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Social media platforms, internet service down amid PTI ‘Virtual Jalsa’

5 min read

ISLAMABAD: Internet monitor Netblocks has reported a nationwide disruption to social media platforms on Saturday amid a virtual event organised by the PTI.

“Confirmed: Live metrics show a nation-scale disruption to social media platforms across Pakistan, including X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube,” the internet tracking agency said at 7:12pm. It added that “the incident comes as persecuted opposition leader Imran Khan’s political party, PTI, launches its second virtual gathering.”

“We can confirm the nation-scale restriction of social media platforms across Pakistan,” said Netblocks Director Alp Toker.

He told AFP that the outage was “remarkably systematic” and “consistent with previous restrictions imposed during PTI events”.

Responding to the tracking agency’s confirmation, the PTI said: “Shame on the caretakers that are causing damage to Pakistanis only.” The party said its virtual event would begin at 8pm.

Users also reported experiencing difficulties accessing social media platforms across Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

A similar disruption occurred on January 7 as the PTI held a virtual fundraising telethon.

When asked for a comment, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had told that all social media networks were active and the authority had not received any complaints.

The PTI has urged the Supreme Court to take notice of the suspension of internet service and blockage of social media websites during the party’s fundraising telethon.

In a statement, the PTI spokesperson had alleged that 240 million people were deprived of their basic rights by the suspension, which also resulted in financial losses for the country.

Telecom operators had also expres­sed concern over frequent internet outages “on political grounds”.

Questioned about the matter on Jan 10 by reporters, interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi had said that such technical problems had occurred in the past as well.

“The reasons were technical and had nothing to do with politics,” he had claimed and advised reporters to contact the PTA for more details.

Social media platforms were also similarly impacted on December 17 when the PTI held a virtual power show.

‘Absolutely ridiculous’

Meanwhile, lawyer and rights activist Jibran Nasir called out the occurrence of the “third” nationwide internet disruption in the country in just over a month.

“Our freedoms, our constitution, our economy it’s all a Joke to the establishment and this puppet federal government,” he said in a post on X.

He said such disruptions were a clear violation of Articles 10, 18, 19 and 25 of the Constitution.

Nasir said that, under the prevailing circumstances, the PTA lacked the legal authority to shut down the internet or restrict access to social media.

Digital rights activist Usama Khilji, in a post on X, termed the action “absolutely ridiculous.” He called upon interim Information Technology Minister Umar Saif and the PTA to clarify whether temporarily blocking social media applications was an official policy. “Under what law is this happening? Who is ordering blocking of social media platforms? Does this help the digital economy?” he questioned.