YouTube service in parts of the country faced disruptions on Sunday during a speech of PTI Chairman Imran Khan, whose live addresses were banned on TV channels the previous night by the electronic media regulator.
NetBlocks, an organisation that tracks internet outages, confirmed the development.
The disruptions were reported as Imran addressed a party rally in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh — a day after he delivered a controversial speech in the capital and was subsequently booked.
“Real-time network data show the disruption in effect on some but not all mobile and fixed-line internet providers in Pakistan during the live-streamed speech. Access was restored after the speech concluded. The study is taken from a sample size of 100 measurements from 14 vantage points across Pakistan,” NetBlocks said in a report.
Digital rights advocate Usama Khilji lambasted the disruptions and dubbed it “outrageous arbitrary censorship”, calling on the government and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to provide an explanation.
“No law allows political censorship of online platforms.”
The PTI also issued a condemnation, noting that “coincidentally, YouTube was back to being fully operational as soon as our historic rally finished.”
“Freedom of expression is completely finished in Pakistan,” it added.
PTI leader Hammad Azhar alleged that there was a “complete censorship and crackdown on freedom of speech in Pakistan”, adding that such “fascist actions” had not taken place even under martial law.
“Regime change conspirators [are] so scared of Imran Khan that today in the middle of [his] speech they blocked YouTube through PTA. Shameful! This will not silence us. Fascism at its peak as fear overwhelms the cabal of crooks and their string pullers!” lashed out former human rights minister Shireen Mazari.
Meanwhile, various interactions of TeamYouTube showed the team responding to users and acknowledging that it had seen similar reports of the website not working in Pakistan and was reviewing them.
There, however, was no official word from local authorities regarding the disruption till the publishing of this report.
A day ago, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority slapped a ban on all satellite TV channels from carrying the PTI chief’s speeches live.
The communiqué — issued late on Saturday night — held that channels had failed to implement a time-delay mechanism which could curtail such occurrences.
In a four-page document that included a specific reference to Imran’s speech on Saturday night, where he had targeted police and judicial officers, the regulator said that only recorded speeches could be telecast, and those too would only be allowed if a time-delay mechanism was in place.
Imran blames neutrals for ‘everything wrong’ in Pakistan
Meanwhile, Imran, while addressing the PTI rally in Liaquat Bagh, once again addressed the “neutrals” — the term he uses for the military establishment — and alleged that they were behind attempts to subdue the party.
Imran claimed that when the police was questioned about its action against PTI workers on May 25, he was informed from within the police that they had “orders and pressure from the neutrals to give PTI workers a thrashing”.
He also claimed to have been told by sources he did not mention that the chief election commissioner (CEC) was also giving decisions against his party due to “pressure of the boot from behind”.
The PTI chief further alleged that when the police were questioned about the treatment being meted out to embattled party leader Shahbaz Gill, “they said we don’t know [and it] happened from behind.”
“So whatever wrong is happening in Pakistan, your (neutrals) name is attached [to it].”
Similarly, the former premier accused the authorities of harassing his visitors by asking them the purpose of their visit and confiscating their shoes.
“The police isn’t doing this. It says we have orders from neutrals. So are you neutral or not? And if not, why are you damaging this country so much?” Imran questioned, adding whether the “neutrals” thought that the people would forgive politicians in the government just because the former were supporting the latter now.
Imran claimed that he was aware of a plan being made by “Mr Y” to pressure and cow the media and imprison the PTI chief.
He added that such plans made no difference to him and warned that if such a route were to be taken, the country could be mired into a situation such as Sri Lanka’s, where the people revolted against the government.