PTA is Planning to Setup China-like National Firewall in Pakistan


Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is planning to develop and setup a sophisticated turn-key Technical solution named “Web Management Solution (WMS)”, at a national level, for identifying and blocking access to the objectionable internet content and websites.

A request for proposal, for the development and deployment of the national firewall, has been issued by the regulator.

The authority has widened the scope of work for the WMS in which content of following topics will be identified and blocked on the internet for the general public.

  • Blasphemous.
  • Pornographic
  • Indecent or immoral
  • Anti-State
  • Contempt of court
  • Law and order
  • Incitement to an offense
  • Sectarian
  • Others as stated in law for time being in force to be described unlawful according to Pakistan Electronic Crime Act (PECA).

Salient Features of Web Management Solution

PTA said that it wants a solution with an ability to identify IP addresses and information about users who are are accessing unlawful and objectionable content.

The solution is going to have an ability to display a warning to the user upon accessing unlawful web content.

It will have the ability to restrict delivery of unlawful content to the public without affecting any other content being served by the same server, site or domain.

Firewall is likely to be designed as a crawler, a program that systematically browses the World Wide Web in order to create an index of data with inbuilt and auto-learning functionality to automatically identify and classify unlawful content and make it unavailable for the public.

The system will provide real-time analysis of Internet traffic to automatically identify unlawful internet content (i.e. web pages, images, videos, words, applications etc.) and block it for public viewership as and when required.

National firewall will reportedly be able to classify websites (i.e. social, pornographic, Financial, sports, etc.). It will have an ability to collect countrywide statistics related to websites (i.e. number of times being accessed; the number of sessions etc.).

More detail about Web Solution Management could be viewed here.

Roles of WBS Solution Provider

The internet watchdog has sought applications from service providers for complete deployment, management and maintenance of the new internet mechanism. It will include supply, installation, and configuration of applicable hardware/software/middleware to establish Web Management Solution (WMS) for live management of Internet traffic passing through country’s internet gateways.

  • PTA wants selected solution providers to provide training to designated PTA Human Resource for carrying out Hardware and Software configuration and Operations of the WMS.
  • PTA or its designated team should be able to easily operate WMS and configure changes to tailor the solution for on-going developments in the field.
  • WMS should be robust and scalable for supporting increases in International bandwidth and newer Internet technologies/protocols.
  • PTA wants WMS hardware and software support at no cost for a period of (03) three years.

The authority has given a deadline of March 08 to interested service providers to submit their technical proposals along with budgets.

Deployment of National Firewall Went Unsuccessful in the Past

It is worth mentioning here that the government of Pakistan previously made efforts to establish a firewall at national level but it was harshly criticized by internet and human rights associations.

In 2012, National ICT R&D Fund, now Ignite, on the behalf of the government, decided to develop a National URL Blocking and Filtering System mainly to block objectionable and unlawful content on the internet.

Faced with uproar by digital and human rights associations and under severe public pressure, the $10 million project was abandoned by the Fund shortly after the Request for Proposals (RFPs) was published.

Efforts of Internet Censorship

The government and the authority took various measures to block indecent, objectionable and unlawful content. An Inter-Ministerial Committee by Ministry of IT was given the task and power to tackle internet censorship, but was ordered to cease functions by Islamabad High Court three years back.

Supreme Court of Pakistan also took notice of the widespread availability of blasphemous and indecent content and directed the authority to block such content. PTA blocked nearly 400,000 websites two years ago and it has continued to do so from time to time.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have made efforts to comply, however, their capacity remains limited and this fact has been conveyed to the internet watchdog many times in the past.

In August 2016, Cyber Crime Bill was made a law. Not only did it monitor unlawful content on the internet but it also introduced punishments for unlawful activities via the internet.

PTA, in its awareness campaign, also sends text messages to mobile phone users time and again, asking them to report objectionable and unlawful content.

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