Monday, July 13, 2009

Provoke A Leader Day

Just when you think they may be becoming sane, they go and do and say something so imbecilic that you are forced to reassess your charitable views. I'm speaking of course of the government, and in particular the honchos at the head of security policy in Pakistan.

If you don't immediately know what I'm talking about, read the front pages of Dawn and The News. Here's what Dawn had to report:

"ISLAMABAD, July 12: The government announced on Sunday that sending indecent, provocative and ill-motivated stories and text messages through e-mails and mobile telephone Short Messaging Service (SMS) was an offence under the Cyber Crime Act (CCA) and its violators could be sent behind bars for 14 years.

An official announcement by the interior ministry said that the government was launching a campaign against circulation of what it called ill-motivated and concocted stories through emails and text messages against civilian leadership and security forces.

The announcement does not elaborate what is meant by ill-motivated e-messages, but it is believed that the ‘civilian leadership’ meant President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and other politicians.

A senior official of the ministry said: “Sending indecent message is a crime under the Cyber Crime Act and liable to punishment.” He said that some elements had been trying to malign the political leadership and security forces engaged in a military operation in Malakand and some areas in Fata.

The government has tasked the Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Cell to block or trace such emails and mobile telephones’ SMS.

Under the Cyber Crime Act, violators could be jailed for 14 years, besides confiscation of their property. Similarly, any Pakistani living abroad and violating provisions of the act may be charged and will be liable to deportation to Pakistan."

Now, some of you may remember this issue having surfaced a few months ago, when the PPP leadership had publicly expressed its annoyance over the jokes doing the rounds on SMS, in particular about the "Chairman Do Number", as the erudite party secretary general Jehangir Badr had once called the Co-Chairperson of the party (I kid you not!). The outrage over their stated vow to monitor people's SMS-es "to find the culprits" had led to the whole matter being buried. Not for long it seems. The present attempt, disguised as it may be in the garb of 'national security' and concern over 'the maligning of the Malakand and FATA operation', seems to me to be simply re-igniting the whole obsession over what people are saying in private to each other about our great leaders.

What IS the problem with our leaders?!? Are they really so concerned about their (non-existent) image in the eyes of the public? Or are they simply trying to scare people into not even laughing at the sorry lot that is their burden? Or are they, shudder!, actually serious?

But wait, there is more on how exactly the government will go about doing this:

"Under the campaign, all Internet Service Providers would be checked physically by the FIA on a daily basis.

The directive said the campaign would also target proscribed organisations which had been using internet for malicious propaganda against security forces.

The Director General of FIA, Mr Tariq Khosa, has been instructed to monitor and check stories and messages. An FIA official said that strict action would be taken against all culprits in the next few days.

“Interpol/Lyon has also been requested to identify those email addresses and websites registered abroad which are being used for such stories,” the official said."

OK, the FIA - no, specifically, its DG Tariq Khosa, is going to physically (!) monitor all the millions of emails and SMS-es flying through the ether every single day. Will he need a print-out or will he check them on the screen? They don't really say. Will he check ALL of them (note to the SO: stop sending those intimate messages!) or only the hundreds of thousands that might be flagged for mentioning Chairman Do Number, Col Raymond, the army, Malakand, Taliban etc? (I fear the PM has as usual simply been coopted for this to create a distraction). The "Interpol / Lyon" touch was rather charming. By the by, all web-based email accounts, such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc. are "registered abroad." Could our decision-makers get any more cretinous?

Here's my suggestion to all who would like to take the piss to such cretins: circulate as many jokes about the above-mentioned as you can to all your friends, asking your friends to forward them to as many as they can, and on and on. Let's flood the ether with "indecent" and "provocative" and "ill-motivated" messages. At best, the government will learn to keep its nose where it should. At worst, it'll provide Mr Khosa and his team hours of reading pleasure.

Oh, and Asif Zardari, you Mr. Ten Percent, you, does Rehman Malik really suck the sweat off your balls?... Provocative enuff fer ya?


Zakintosh said...

There is a warped asshole among us who is helping the government develop 'sniffers' to make their task of oppression easier … so, other than him (and his) I suggest that the rest of us start (at midnight, tonite, Pak Time) Tweeting - #eOpression? - and FB-ing updates that fall under one of the three categories and also sending sms msgs but not to friends (don't want flooding of their phones and keeping them from receiving real msgs) but to effing spammers and others ... Anyone Game?

Shayan said...

Ick! Ball sweat? Must we abandon creativity in our attempt at provocation?

I do appreciate the sentiment though. Most of the online community has diagnosed this whole business as a symptom of the democratic leadership's absolutist state of mind. I quite agree!

Anonymous said...

I was going to send this sms about how Rehman Malik was actually Michael Jackson (look closely. Resemblance hai na?)but I am now too scared to do so. Maybe I should phone Dr Shahid Masood anonymously and tell him my theory. He looks like the sort of man who will believe anything and might even base his entire programme round it. If only there was an Al-Qaeda angle somewhere so I would be guaranteed airtime. Working on it...

XYZ said...

@Shayan: Ok, I agree. I got carried away there. Sorry.

@Zakintosh: I'm not sure who you mean by sniffers but I sure as hell hope you're not referring to me...because you'd be way off the mark. But no amount of civil disobedience can work if people don't have the you know what (in deference to Shayan) to stand up for what they believe to be right. The point was this: how many of 'us' can they put behind bars? I was in no way suggesting spamming people and making their life miserable. But if enough people are 'in' on it, it can be quite something. Sorry to say but 'Facebook' and 'Twitter' just don't cut it, given how many people actually use it in Pakistan...

Zakintosh said...

@XYZ - Hell's bells. I certainly did not mean you. I was talking about software/code that 'sniffs' exchanges and traffic, looking for specific keywords - and said that there was a chap and his team developing this for the government.