Web site of Dawn one of Pakistan's leading daily

    But VSNL’s Kumar shifts the blame for it on to the government's
    shoulders. "We did not block access on our own. We only carried out
    orders given by the government or its agencies," he said.

    In 1998, the ban against IP telephony was much talked about in telecom
    circles. VSNL was, then, the monopoly ISP and controlled the only
    international gateway in India. In a move aimed to curb access to
    Internet telephony sites, VSNL blocked subscriber access to sites like
    Vocaltec (, WebPhone (
    and Net2Phone ( The ISP also cut off access to
    Cult of the Dead Cow, a tips and tools site for hackers.

    VSNL's move was challenged in court by Arun Mehta, a telecom consultant.
    Mehta filed a case against the ISP in the Delhi High court protesting
    against the attempt to impose censorship on the Internet through the ban
    of Net telephony sites.
    "I have petitioned the court under right granted to me, by the Indian
    constitution, to freely practice the profession of my choice. I am a
    telecom consultant and if access to Internet telephony sites is
    restricted it prevents me from updating my knowledge. This hampers my
    effectiveness in the profession of my choice," Mehta explained in his
    petition to the court.

    But VSNL has defended its attempts to block access to those sites as
    measures taken to protect its business interests. "Bandwidth is a scarce
    resource and if IP telephony is used it will be a load on our system. We
    then have the right to reserve access to something that we believe will
    hamper our effectiveness and performance," Kumar said.
    Mehta is not convinced. "VSNL was the only ISP then. So at that juncture
    they cannot play the regulator and the businessman at the same time. The
    decision to block sites wherever there is a conflict of interest with
    the ISP business is stupid and shortsighted," Mehta said.

    VSNL denies wrongdoing
    VSNL's Kumar, however, denies any wrongdoing. "We have not blocked any
    site in the last one year. Internet telephony is illegal and so we had
    taken that measure. Anything else that was blocked was on the
    instruction of the authorities," Kumar explained.

    When probed he clarified that the "authorities" could be the Department
    of Telecommunications, the Ministry of External Affairs or any other
    government agency.

    Mehta's case against the ISP has been languishing in the Delhi court for
    the last two years. As soon as the case was filed, VSNL removed all
    restrictions and ensured that his objections became archaic.

    His plight has only served to highlight the need for efficient redressal
    forums for consumers. But apart from a petition in the courts there are
    no alternatives.

    "Since the introduction of the IT Act, there are clear laws under which
    citizens can approach the court. Even if there is no specific provision
    under the IT Act for a particular grievance, citizens can file a writ
    petition under an article that guarantees fundamental rights," Duggal

    So where does that leave Seema Kazi? She is still unsure about what to
    do. "I am considering legal options but I have not decided anything
    yet," she said. Watch this space for updates.

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      Originally posted by Azad Munna:
      Indian who are hindus (thats mostly all_) indians ,forget that 'jinke ghar sheeshe ke hotein haine woh doosro pe pathar nahi pheka karte"

      It might interest you to note that the above article is written by a MUSLIM.I can furnish the name on request.

      Think twice before jumping the gun, buddy !!


        Chilli tell us the source of you article first before YOU start jumping to conclusions huh?