Twitter, now X, still inaccessible for more than 4 days in Pakistan

Pakistanis were unable to access the popular social networking site X, which was formerly known as Twitter, late on Tuesday night, and the government has continued to remain silent about the disruption that started on Saturday of last week.

For a few hours today, the social networking platform remained available, but without any prior notice, its access was interrupted once more.

Although Pakistan takes pride in being one of the world’s top internet users, the country has poor internet availability when compared to its peers, and social media access is allegedly sometimes blocked by the government.

Users were unable to access a number of social media platforms before of the general elections on February 8, which the relevant authorities attributed to an error. However, the caretaker government claimed that the internet was blocked on election day in order to prevent terrorism. Following the highly anticipated polls, access to X was frequently interrupted.

Internet shutdowns are in direct opposition to rights protected by the constitution, such as the freedom of speech (Article 19), the freedom of association (Article 17), and the freedom of information (Article 19-A). The Islamabad High Court ruled in February 2018 that internet shutdowns violated the constitution and fundamental rights.

Murtaza Solangi, the acting minister of information, replied to a message from on WhatsApp, saying, “Please contact Minister Information Technology and Chairman PTA.” The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) did not respond either.

Journalist and digital rights campaigner Farieha Aziz told that neither the PTA nor the interim government had formally acknowledged the ban on X.

The “prime minister and the IT minister are using VPNs to post on X,” she stated, instead of deflecting from all directions.

According to her, the PTA is the only entity authorised to exercise blocking powers under PECA laws. The IHC has held that the federal government, through any ministry, is not authorised to issue any instructions in this regard, and that PTA is not legally obligated to follow them. So PTA must take responsibility.

Second, the restriction is unlawful and irrational, according to her. “Removing a platform from citizens in this way is not only unconstitutional, but it also demonstrates that those in charge want to silence criticism of election irregularities and the outcry of disgruntled citizens nationwide.”

“It is obvious why this is occurring. The taking away of public platforms to allow residents to voice their opinions has to stop, the speaker declared.

Bolo Bhi director Usama Khilji criticised the government’s complete lack of openness.

“People cannot access information with integrity or instantaneous information, which is the defining nature of Twitter,” he said. “There is no notice, no announcement, and no certainty around when the block will be lifted, which is creating a lot of uncertainty and an environment of disinformation.”

According to him, the fact that the government and state not only blocked access to the internet on election day, but also X, as claims of “rigging and evidence of rigging are surfacing on Twitter and other social media platforms,” further indicates their malign intentions.

According to digital rights campaigner Haroon Baloch, X is the best forum for peaceful protests, free speech expression, and online advocacy on a wide range of topics.

“Blocking X and VPNs for citizens in Pakistan is just one example, but it’s enough to damage Pakistan’s reputation,” he said.

Baloch continued, “X users in Pakistan have very little share in Pakistani business and e-commerce because they are not the general public; rather, they are a small number of a few hundred thousand.”

“I hope this isn’t the new normal in Pakistan because, like me, a lot of people rely on Twitter to stay updated about news and global events. We’ve been using it with VPN, but since the majority of VPNs are expensive, not everyone can easily have unrestricted access to Twitter “researcher Mohammad Saad, who is based in Lahore, stated.

Written by Istafa Ali


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