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Social media, internet services ‘disrupted’ across Pakistan

Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: Internet monitoring service Netblocks on Sunday reported a widespread disruption in social media platforms across Pakistan, including X, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
The disruption, affecting the nation at large, occurred hours before Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was about to launch its virtual election fundraising telethon, which is scheduled to begin at 9pm.
“Live metrics show a nation-scale disruption to social media platforms across #Pakistan, including X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube; the incident comes as persecuted former PM Imran Khan’s party, PTI, launches its election fundraising telethon,” Netblocks, a watchdog organisation that monitors cybersecurity and internet governance, said in a post shared on X.
Netblocks Director Alp Toker told AFP that the disruptions were affecting network providers across the country.
“Such nation-scale social media targeting political activities is almost unprecedented at this scale — Venezuela is one other country that has used similar measures to limit opposition speeches and rallies,” he said.
Users in major cities such as Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad began experiencing difficulties accessing social media platforms shortly after 5pm. Additionally, complaints regarding sluggish internet services surfaced among the affected users.
Downdetector also reported that all major social media platforms were disrupted across Pakistan.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is yet to provide an official statement on the cause of the disruption.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Sayed Zulfi Bukhari said that the internet services were shut down to stop the party’s fundraiser.
PTI, on its official X handle, termed the development shameful,demanding that the Caretaker IT Minister should resign.
This is not the first time that social media and internet services have been disrupted in the country. On December 17, a similar blockage was reported before a PTI virtual rally.
It is pertinent to mention that the disruption of the internet and social media services incurred billions of rupees worth of losses to Pakistan’s telecom sector.
The suspension affected e-commerce, online services, home delivery and ride-hailing apps to a great extent.
The Human Rights Council of Pakistan condemned the disruption as “a violation of international law”.
“In the context of elections, all political parties should get the basic right of freedom of expression. It is the responsibility of the government of Pakistan to uphold the fundamental rights,” it said on X.