View Full Version : Deaf, dumb and blind - Chris Cork - 27th November 2012

27th November 2012, 10:58 AM
As these words are written on Friday afternoon, Pakistan is suffering from a multiple sensory failure. All wireless internet connections in Bahawalpur went down soon after 2 pm; but cell phones – inexplicably considering Bahawalpur is supposed to be a terrorist safe haven – remain on. Cellular phones are off in Karachi, Quetta, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and reportedly in Islamabad and Lahore as well but that is unconfirmed.

I dictated copy down a landline to my office in Karachi and do not expect to get my eyes, ears, or internet voice back until after midnight. Maybe. No need for external forces to threaten to bomb us back to the Stone Age if we do not do this, that or the other; we are perfectly capable of bombing ourselves there.

Additionally, the moral police have been at it again and banned the cellular phone companies from offering ‘night packages’ on the grounds that they encourage ‘immorality’ and behaviour which runs counter to our cultural codes. This can only be a reference to members of the opposite sexes talking to one another. Boys and girls having private conversations or lovers setting up trysts or terrorists reminiscing at length about the horrors they have committed that day. All terribly immoral.

The YouTube blockade continues though there are rumours that it may re-open in a week or so, ending a period in which millions criminalised themselves by downloading Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) which when installed – for free – circumvent the YouTube censorship, as well as opening up access to all those undoubtedly pornographic websites that the government had been so keen to protect us from.

And how many took the trouble to hunt down and view the video clip that inspired the furore in the first place? Who knows, but my guess would be few.

The unplugging of the Internet has both immediate and long-term implications. In the short-term it brings to a grinding halt all e-commerce, distance learning, student research, the dissemination of news and views of the net pages of our newspapers and magazines in a range of languages, and communication by email and messenger services.

It may also have prevented terrorists from communicating with one another and thereby averted an attack, but we can never know. From pictures of Taliban groups in the field seen recently in the media it is clear that the cellular shutdown or the darkening of the Internet matter to them not one jot or tittle by virtue of the fact that they use satellite phones; and so far as I am aware the government does not yet have the ability to block or interfere with communication satellites.

It is a measure of the power of the terrorists in our midst that they can provoke such fear as to force the shutdown of the primary means of communication; which simultaneously exposes the weakness and powerlessness of the government to catch or prosecute those that so crippled us.

The government response to threat is to take the line of least resistance – penalise the entire population, or those of the population that use mobile phones and the Internet and by now that is a majority, rather than take on the altogether more difficult task of addressing the issues that created the environment in which terrorism thrives.

It is that craven cowardice – there is no other word for it – that arouses my fears for the long-term. Despite the cliché, this is a state becoming increasingly Orwellian and paranoid. A state that is imploding as much as it is exploding, and a state increasingly seeking to control private space.