Pakistan's Facebook ban drives minister to Twitter

After Pakistan banned Facebook in a bid to stop it hosting "blasphemous" pictures of Prophet Mohammad, the country's interior minister found a new way to get his online fix. He jumped on Twitter.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said his son told him that if he couldn't get on Facebook, where he has his own page which hosts pictures of dignitaries and has 691 fans, he should Tweet.



"Only a few days back I came in (as a Twitter user). I like it," Malik told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. "There are lot of questions, are you real, are you fake?"



Malik already has more than 270 followers, according to his page (including this correspondent), far less than the "countless" ones he said he had after only a few days. Many people writing to him question if indeed the account is real (it is) or complain that he should be governing instead of tweeting. Malik's tweets give no hint the digital hecklers bother him. He calls for unity in the face of violence in Karachi and comments on how nice it is to meet so many women parliamentarians from around Asia. He also freely engages with his followers, an unusual practice in Pakistan's stratified political culture.



"Thank you for your appreciation," Malik wrote to one well-wisher. "I will hunt the terrorists to their demise."



"I do not devise economic or monetary policy," he replied to another, questioning an increase in fees and taxes.



While he declined to criticize the decision to ban Facebook and other websites, he said he hoped that a solution could be worked out soon that pleased most people.



"I think we should be open-minded," he said.



Pakistan last week blocked the popular social networking site Facebook indefinitely because of an online competition to draw Islam's prophet. Any representation of the Prophet Mohammad is deemed un-Islamic and blasphemous by Muslims. YouTube and about 1,000 other sites have been blocked for the same reason.



The publications of cartoons of the prophet in Danish newspapers in 2005 sparked deadly protests in Muslim countries. About 50 people were killed during violent protests in Muslim countries in 2006 over the cartoons, five of them in Pakistan.



Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on the Danish embassy in Islamabad in 2008, killing six people, saying it was in revenge for publication of the caricatures.

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