For the past two years, the Pakistani government has forced Google and Apple to remove programs in the country that are produced by developers in other less religious countries.
This move is part of struggle led by the country’s telecommunications operators who are fighting Ahmadiyya Muslims. The followers, named Ahmadis, number about 4 million in Pakistan. Although Ahmadis is known as a Muslim, the Pakistani government views them as heretics, and the 1984 law prohibits them from “identifying themselves” as Muslims, following Islamic rituals, and referring to their shrines as mosques. Pakistan is the only country that can say that Ahmadis are not Muslims.
Ahmadis have been persecuted for many years, including an attack in 2010 that killed 93 people. But pressure from foreign technology companies from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), shows new will dealing with extremist religions. This is one of the first examples of governments that use anti-bullying laws to force technology companies around the world to scrutinize their content.
There are seven problems created by the Ahmadi sect in the United States, published under the name “Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.”
All three programs have “the same thing [Arabic] the texts are found throughout the Quran, ”as well as Ahmadi’s commentary, according to their interpretation. It is still available in international markets. All of these have been removed by Google in Pakistan. In addition, there are four other programs, including the FAQ on Islam and the Urdu-language magazine, which the PTA is forcing Google to remove, but which has not been downloaded.
Asked to comment, a PTA spokesman told BuzzFeed News on the department’s website.
“Our services make search results, videos, apps, and much more available, in accordance with local law, taking into account human rights,” a Google spokesman told BuzzFeed News. “We oppose state laws at all times, and when we need to get rid of programs and other things that don’t violate our laws, we try to do this under duress.”
Apple has not responded to a request for comment, but information from Apple to developers, May 17, 2019, says it is removing one of its apps from its store in Pakistan because it “includes what is prohibited.”
Pakistan recently sent Ahmadi material announcements to Google and Wikipedia on December 25, 2020, according to the PTA Press release. Two days later, Google downloaded one of the pages of the Qur’an, said Harris Zafar, a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United States. (There is no indication that Wikipedia has removed Ahmadi’s material in response to the request, but the Wikimedia Foundation has not submitted a request for comment.)
A few weeks later, a group of Ahmadi community leaders spoke with Google officials.
“[Google] “We have expressed concern over the PTA’s humanitarian grievances but have been told that they should leave their business in Pakistan if they do not get rid of Ahmadi’s content,” Zafar said. “We were shocked …
The PTA also ordered the closure of Ahmadi’s page from the US, TrueIslam.com, threatening its authorities with fines of $ 3 million. This may be impossible, because the people who run the site, including Zafar, do not live in Pakistan. But it does mean he could face charges if he goes, which means Zafar will not visit his relatives.
“This is a confusing thing and there is nothing to try to enforce Pakistani laws that insult US citizens,” wrote a lawyer representing the pageants in a letter to Pakistani officials.
Pakistan is one of several countries, including China, Vietnam, Germany, Nigeria, and Russia, which has land management regulations in order to make the most of the technical towers. When companies store data or have offices in their country, they have to comply with local laws.
PTA issued new rules Late last year that gives it the power to add restrictions to online content. The law allows it to review online content that, in turn, could endanger the government or threaten Pakistan’s security.
The Asia Internet Coalition, a business group whose members include Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, challenged the decision, writing a letter to a regulator on December 5 stating that the rules “barred Pakistani citizens from accessing free and open internet.”
Zafar said the PTA has been pressuring Google since 2018 and Apple since 2019. Ahmadi manufacturers have made other translations of the Qur’an in recent years, each of which companies have followed the PTA rules.
Google launched the first Quranic program for Ahmadiyya people in September 2018. After protesting, Google reinstated the program and held a meeting between the company and developers next March.
According to the meeting, a Google official asked if he would consider using the word “Muslim” in his name to avoid offending the Pakistani government.
“No,” replied Zafar’s companion, Ahmadi’s lawyer. “This idea will have a profound impact, an example that will empower Pakistan to continue this, thanks to the approval of one of the world’s largest corporations.”
The meeting ended without a clue, Zafar said, and in October 2019, Google re-launched the app. Apple unveiled the same app from its store in May.
Zafar said he was disappointed.
“All Google has done is take the PTA and monitor our community,” Zafar said. “This adds to the violation of human rights for us because it confirms Pakistan’s persecution. If there are alternatives, we would like to hear from them, but so far Google has not provided any alternative.”