X Ban Continues in Pakistan Amid Silence from Authorities

Pakistanis have been unable to access X, the popular social media platform formerly known as Twitter, for more than four days, as the government has not given any reason for the disruption.

The platform, which has over 10 million users in Pakistan, became inaccessible on Saturday, February 17, 2024, a week after the general elections that were marred by allegations of vote rigging and violence.

Many users reported that they could access X for a few hours on Tuesday, but the service was soon disrupted again, leaving them in the dark about the status of the platform.

X is widely used by journalists, activists, politicians, celebrities, and ordinary citizens to share news, opinions, and information. The platform has also been a source of dissent and criticism against the government and the establishment, especially in the wake of the controversial elections.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the regulator that has the power to block or restrict internet services in the country, has not issued any statement or notification about the X outage. The caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi has also refused to comment on the matter, directing queries to the Minister of Information Technology and the PTA chairman, who have not responded either.

Digital rights activists and experts have condemned the X ban as a violation of constitutional and human rights, as well as an attempt to stifle free speech and public discourse.

Farieha Aziz, a digital rights activist and journalist, told Geo.tv that the PTA must own up to the ban and explain the legal basis and rationale for it. She said that according to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), the PTA can only block or restrict internet services on the orders of the federal government or the court, and that such orders must be reasonable and proportionate.

She added that the X ban was unreasonable and illegal, as it deprived citizens of a platform to express their views and access information. She said that the ban also showed that the government wanted to prevent discussion and protest over the election irregularities and the alleged manipulation of the results.

Usama Khilji, the director of Bolo Bhi, a digital rights advocacy group, slammed the government for its lack of transparency and accountability. He said that the government had not given any notice or announcement about the X ban, creating uncertainty and disinformation among the public.

He said that the government had also violated the Islamabad High Court’s ruling in 2018, which declared internet shutdowns as unconstitutional and against fundamental rights. He said that the government had not only shut down the internet on the election day, but also blocked several other social media platforms and websites before and after the polls.

He said that the X ban was a sign of bad intention and fear from the government, as it wanted to suppress the voices of dissent and criticism that were challenging its legitimacy and performance. He said that the government should respect the rights of the citizens and restore X access immediately.

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