Social media disruption hits country amid ‘PTI’s virtual rally’

  • London-based NetBlocks says its metrics suggest countrywide shutdown of all social media platforms
  • PTI says the government wants to prevent its election campaign since it’s afraid of party’s popularity

KARACHI: The country experienced a nationwide social media disruption on Sunday as soon as former prime minister Imran Khan’s party began its first-ever online rally, an event acknowledged by a party official and confirmed by an independent Internet watchdog.

Internet monitor Netblocks has reported a nationwide disruption in social media platforms amid a “virtual power show” currently under way by the PTI.

“Live metrics show a nation-scale disruption to social media platforms across #Pakistan, including X, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube,” the internet tracking agency said.

Netblocks noted that the incident came ahead of a virtual gathering organised by the PTI and the online event was kicked off at 9pm.

People in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad reported difficulty accessing social media platforms at about 8 pm, with additional complaints about disrupted Internet services.

Users also complained about internet services being slow.

The public, particularly the youth, criticized the disruption and attributed it to the government’s tactics to disrupt PTI’s online rally. “They actually messed with the internet affecting millions of subscribers and hundreds of thousands of businesses only to oppose PTI virtual rally. This is beyond madness,” the public commented.

The London-based Internet watchdog, NetBlocks, also confirmed social media disruption across Pakistan in one of its posts.

“Live metrics show a nation-scale disruption to social media platforms across #Pakistan, including X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube,” it said. “The incident comes just ahead of a major virtual gathering organized by persecuted opposition leader Imran Khan’s party, PTI.”

Imran Khan has been facing a number of court cases against him and is currently incarcerated in a high-security prison in Rawalpindi after being convicted in a graft case in August.

His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has been striving to launch its election campaign in his absence and had announced a virtual public gathering on social media platform X, formally known as Twitter, in a post that had been shared by thousands of its followers.

“They want to block us wherever we go because they are afraid of us,” PTI spokesperson, Raoof Hasan, told Arab News. “But we will continue our work.”

The party has repeatedly said its top leader has been targeted by the authorities who want to eliminate him from the country’s political landscape. The PTI has also complained about not getting a “level playing field” ahead of the next general elections scheduled to be held on February 8.

On May 9, the PTA had confirmed that it had suspended mobile broadband across the country on the interior ministry’s instructions. Netblocks had said access to Twitter, Facebook and Youtube was restricted across Pakistan amid PTI chief Imran Khan’s arrest on that day from the Islamabad High Court’s premises in the Al-Qadir Trust case.

In July, Pakistan was ranked third in the world over the imposition of internet restrictions in the first half of 2023.

According to a report by Surfshark, a virtual private network company headquartered in Lithuania, a half-year analysis of internet shutdown based on the Internet Shutdown Tracker revealed that Pakistan was responsible for three of the 42 new restrictions worldwide, which were imposed following Imran’s arrest.

 

Saleem Jadoon
Saleem Jadoon
News Editor at Pakistan Today

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