After shutting down Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook for almost a week, the government started bringing them back online across the country on Monday, according to sources at the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
After the Rangers arrested Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on May 9 on a warrant from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), violent protests broke out in the country. The regulatory authority shut down mobile broadband and limited access to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube..
On the advice of the interior minister, internet services were shut down. This was the longest shutdown of this kind in a country that often shuts down communications to stop unrest.
Reports say that the stoppage of the internet has caused telecom providers to lose about Rs820 million in income. This is a huge blow to the sector, especially since the economy is still in a shaky state.
Also, the PTA had stopped major social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, while YouTube services were slower. This was done to stop the spread of ‘unwanted information’ that was causing confusion and fear among the general public.
On May 12, Amnesty International asked the government of Pakistan to stop putting limits on the internet.
Amnesty International’s South Asia researcher, Rimmel Mohydin, said, “There is an urgent need to de-escalate the situation in Pakistan because it could lead to more serious violations of people’s rights and more deaths.”
“It’s alarming that the government has said the mobile internet shutdown will last “indefinitely.” This is a clear violation of people’s right to get information and speak freely,” she said.
“The ban on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube also allows other human rights violations to happen in the dark when the internet is down,” Mohydin said, adding that “the restrictions must be lifted right away.”