Unrest Unleashed: X Platform Remains Disrupted in Pakistan

In Pakistan, a widespread disruption to the social media platform X has entered its second week, raising concerns among digital rights advocates about stifled dissent following a contentious election tainted by allegations of rigging.

The platform, formerly recognized as Twitter, went offline last Saturday following a government official’s admission of vote manipulation during the February 8 election.

Since then, X has only been sporadically operational, with accessibility fluctuating depending on internet service providers.

Alp Toker from the NetBlocks web watchdog expressed alarm, stating, “Pakistan’s targeted shutdowns and restrictions aimed at political parties and reporting election irregularities are unprecedented.”

As of Saturday, X remained unavailable in major cities like Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi, as reported by AFP staff.

While the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority declined to comment, the interior ministry did not respond to inquiries.

Following the vote-rigging admission, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan, called for nationwide protests.

“Protesting political parties have heavily relied on X for freedom of expression, access to information, and online assembly,” noted web monitor Bytes for All.

The disruption, according to the organization’s report published Friday, “limits citizens’ ability to engage in online discourse, share information, and express dissenting views.”

In the lead-up to the election, PTI faced crackdowns on campaigning, with candidates compelled to run as independents. Consequently, much of its campaign activity shifted online, where social media events were frequently interrupted by nationwide blackouts affecting X, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube.

The government attributed these outages to “technical difficulties.”

Despite the challenges, PTI-backed candidates secured more seats than any other party. However, PTI has been reluctant to form alliances, clearing the path for the military-supported Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to pursue government formation.

On election day, mobile internet services were suspended nationwide, with the interior ministry citing security concerns.

The blackout, coupled with significant delays in announcing voting results, fueled accusations of electoral manipulation.

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