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After Launching Local Version, Pakistan Lifts Ban On YouTube

Pakistan removed a three-year ban on YouTube on January 18 after global technology giant Google launched a country-specific version of the website, aimed at helping authorities remove material they consider offensive.

"Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Monday directed the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to unblock YouTube with immediate effect," a senior government official said.

Islamabad banned access to the video-sharing website in September 2012 after an anti-Islam film, "Innocence of Muslims", was uploaded to YouTube. The controversy sparked violent protests across major cities in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country of 190 million people.

Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom says that, with the new version of YouTube, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority can ask for offensive material to be blocked.

"Google has provided an online web process through which requests for blocking access of the offending material can be made by PTA to Google directly, and Google/YouTube will accordingly restrict access to the said offending material for users within Pakistan," read a ministry statement released on January 18.

Wahajus Siraj, chief executive officer of internet service provider Nayatel Private Limited, confirmed the company had received government instructions about unblocking YouTube.

Siraj said he found no blasphemous content on YouTube, while some videos came up with a notification that they had been blocked.

Blasphemy is a contentious issue in Pakistan, where angry mobs have killed many people accused of insulting Islam. The country has also seen violent riots sparked by content considered offensive to Islam.

Last week Google said it had launched a localized version of YouTube in Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The move enabled authorities to ask Google to remove objectionable content.

As internet access spreads, Islamabad has blocked thousands of web pages deemed undesirable in the last few years. Activists, however, say the government sometimes blocks sites to silence critics and campaigners.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP