India and Pakistan’s unlikely anti-pornography crusaders: a lawyer and a teenager

Shut it down.
Shut it down.
Image: Reuters/Stoyan Nenov
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

They are separated by over two decades, two entirely different political establishments and one heavily armed international border, but Ghazi Muhammad Abdullah and Kamlesh Vaswani have fought for the same thing: banning online pornography in their respective countries.

India—and Vaswani—awoke on Monday (Aug. 3) to discover that the Narendra Modi government had blocked 857 porn websites in the country, setting off a wave of outrage. The 43-year-old lawyer from the central Indian city of Indore, however, was basking in the afterglow of a victory.

“It is two and a half years of hard work that has brought this day,” he told HuffPost India.

Some months preceding the start of Vaswani’s crusade in India, across the border in Pakistan, 15-year-old Abdullah was just about ending his. In 2011, the teenager from Karachi first wrote to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the country’s ministry of information technology, and the chief justice of Pakistan to block adult websites.

After the PTA replied that it would need a list of URLs for them to be blocked, Abdullah dispatched a catalogue of 780,000 such websites that took him six months to put together. Subsequently, a national internet filtering system was put in place by the PTA, which, according to a 2014 Reporters Without Borders report, is “closely controlled by the government and the military.”

“I consider this as my religious and national task to do. If my elders don’t do this for my generation, then I will do it for mine and forthcoming generations,” Abdullah told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2012, by which time has was a 16-year-old.

Meanwhile, in India, Vaswani had put together a public interest litigation (PIL) petition that argued that “(N)othing can more efficiently destroy a person, fizzle their mind, evaporate their future, eliminate their potential or destroy society like pornography.”

The 2013 PIL further added:

It is so terrible that many do not even recognize it until it is too late, and most refuse to admit it. It is worse than Hitler, worse than AIDS, cancer or any other epidemic. It is more catastrophic than nuclear holocaust, and it must be stopped.

Pornography consumers—and there’s a sizeable number of them in the subcontinent—will, of course, disagree with such grim descriptions, but the fate of their beloved content seems sealed for now. On both sides of the border. (Disclaimers apply.)