Islamabad: Pakistan restored access to Twitter on Sunday after briefly blocking the microblog over posts that Islamabad said promoted a Facebook contest involving caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

The website, which is widely used in Pakistan, was blocked by the telecoms authority on the orders of the IT ministry, with authorities accusing Twitter of refusing to remove posts about the Facebook contest.

But Mohammad Younis Khan, spokesman for Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said on Sunday evening that access to Twitter had "been restored", some 12 hours after it was cut off.

He said the IT ministry ordered the ban to be lifted and he did not know the reason for the decision. No one from the ministry or Twitter was immediately available for comment.Conservative Muslim Pakistan has clashed with popular websites before. It blocked Facebook for almost two weeks in May 2010 over a competition to draw the Prophet, in a major row that also led to restrictions on other sites.

Speaking earlier Sunday before the ban was lifted, Khan said that there was "blasphemous material" on the site and that those responsible for the Facebook competition had been "trying to hurt Muslim feelings".

"Both Facebook and Twitter were involved. We negotiated with both. Facebook has agreed to remove the stuff but Twitter is not responding to us," he said then. Facebook was also unavailable for comment.
In Pakistan, Twitter is used by prominent public figures such as celebrities, cricketers, cabinet ministers and members of parliament.

Former president Pervez Musharraf, in exile in Britain, regularly tweets, as does Interior Minister Rehman Malik, and Ali Zafar, the popular actor and musician. Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician, is also on Twitter.

The Ministry of IT on Sunday had also directed the telecommunication authority to remain alert and block immediately all links displaying what it deemed profane caricatures of religious figures.

Numerous users of Twitter in Pakistan however appeared to have circumvented the ban, most lashing out at what one poster on the website called a "corrupt and low calibre government".

Pakistan's 2010 Facebook ban was prompted by a similar competition organised by an anonymous user who called on people to draw the Prophet to promote "freedom of expression". The competition sparked a major backlash in Pakistan, where even moderates were deeply offended by the drawings that appeared on the "Everyone Draw Mohammed Day" Facebook page.

Facebook was blocked after a petition by a group of Islamic lawyers. The PTA also banned YouTube for a week and restricted access to other websites, including Wikipedia, lashing out against "growing sacrilegious" content.

Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous. Muslims across the globe staged angry protests over the publication of satirical cartoons of Mohammed in European newspapers four years ago.

A suicide attack outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad that year killed eight people. Al-Qaeda claimed the attack to avenge the cartoons.


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