Pakistan Restores Rock Band’s Facebook Page After Two-Day Freeze

Pakistan restored the Facebook page of a rock band that talks about extremism and human rights violations after suspending it last week.

“The ban was out of the blue and very shameful,” Taimur Rahman of the band Laal said today over the telephone from Lahore. “There was no controversial entry in the past week that deserved a ban on the page. Our short comments on news clippings we post are usually those that are objected to by the majority of people.”

The band’s Facebook page, which has about 410,000 likes, was restored last night after being shut for two days. The page calls itself leftist and talks about topics such as the stoning of a woman to death in Lahore and an attack on journalist Hamid Mir, both last month. Rahman is a teacher of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan’s top business school, according to Higher Education Commission rankings.

The move to block the page is part of Pakistan’s effort to keep a tight monitoring regime, with Twitter Inc. last month agreeing to block messages seen as blasphemous by Islamic leaders, and YouTube being blocked since 2012.

Pakistan had the third highest number of Facebook pages restricted, after India and Turkey, in the six months ended Dec. 31, according to data from Facebook Inc.

Pakistan suspended the license of local television channel Geo TV after the Ministry of Defence sought a ban for airing comments that accused the country’s spy agency of involvement in an attack on a talk show host.

“They are trying to exercise more and more control over information flow,” Shahzad Ahmad, country director at Pakistan-based human rights organization Bytes for All said by telephone from Islamabad. “This is mass murder of free speech.”

Bytes for All has a case against the government to restore Google Inc.’s YouTube, which has been banned since September 2012, according to Ahmad.

Pakistan’s information minister Pervaiz Rashid and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority spokesman Khurrum Mehran did not answer calls for comments.

“I don’t have a problem with banning unlawful pages such as those promoting terrorism,” says Rahman. “We did nothing and were never informed. That’s all.”

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