The next time, while in Pakistan, you find the need to text someone to deposit money in your bank account, call a taxi or simply write Jesus Christ, check before you type.
Restrictions on freedom of speech and impositions of censorship have always been a part of the South Asian country's history. This time, however, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) may have taken a most bizarre step, even if it is in the interest of the glory of Islam.
The PTA has banned a list of words they consider obscene from use in mobile texts and have instructed service providers to block them or face the consequences. The blockade started on Nov. 21, purportedly under a 2009 bill titled Protection from Spam, Unsolicited, Fraudulent and Obscene Communication Regulations.
More than 1,700 words have apparently fallen afoul of the authorities, including mango, lavender, athlete's foot, breast, premature, tongue, penthouse, drunk, murder and hostage.
Even seemingly innocuous terms like deeper, harder and looser have been banned. In that case then, it should come as no surprise that the PTA have been scared by words like lesbian, gay, virgin, homosexual and intercourse... and positively terrified by phrases like beat your meat, four twenty, flogging the dolphin, black out, monkey crotch, crap, damn, hobo, flatulence, fart and idiot.
Equally predictably, social networking sites like Twitter have been flooded with critical outbursts over the obnoxious decision of the PTA and its increasing halal texting list; the list has been online for a while and is apparently constantly scrutinized by critics.
We are now witnessing a new ruthless wave of moral policing in the digital communication sphere of Pakistan imposed by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, country coordinator Shahzad Ahmed told AFP, By developing extremely detailed lists of allegedly 'offensive' words and forcing telecom operators to filter them out to make our society moral and clean, PTA has not only made a mockery of itself but also of the entire country and its government.
On the other hand, some Pakistanis have actually expressed their appreciation and approval of the decision, calling it an act that will protect their children from using forbidden and indecent language. For example, Wai Tirmizi tweeted: PTABannedList has made its way all over Pakistan, & kids are swearing more elaborately & frequently than ever. Well done.
All said and done, however, we wonder what the alternatives for terms like tampons and condoms could be. Pakistan may have to go back to the French and Latin originals, tampion and condos and also really brush up on their vocabulary in order to keep texting.