Pakistan restricts social media
Blasphemous content should disappear from platforms like Facebook, demands the Pakistani government. One judge even threatened to block the entire network.
The Pakistani government is increasingly taking action against alleged blasphemous content in social media. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif instructed the Ministry of the Interior to immediately block all sites and forums with such content. “All agencies should actively try to find the culprits and ensure that they are punished according to the law,” Sharif said. In Pakistan, blasphemy can be punished with death.
Sharif called on the Foreign Ministry to contact international institutions and social networks to solve the problem. The Prime Minister also warned of people using the country’s strict blasphemy law to block disagreeable websites of political or religious rivals. Since the beginning of the year, several sites critical of religion as well as liberal sites have been censored. YouTube had also been blocked for three years until the beginning of 2016 because an Islamophobic film had been uploaded there.
Last week, a judge in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad threatened to block Facebook if blasphemous images were not deleted. He compared blasphemers with terrorists. In January, five bloggers who had run government-critical and military-critical websites were kidnapped. They were accused of blasphemy. Human rights activists suspect the state behind the kidnapping. In the meantime, four of the bloggers have reappeared. One of them told the British BBC that he had been tortured.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is located in South Asia and, with an area of 796,095 km², is more than twice the size of Germany. The country borders India to the east, the Arabian Sea to the south, Iran to the southwest, Afghanistan to the west and China to the north.
The northern part of Pakistan is characterized by high mountains. Here the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, Karakorum and Hindu Kush] meet. The highest elevation is the K 2 (also called Mount Godwin Austen) in the Karakorum, which is with 8 610 m after Mount Everest the second highest mountain in the world. The summit is located in the Kashmir region (Jammu and Kashmir), which is claimed by Pakistan as well as India and China.
In the west and southwest of the country lies the highlands of Balochistan, characterised by deserts and steppes and dominated by several mountain ranges (Tobakar, Siahan, Sulaiman, Kirthar mountains). Here heights of almost 3 600 m are reached. To the east follows the Indus lowland, which is crossed by the river of the same name and in the northern part also by its four tributaries Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej. With an area of around 518,000 km², the Indus lowlands cover more than half of the country’s surface. The Indus is the longest river of the Indian subcontinent with a total length of about 3,200 km, and on Pakistani soil it is about 2,200 km long. In a wide delta, the Indus flows into the Arabian Sea in southern Pakistan. In the southeast, the country shares in the Tharr Desert (Great Indian Desert), the largest part of which lies on Indian territory. The capital Islamabad (since 1959, before Karachi) lies in the northern part of Pakistan.
About 162.42 million people live in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, about 33% of them in cities. The largest city is Karachi with an estimated 12.4 million inhabitants. Other megacities include Lahore (5.54 million), Faisalabad (1.99 million) and Rawalpindi (1.41 million). Around 800,000 people live in the young capital Islamabad. The average population density is around 204 inhabitants per square kilometre, with more than 80% of the population living in less than a third of the country’s surface area, mainly in the northern and central part of the Indus lowlands.
Several ethnic groups live in Pakistan. The largest group is the Punjabi (Panjabi, approx. 50%), who live predominantly in the Punjab and neighbouring regions. The next largest population groups are Pashtuns and Sindhi with about 15% each. The Sindhi mainly live in the south of the Indus lowlands (Sindh province). Like the language of the Punjabi, the language of the Sindh belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, while the Pashtu of the Pashtuns (also called Pathanes) belongs to the Iranian languages. Further minorities are the Baluch, who belong to the Iranian peoples, the Balti and the Brahui with about 5% of the population. Furthermore, an estimated two million Afghan refugees live in Pakistan.
The official language Urdu is only spoken as mother tongue by about 10 % of the population. This Indo-Aryan language largely corresponds to the Hindi used in India. Panjabi is widespread and Sindhi, Pashto, Baluchi and other languages are spoken. English is particularly important in more educated circles.
More than 96% of the population profess Islam, which is the state religion. More than 80% of the Muslims are Sunnis. Christians, Hindus, Parses and Sikhs form religious minorities.
The standard of living in Pakistan is low. Especially in rural areas, the medical care of the population is inadequate. Average life expectancy is 63 years and infant mortality 7.3%. The population is growing by an average of 2%. Not even half of Pakistanis (only 30% of women) can read and write.
According to the constitution of 1973, Pakistan is an Islamic republic. The head of state is the president (Mamnoon Hussain, since September 2013). According to the constitution, he is elected every five years by a college of electors. The prime minister is elected by parliament (Nawaz Sharif, since June 2013).
The parliament consists of two chambers: the Senate with 100 members indirectly elected for six years and the National Assembly (Majlis-e-Shura) with 342 members elected for four years. 60 of the seats of the National Assembly are reserved for women, ten for minorities.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a federal state consisting of four provinces, a capital district and the Pakistan-occupied territories in the former Principality of Jammu and Kashmir, which are also claimed by India.
Problems are the enormous inflation rate, a high deficit in the balance of payments, high underemployment, the inadequate (energy) infrastructure, the strong dependence on agriculture and oil imports and the rapidly growing population. Despite relatively stable growth rates, this leads to low incomes and almost a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.
About one third of Pakistan’s land area is used for agriculture. Agriculture accounts for one-fifth of GDP and employs nearly one in two people. Large parts of the cultivated land have to be irrigated artificially. The most important crops are cotton, wheat, rice, corn and sugar cane. Cattle and sheep farming is partly carried out by nomads.
Pakistan has deposits of crude oil, natural gas, coal, rock salt, limestone, ores and chromium. A large part of the mineral resources is only used to a limited extent. The industry concentrates on the processing of cotton into textiles and clothing as well as food processing. Other sectors are fertiliser, steel, cement and chemical industries. About 20% of the labour force is employed in this sector. Regionally manufactured handicrafts such as carpets and pottery are exported. The country’s energy needs are mainly covered by thermal and hydroelectric power stations. There are two nuclear power stations.
The USA, the United Arab Emirates and China are the most important trading partners for exports (especially textiles, clothing, food, cotton). The main imports are oil, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals and petroleum products. The main suppliers are the United Arab Emirates, China, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
The service sector now accounts for 54% of gross domestic product (GDP). Important sectors are banking, insurance, transportation and communications, but also the bloated public administration.
Pakistan has around 260,000 km of roads (almost 160,000 km asphalted) at its disposal. The railway network covers some 7,800 km. Karachi is the largest seaport on the Arabian Sea. The main international airports are in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Currency is the Pakistani rupee.