January 8, 2024
ISLAMABAD – Internet monitor Netblocks reported a nationwide disruption of social media platforms on Sunday as the PTI held a virtual fundraising telethon.
“Live metrics show a nation-scale disruption to social media platforms across Pakistan, including X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube,” the internet tracking agency said at 6:13pm.
It added that the incident came as “persecuted former prime minister Imran Khan’s party, PTI, launches its election fundraising telethon”.
Netblocks Director Alp Toker told AFP the disruptions were affecting network providers across the country.
“Such nation-scale social media targeting political activities is almost unprecedented at this scale — Venezuela is one other country that has used similar measures to limit opposition speeches and rallies,” he said.
In a similar incident last month, internet outages were also reported during a PTI virtual power show.
The PTI had announced earlier today that it would hold a virtual fundraising telethon and manifesto launch at 9pm.
However, around 6pm users reported being unable to access social media platforms in several areas of the country. They also complained about internet services being slow.
When asked for a comment, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) told Dawn.com that all social media networks were active and the authority had not received any complaints.
Meanwhile, PTI’s Zulfi Bukhari said the internet shutdown was aimed at stopping the party’s fundraiser.
The party itself called the internet shutdown “absolutely shameful” and demanded that the IT minister resign “for this continuing damage to Pakistanis”.
“Another PTI online event. Another internet shutdown,” said party leader Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra.
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.
At the time, access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube was restricted in the country. At the same time, several temporary cellular network disruptions were also witnessed across the country for several days afterwards.
The Surfshark report ranked Pakistan behind Iran and India as the countries leading the list of regimes that imposed internet restrictions during the first half of 2023 with Asia being the focal point of most internet shutdowns.