The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued a list of 586 Urdu words and 1,109 English words as offensive or pornographic. It has directed cellular operators in the country to block these words.
“It was prepared in consultation with all stakeholders,” said the Director Public Relations, PTA, Mohammad Younis. The idea is to block most words that are vulgar and obscene,” explained Younis adding that PTA could block material that was farce, fabricated and obscene under the 1996 Telecom Act.
On the list are words such as Jesus Christ, monkey crotch, fatso, idiot, tampon, headlight and hundreds more, including intercourse, condom and breast, as well as seemingly ordinary words like period, hostage and flatulence.
The letter, dated Nov. 14, was leaked to the Pakistani media. The PTA has instructed mobile phone companies to begin screening text messages by Nov. 21. In the letter, PTA states that it is intended to stop the transmission of harmful, fraudulent, misleading, illegal or unsolicited messages in bulk to any person without express permission of the recipient.
Pakistanis have been reacting to the news on Twitter. Many people have picked up on inconsistencies in the banned list, which include every conceivable incorrectly spelled version of masturbation. Bizarrely, if spelt correctly, the word is not banned.
Some have also pointed with irony that Jesus Christ and Satan are on the list, which underscores its potential to offend cultural and religious sensitivities.