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Internet Services Disrupted During Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Virtual Power Demonstration in Pakistan

Internet services across Pakistan experienced widespread disruptions as users reported difficulties accessing social media platforms during the “virtual power show” organized by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), according to Dawn. The disruptions, particularly on YouTube and another unspecified platform denoted as ‘X,’ were alleged to be aimed at obstructing the transmission of the public meeting, as claimed by Shahbaz Gill, Imran Khan’s former chief of staff. Former KP health minister Atif Khan praised Imran Khan for engaging young people in politics and affirmed his loyalty to the country.

Netblocks, an internet monitoring entity, reported a “nation-scale disruption to social media platforms across #Pakistan, including X, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.” The disturbances were noted in major cities such as Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad after 8 pm, with users also experiencing slow internet services.

Despite the disruptions, PTI claimed significant success in reaching a vast audience during the online event. The party reported over one million real-time viewers on YouTube and 124,000 new channel subscribers within 90 minutes. Taimur Khan Jhagra, a former minister, highlighted Imran Khan’s achievements in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the event, focusing on the health card scheme.




pakistan social media blackout: Pakistan protests: Social media blackout  boosts Imran Khan's momentum - The Economic Times
pakistan social media blackout: Pakistan protests: Social media blackout boosts Imran Khan’s momentum

Shahbaz Gill accused disruptions on YouTube and ‘X’ of attempting to impede the transmission of the public meeting. Atif Khan praised Imran Khan for involving young people in politics and asserted loyalty to the country, emphasizing that the nation and the army “belong to him, and no one has the right to question his loyalty towards the country.”

Zulfi Bukhari, another PTI leader, linked the internet transmission disruptions to efforts to associate the party with the May 9 riots. Despite the challenges, PTI Women Wing President Kanwal Shauzab expressed missing Imran Khan’s presence and credited him for empowering women in politics.

Former federal minister Zartaj Gul highlighted the challenges faced by supporters but reiterated unwavering support for Imran Khan, emphasizing his understanding of foreign policy and the economy. “We will live and die with Imran Khan,” she said.

On May 9, when violent protests erupted after Imran Khan’s arrest, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) confirmed the suspension of mobile broadband across the country on the interior ministry’s instructions. Netblocks reported restricted access to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in Pakistan on that day, following Imran Khan’s arrest from the Islamabad High Court’s premises.

In July, a report by Surfshark, a virtual private network company, ranked Pakistan third in the world for imposing internet restrictions in the first half of 2023. The analysis revealed that Pakistan accounted for three of the 42 new restrictions imposed worldwide following Imran’s arrest, with access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube restricted in the country.

The disruptions during the “virtual power show” underscore the complex interplay between political events, internet access, and the ongoing challenges to digital freedom in Pakistan. The use of internet shutdowns as a response to political developments has raised concerns about the impact on freedom of expression and the ability of citizens to access information. These incidents also highlight the ongoing debate around the role of digital platforms in political communication and the potential consequences of disruptions for public discourse and civic engagement.

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