In a curious turn of events, Pakistan lifted the 103-day ban on YouTube on Saturday only to impose it again within a couple of hours as some television channels began reporting that the blasphemous content — which had invited the proscription in the first place — was still available on the video-sharing website.
The day began with hopes of the ban being lifted as Interior Minister Rehman Malik tweeted in the wee hours of Saturday that the notification ending the ban could be “expected today.”
And, sure enough, the ban was lifted early in the day with all Internet Service Providers being asked to “immediately block/restore complete YouTube website provisionally till further orders” and submit compliance through email by 3 p.m.
As word got around and television channels broke the story, some reported that the blasphemous film Innocence of Muslims was still available on YouTube. This saw the government swing into action and order a fresh ban on the website. How long YouTube remained accessible is unclear but from the various versions available, the duration was anywhere between 33 minutes to two hours.
Pakistan banned YouTube on September 17 amid a rising tide of protests against the film.
Since then there has been a persistent demand for lifting the ban on YouTube which in Pakistan doubles up as a key platform for musicians to launch their new songs as space for expression in any form is shrinking by the day.
Several musicians have had to either move to alternate platforms or delay launch of their song in view of the ban.