Suspension of X platform enters fourth week in Pakistan

It is pertinent to mention that the Pakistan authorities had shut down internet and mobile services in the country on election day.

Lahore: Suspension of popular microblogging platform X in Pakistan entered the fourth week on Friday after it was enforced apparently to forestall the “propaganda” of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s party that accused the PML-N of a ‘massive rigging’ in the February 8 polls.

Neither the previous caretaker government nor the new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s administration is ready to offer any reason as to why the country is seeing the suspension of X for such a long period.

Despite the Sindh High Court directing the restoration of citizens’ access to popular social media service X, it has remained inaccessible in Pakistan for more than three weeks.

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Although such decisions are usually officially justified by the authorities based on some pretext or the other, this time around the state does not seem too bothered about providing any explanation as to why users are being denied access to X.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) regulates internet access in the country. The PTA, however, flatly denies that X is blocked.

“If the country’s top regulator is claiming that it is not doing the blocking, who is then preventing access to X?,” asked the PTI, adding that X is a valuable source of information for millions and access to it cannot be denied arbitrarily.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has said that since the “mandate thieves” and their backers are afraid of people’s voices they want to place a ban on social media for an indefinite period to prolong their fascist rule.

The Pakistani authorities plugged off X in mid-February following the explosive press conference of top government officer, Rawalpindi Commissioner Liaqut Chatha, alleging that Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja are involved in massive rigging in the February 8 polls.

X was then taken by storm in Pakistan calling for an audit of the election and return the “stolen mandate” to Imran Khan’s PTI.

The PTI claims to have won over 180 National Assembly seats out of a total 266 in the country as per Form 45 (manual result sheet) but the powers that be manipulated the results and gifted most of its over 90 NA seats to its favourite PML-N of the Sharifs.

As the commissioner alleged that he was forced to change the result of 13 National Assembly seats in the Rawalpindi division making the PTI-backed independent candidates a loser to benefit the PML-N, the social media was abuzz with calls for the election audit.

“The Pakistani authorities found no other way to control that criticism and chose to disrupt X in the country,” the PTI said.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said that shutting down the internet or any social media platforms bleeds online businesses and commerce and adds to the misery of an already fragile and struggling economy.

“It also infringes on people’s right to democratic decision-making, information and expression. This practice must stop immediately,” it said.

Commenting on the ban, Digital rights activist Nighad Dad said: “You cannot set down an entire platform and impose a blanket ban. This is a clear violation of fundamental rights.”

It is pertinent to mention that the Pakistan authorities had shut down internet and mobile services in the country on election day.

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