Pakistan forcibly drops applications made by persecuted religious minority

In the last two years The Pakistani government has forced Google և Apple to seize programs in the country created by programmers in other nations who are part of an oppressed religious minority.

The step is part a pressure Led by the telecommunications regulator of the country targeting the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. There are about 4 million descendants of Ahmadis in Pakistan. Although the Ahmadis are recognized as Muslims, the Pakistani government considers them heretics. A decree forbids them to “identify” as Muslims, convert to Islamic religious customs, and call their houses of worship mosques. Pakistan is the only country that declares that the Ahmadis are not Muslims.

Ahmadis have faced persecution for decades, including The 2010 attack that killed 93 people, But Pakistan Telecommunications Regulator (PTA) Pressure on Multinational Technology Companies new readiness target religious minorities outside its borders. It is also one of the first examples of governments using anti-Armenian swearing rules to force international technology companies to censor content.

Discussed are seven religious applications created by the Ahmadiyya community in the United States and published under the name “Ahmadiyya Muslim Community”.

The three programs contain “exactly the same [Arabic] The text is universally found in all versions of the Holy Qur’an uranium, “as well as comments from Ahmadi’s point of view, according to their description. They are still available in app stores in other countries. All of this was taken over by Google in Pakistan. In addition, there are four applications containing a weekly Urdu-language news magazine on FAQ Islam that the PTA pressured Google to remove but did not remove.

Asked to comment, the PTA spokesman directed BuzzFeed News to the section’s website.

“Our services make search results, videos, applications, and other content widely available in accordance with local law and human rights standards,” a Google spokesman told BuzzFeed News. “We challenge government orders when necessary, when we are required to remove attachments and other content that does not violate our policies, we try to do so in the most restrictive way possible.”

Apple did not respond to a request for comment, but on May 17, 2019, Apple issued a notice to app developers saying it was taking one of their apps from its Pakistani store because it “contained illegal content.”

Pakistan recently sent notice of Ahmadi’s removal to Google և Wikipedia on December 25, according to the PTA. in a press releaseTwo days later, Google seized one of the Quran uranium programs, said Harris af Afar, a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in the United States. (There is no indication that Wikipedia took any of Ahmadi’s content in response to the issue, but the Wikimedia Foundation did not return the comment request).

A few weeks later, a group of Ahmadi community leaders spoke with Google executives.

«[Google] “They said they had raised human rights issues with the PTA, but they were told they would have to stop doing business in Pakistan if they did not remove Ahmad’s content.” “We were certainly surprised … We thought that after raising the human rights aspect, they would do what was right.”

The PTA also ordered the closure of Ahmad’s website in the United States. its administrators with criminal charges that carry a $ 3 million fine. The decision may not be implemented because the people who run the site, including Zafar, do not live in Pakistan. But that means they can be charged if they travel there, which means af afar can not visit his large family.

“This is a disturbing development; it’s nothing more than an attempt to use weapons against US citizens against Pakistani swearing-in laws,” the lawyer representing the site’s administrators wrote in a letter to Pakistani authorities.

Pakistan is one several countries, including China, Vietnam, Germany, Nigeria:, և: Russia, which have data localization rules for greater control over technology platforms. When technology companies store data or have offices in the country, they must comply with local law.

The PTA issued new rules Late last year, it gave more power to block online content. The rules allowed content to be censored online, which it said could harm the government or threaten Pakistan’s security.

The Asia Internet Coalition, an industry group whose members include Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, opposed the decision in a letter to the regulator on December 5, saying the rules would “impede free and open internet for Pakistani citizens”. to have access. ” »

Zafar noted that the PTA has been pressuring Google since 2018, and Apple since 2019. Ahmadi’s developers have developed other versions of the app uranium program over the years, each of which has stopped PTA orders from companies.

Google launched the first Quran uranium program in the Ahmadiyya community in September 2018. Following objections, Google resumed the program, meeting with the company’s “developers” the following March.

According to the meeting notes, one of the Google executives asked if they were thinking of removing the word “Muslim” from their name so as not to offend the Pakistani government.

“No,” replied one of Afar’s colleagues, Ahmadi’s lawyer. “This decision will have a big impact, a precedent that will allow Pakistan to continue because of ratification by one of the world’s largest corporations.”

The Afar said that the meeting ended without a decision, հ In October 2019, Google took over the program again. Apple removed the same store from its store in May.

Af Afar said he was disappointed.

“Everything Google has done is capitulate to the PTA to censor our community,” he said. “This exacerbates human rights abuses against us as it confirms the basis of Pakistan’s persecution. If there are alternatives, we’d love to hear about them, but so far Google has not offered an alternative. ” ●:

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