Pakistan PM Imran Khan
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan | Asad Zaidi/Bloomberg
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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has managed to alienate a large part of his constituency — the youth. The PTI government has banned PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG, an online multiplayer video game, saying that it was addictive, a waste of time and was posing a negative impact on the psychological and physical wellbeing of the youngsters. Calls to lift the ban have been on ever since with many PUBG players and supporters now threatening to sit on dharnas on the Sindh-Punjab border.

If religious ideology, morality and waste of time are the yardsticks to ban one game, then the Imran Khan government might as well shut down the entire digital space. For no one wholly complies to the standards set by the regulator, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). It is safe to say that morality lies in the eyes of the regulator. 

The Islamabad High Court, which is hearing a petition challenging the ban, was told by the PTA that PUBG contained some “explicit scenes” and “anti-Islam material”. The same charge could apply to TikTok, which is facing a ban petition of its own. 

This is not the first time that Pakistan has banned a video game. In 2013, war-themed games Call of Duty and Medal of Honor were removed from store shelves for showing Pakistan as a safe haven for terrorists. According to the shop owners, these games showed Pakistani intelligence agencies as supporting al-Qaeda and other jihadi organisations. Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni was banned because of its sexual content and glorification of gay romance in 2017.


Also read: Pakistanis are saying ‘mandir nahi banaenge’. Fatwas follow Hindu temple construction


The thumb rule 

PUBG had been in hot waters in Pakistan for a while. There have been at least three reports of death by suicide, which the PTA cited as one of the reasons while banning the game. The young men who died, according to their families, were PUBG addicts who couldn’t take the pressure of not “completing a mission” and hence took their own lives. 

So some action against the game was forthcoming, and anyone aware of Pakistan’s history of dealing with a situation it can’t handle would have easily guessed that banning the game was going to be the Imran Khan government’s first response. The festival of Basant, in which people fly kites, continues to be banned in Pakistan since 2005, when the Supreme Court, in a bid to prevent loss of lives from the chemical-laced strings, gave the order. The Punjab government had announced it was lifting the ban in 2019 but it withdrew its decision even before it could come into effect.

Not surprisingly then, banning PUBG was easier than regulating its consumption or addressing issues around mental health. But here’s the irony: the same Imran Khan government had argued against total lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic by saying that just because traffic accidents cause deaths doesn’t mean we should ban cars. 


Also read: Fake pilots have done to Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan what even Trump couldn’t


Out of touch with reality

So what will Pakistan achieve from banning PUBG, other than angering the youth? Just like how citizens lost their livelihoods after the ban on Basant, the decision to ban PUBG will similarly disrupt many people’s lives. PUBG, beyond being an addiction for a few, is a source of entertainment for the youth locked in their homes for the past four months due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

It is also clear that the Imran Khan government doesn’t realise how big the e-sports or digital gaming industry is. For instance, PUBG Mobile was the highest-earning game worldwide in May 2020, making more than $226 million. Similarly, gamers in Pakistan want the government to support them so that they could develop “games like PUBG”. There are professionals who are looking for ventures to invest. But then Pakistan doesn’t want PUBG even for entertainment purposes. 

Pakistan often boasts about having the largest population of youth, yet it fails to take them on board when making decisions that directly impact them. Just like the rest of the affairs of the country, those deciding the fate of PUBG have no stake in the gaming industry. 


Also read: Guess who the Imran Khan govt is blaming for Covid spike? The ‘jahil’ people of Pakistan


Angering the youth

As protests against PUBG as well as TikTok continue, Pakistan’s younger population is taking the battle royale to social media, with hashtags such as #UnBanPUBGPakistan and #PUBGKaJawabDou.  

The promise of Digital Pakistan, of making the country a technological superpower won’t come true if the Imran Khan government doesn’t give a second thought before angering the community on whose shoulders lies the responsibility of fulfilling that promise: the youth. So what if the game is not played on a field, like the sport prime minister used to professionally play in his younger days? Pakistan’s team Freestyle deserves every support to win the PUBG Mobile World League 2020 (East Season Zero). 

After all, we have been asked to believe that real national leadership is found after winning a world tournament. Case in point: the 1992 Cricket World Cup.

The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.

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VIEW COMMENTS

42 COMMENTS

  1. It was very unfortunate for a game like PUBG to get banned in both India and Pakistan although both have their reasons.This post was about PUBG ban in pakistan and was very informative ,if you want to know about PUBG unban in India click on the link.

  2. Shame shame shame. What a misleading and false article. The ban was imposed because of the increasing number of suicide incidents in Pakistan due to PUBG and it’s not even banned by Imran Khan.
    Secondly have some SHAME! Your coward PM banned tiktok for NO bloody reason and trying to malign Imran Khan for banning PUBG.
    No doubt why India has always been a LOSER!!!

  3. Why to ban pubg, killing n keeping guns , blast is household game of Pakistan. And more ever they claim that youth is getting spoilt by this violent game, I meañ are you really serious, u guys have real killing games on daily bases , what will be effect of mere a game.

