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Pakistan Print 2024-01-21

Pakistan internet disrupted again during opposition web broadcast

  • The outage of Facebook, X, Instagram, and YouTube is the second in two weeks coinciding with online campaign events organised by PTI
Published January 21, 2024

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s social media and internet services were severely throttled Saturday night, as the party of jailed ex-prime minister Imran Khan held a “virtual rally” ahead of elections in under three weeks.

The outage of Facebook, X, Instagram and YouTube is the second in two weeks coinciding with online campaign events organised by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

Elections scheduled for February 8 have been marred by allegations of pre-poll rigging, with analysts saying the military establishment — Pakistan’s political kingmakers — are squeezing Khan and PTI out of the race.

The event was due to broadcast PTI speeches by livestream but internet disruptions began in the early evening, before it began.

“We can confirm the nation-scale restriction of social media platforms across Pakistan,” said Alp Toker, Director of the Netblocks watchdog organisation monitoring cybersecurity and internet governance.

He told AFP the outage was “remarkably systematic” and “consistent with previous restrictions imposed during PTI events”.

Khan and many prominent PTI candidates have been barred from standing for election, and in-person campaigning has been thwarted by a crackdown forcing party leaders to defect or go underground.

Nonetheless, a Gallup Pakistan survey taken in December confirmed Khan is the nation’s most popular politician.

Google data shows PTI vastly outstripping competitors in online searches for political parties in Pakistan, with 80 per cent of the traffic.

Earlier this month, similar internet disruption marred PTI’s online campaign launch event.

Khan, 71, was ousted in 2022 after falling out with Pakistan’s powerful military leaders who backed him into power in 2018.

In opposition, he waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance against the military establishment which has directly ruled the nation for much of its history.

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