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'Pak to lift ban on Facebook, YouTube'

world Updated: May 27, 2010 01:03 IST

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Pakistan is to lift a ban on Facebook and YouTube in the next few days, after blocking the websites over "sacrilegious" content, the country's interior minister said on Wednesday.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) banned access to Facebook and YouTube and other links, and restricted access to Wikipedia, last week in view of what it called "growing sacrilegious content".

Interior minister Rehman Malik said on Wednesday that pages containing blasphemous material would remain blocked, but the ban on popular sites including Facebook and YouTube would be lifted in the next few days.

"We discussed this matter in the cabinet meeting today. I told my colleagues that blocking the websites was not the right thing," Malik said.

"I said that only particular pages that contain blasphemous material should be blocked, not the entire website," said Malik, adding that in next few days both Facebook and YouTube would be unblocked.

"The two websites would be open in next few days."

When a Facebook user decided to organise an "Everyone Draw Mohammed Day" competition to promote "freedom of expression", it sparked a major backlash among Islamic activists in the South Asian country of 170 million.

Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous and the row sparked comparison with protests across the Muslim world over the publication of satirical cartoons of Mohammed in European newspapers in 2006.

Several thousand Pakistanis took to the streets at the behest of religious groups to protest.

A court in the eastern city of Lahore ordered the block on Facebook until at least May 31, when it is scheduled to hear a petition from Islamic lawyers.

Pakistan also briefly banned YouTube in February 2008 in a similar protest against "blasphemous" cartoons of Prophet Mohammed.