  4. Wrong news poor mediahouse
    A.:the lahore high court banned it on order of some petitioners case nothing to do with imran khan n govt
    B :it was banned cuz of overusage of games n getting stressed n suisides

  5. Your headline is the worst, you just can’t put ul anti-Islam up in headlines you are portraying Pakistan and the government so wrong. You have mo right to descriminate a religion and image of Pakistan and its government infront of the world, when the Islam is not the reason on this ban. You are wrong number of media.

  6. People abusing Indian journalists for no reason, the article is written by a Pakistani journalist and I do agree that she minced the words as per her agenda. Prime Minister and govt had nothing to do with this per se, it is banned by a regulatory body.

  7. very misleading article, first of all, imran khan plays no role in the ban. The decision was made by the telecommunications authority after various incidents of suicide cases (and none of them have any solid evidence proving that the game was the reason behind the suicides). secondly, the game is TEMPORARILY banned due to it being addictive and having a negative impact on people’s health ie. weak eyesight , not due to any sort of anti-islamic material. Moreover, this game was also banned in India and Nepal, but we don’t see their prime ministers being called out in articles. get your facts straight

  8. This article may have been detailed but it is surprisingly biased to the point that the person that was writing this wanted pubg to come back rather than being neutral plus if this game is the cause of someone killing himself due to a mission than this should have been banned a long time ago

  9. Hahahaha do you think the pampered kids and adults playing PUBG are capable of a sit in in this weather…. They can only have a sit in on Facebook I’m afraid

  10. #UNBAN_PUBG

    PTI AUR PTA PR LANAT FOR THIS ACT IF CONTINUES BANNED IN PAKISTAN_
    BAN THE TIKTOK IF UR LAW IS FOR RIYASAT E MADINAH,

    • Dear brother cool down do something creative and beneficial rather to cry for time wasting pub.
      Allah bless you.

  11. Good decision of banning PUBG…
    All other time wasting apps must also be banned e.g. tiktok, likee etc…..

    Any anti Islamic movement must be banned and destroyed without any argument.

  12. There’s unresearched writing, and then this garbage like this. Anyone with a search engine can check that the ban was because a two boys from Lahore took their own lives after losing a PUBG game. I thought the Pakistani media is bad, but this is on a whole other level. Though I guess it should be expected. The unraveling of a democracy usually starts with the fall of free speech.

  13. In Pakistan, the people had a very low sense of understanding the things, so for these type of people ban is the only option.

  14. The world requires a game of Chinese Communist Party leaders killing, Pakistani Mullas and terrorists killing. It would become the most popular game in the world.

  15. If the PUBG is permanently banned in Pakistan. It’s a great decision. We care of our kids

  16. Don’t play don’t play Tats all,don’t be like a pussy and cry and plead while most of you guys cheat on the gsme defeat it’s purpose.your prime minister is good .. banning most cheaters out of pubg servers.

  17. This article is full of lies. And IK govt didn’t ban PUBG but PEMRA banned it. And the reason was not religious. It was because children were become addictive of PUBG and becoming socially isolated. This article is a complete lie

  18. Games should not be banned in this time of pendemic, pta has failed to provide reliable internet services to whole Gilgit Baltistan even after 70 years , they should focus on serious issues not just ban a game due to couple of suicides , students fail in classes and goes in depression so universities should be banned ? This is not how things work. Period

  19. When will you Indians stop propaganda against the great Khan? Probably, you don’t have any internal issues at hand. That’s why you’re obsessed with Khan.

  20. Pakistan gamer community should develop their own PUBG called Oye Tabdeeli Aa Nahi Rahi Hai G.

  21. Yes, the youths are playing pubg instead of joining suicide squads to cause terror in neighbouring countries.

  22. they think PUBG is a way to lead humens to be a terrorist but they don’t know the games open your mind sides. but they said danm things about PUBG
    in my view they have to unban the game..

  23. Islam kae BAAT Kar rahay ho upper Mandir ban Raha hai upper pubg banned Kar rahay ho mafia Nahi chahatay hai free star pmco match na khilay Imran khan ne Kuch Nahi kya hai aglay vote Nahi dunga? Please unbanned pubg

  24. lol anti islam material?? only indians can spread such false news without any shame haha.. you imbecil indians will eventually die in hatred of Pakistan.

    • And some idiot Pakistanis like you doesn’t know brotherhood , being an Indian myself I want FreeStyle to win the world cup so the govt can see there are still some gamers that can actually do something to make their country proud in the gaming community , I’m with FreeStyle , #UNBANPUBG

  25. Very Comprehensive analysis and view point which unfortunately missing in out main stream media who dont even understand gaming but eager to give their illogical point of view with no researched.

  26. Imran Khan has not said anything about Pubg at all this is no evidence this article is written by a PTI hater clearly with 0 evidence of PTI or anyone from PTI wanting to ban the game.

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