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PTA Sustains Ban on PUBG

by Newsweek Pakistan

Courtesy Bluehole

In defiance of Islamabad High Court orders to end suspension, regulatory body says ‘key concerns’ remain unaddressed

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Monday announced that it was retaining the ban on mobile game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), despite an Islamabad High Court ruling from last week that directed the ban to be rescinded.

In a detailed press release justifying its defiance of the IHC’s judgment, the PTA said that the ongoing ban was compliant with the provisions of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016. “The PTA provided an opportunity of hearing to concerned parties including PUBG’s lawyers,” it read. “PTA has also approached PUBG management to inform about a suitable framework to address key concerns,” it added.

An order dated July 23, seen by Newsweek, seeks to justify the PTA’s decision, with the regulatory body claiming the ban is required due to PUBG’s “negative effects” on the mental health of players. It said that under PECA, the PTA was empowered to restrict access to any system if it felt the information being disseminated was against the “public order, decency or morality.”

According to the PTA, PUBG is leading to “moral turpitude,” or the absence of good morals—the latest in the state’s ongoing efforts to moral police the public without offering any alternatives or valid justifications for what defines “good morals.”

Per the order, the PTA cited various studies and reports it alleged proved that online gaming, including PUBG, had a negative impact on the mental and physical health of players. “Sitting around in one place and playing for long hours is not good for physical health. Staring at the computer screen for long hours can affect eyesight and cause a headache,” it claims, ignoring that most PUBG players are accessing the game via mobile phones and that in the current pandemic-hit circumstances, it is actually preferable for people to stay at home and not go out into public places.

The PTA also alleged that students’ academics were suffering due to PUBG.

Among the biggest criticisms leveled against PTA’s move has been how it would impact Pakistan’s nascent esports industry, as well as the monetary losses suffered by PUBG players who used it to earn a living. According to the regulatory body, it has asked PUBG to share details of its earnings from Pakistan but has not yet received any response. It claimed PUBG, not being a registered entity under the laws of Pakistan, had no contractual arrangements or obligation between parties.

The July 23 order also alleged—without any evidence—that online games such as PUBG “bring out” negative and perverse tendencies “inherent” in human beings. “The Authority cannot ignore various aspects as mentioned above and sit back waiting for something to happen,” it said, without once again explaining what it feared would happen.

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