X Platform Users in Pakistan Get Partial Access After a Day of Censorship

Pakistan has partially lifted the ban on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, after blocking it for 24 hours due to protests over alleged election fraud. However, some users still reported difficulties in accessing the platform on Monday.

X was blocked on Saturday by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) amid demonstrations by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former prime minister Imran Khan and other opposition parties, who claimed that the Feb. 8 general elections were rigged in favor of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.

The UK-based Internet watchdog Netblocks confirmed the “national-scale” disruption of X on Saturday, saying it was the “latest and longest in a series of nation-scale Internet censorship measures imposed by authorities as reports of election fraud emerge.”

The platform was briefly restored on Sunday morning, but was blocked again shortly after. On Monday morning, Netblocks reported that X was partially restored, but some users still faced issues in accessing the platform.

The PTA did not issue any official statement on the matter, and referred queries to the interior ministry, which did not respond to requests for comment.

The ban on X sparked criticism from digital rights activists, who said it was a violation of people’s civil liberties and freedom of expression. Nighat Dad, a prominent Pakistani digital rights activist, told Arab News that the ban was “not good for democracy” and would only create more chaos and disinformation.

She said the government should devise a proper framework to deal with security or disinformation issues, instead of resorting to blanket shutdowns of the Internet or social media platforms.

“Blanket shutdown is not a solution,” she said.

X is not the only social media platform that has faced restrictions in Pakistan in the past. Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have also been blocked or slowed down at times of political unrest or volatility, indicating a pre-emptive approach by authorities to curtail the mobilization and dissemination of dissenting views.

The Feb. 8 general elections were marred by a nationwide mobile service shutdown, followed by delays in the announcement of the results, leading to accusations of rigging and drawing concerns from rights groups and foreign governments. The PML-N claimed victory with a simple majority, but the PTI and other opposition parties rejected the results and demanded a re-election. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said it was investigating the complaints and would announce the final results soon.

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