We, approximately 3 million twitter users in Pakistan, faced a not so surprising block around mid-day on May 20, 2012. As various ISPs started blocking Twitter, all sorts of stories, conspiracy theories, analyses started surfacing which included but were definitely not limited to:
1. Ban imposed owing to the ongoing Cartoon Contest which may be hurting Muslim sentiments (this was claimed by the government and generally quoted as a reason for the block by the masses)
2. Ali Dayan Hasan, Director at Human Rights Watch, Pakistan, was quoted by New York Times saying: “The Government of Pakistan’s ban on Twitter is ill-advised, counterproductive and will ultimately prove to be futile as all such attempts at censorship have proved to be.”
3. Raza Rumi, a renowned columnist was quoted by New York Times saying: “Twitter is a place where fierce opposition to Pakistan’s security agencies is expressed. There is a clear trend that the Pakistani military and spy agency get a strong critique from Pakistanis themselves, something that does not happen in mainstream media where people are generally shy to express such views.”
4. Dr. Awab Alvi, a staunch and a very active Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supporter opined that this temporary block may just be testing grounds of the overall planned block of various “objectionable” sites.
While the authoritarians, once again, were enjoying the authority, almost within an hour of the block, twitter traffic started gaining slowly while the ban continued as people started figuring out and employing various proxies. Ironically, all throughout the ban and till much later, #TwitterBan was trending at the top in Pakistan.
On a separate note, I am just content that we are surrounded by the most senior authorities who we can blindly trust. Had it not been for Mr. Malik’s warning, it is simply beyond imagination what this ban might have done to the nation. About 16 hours prior to block, Mr. Malik, equipped with his exemplary farsightedness and resolve, had tweeted “Dear all, I assure (you) that Twitter and (Facebook) will continue in our country and it will not be blocked. (Please) do not believe in rumors.” As if this was not enough, a tweet following the lifting of ban mentioned that he had done his best to lift the ban as committed. If nothing, I thank Mr. Malik for sprinkling any event with the much needed comedy, which has averted many a storms during the past 4 odd years.
I am not one to analyze or offer any conspiracy theory regarding the causes, rights, wrongs, etc., about the ban. I am an optimist and look at the brighter side of things. Indeed there has been great learning for the authorities as the ban backfired completely! Therefore, a solution is offered here in which will perhaps assist any such future activity. This is shared with the authorities on behalf of the nation who is very responsible, understands the objects and is always with the “authoritarians”.
A muzzle is a device that is placed over the snout of an animal to keep it from biting or otherwise opening its mouth. There are various types of muzzles (Elizabethan Collars). Some are conical while some are flat or cylindrical. Which type of muzzle to use depends on 1. The shape of the snout, and 2. The level of control which is required. This entails the decision of the owner of the animal and what objective is to be achieved. By employing a muzzle, one can, a. limit the loudness of the sound being made by the animal, b. ensure that the animal is completely mute, c. limit the animal to just using the tongue for lapping liquids or licking the toes of the owner, d. ensuring a complete restraint whereby the animal is not able to open the mouth at all, hence no sound and no biting.
Considering the advantages above, it will be quite fruitful to employ these muzzles next time around as they may offer a permanent solution. Initially thinking of approximately 6 million twitter users only, and average cost of a decent muzzle being US$ 4 to 5, we are looking at a total expense of US$ 30 million. Not only will this address the problem but will also give a strong message to those who are not currently vocal or bite. This act will ensure that those who do not have a sound or do not bite, never dare to do so in future. Furthermore, this may give an opportunity for some friends to make some money as a contract of US$ 30 million may well prove to be quite lucrative.
The recommendation above is made wholeheartedly, with complete alignment to the desires of the authorities and a commitment to abide by and assist them whenever, wherever possible.