ISLAMABAD: Mobile internet and major social media platforms were shut down on Tuesday after videos began to emerge of arson and violence during protests against the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

All four cellular mobile companies — Jazz, Zong4G, Telenor and Ufone — were directed by the telecom regulator, Pakistan Telecommuni­cation Authority (PTA), to suspend data service.

A PTA spokesperson confirmed that the directive has been issued to the cellular mobile companies after a written request from the Ministry of Interior.

The data service has been stopped as it was helping spread violence across the country, the spokesperson said.

The decision was taken after social media was flooded with footage of a mob clashing with police in Karachi, attacking and entering the army’s head office GHQ in Rawalpindi and vandalising the official residence of a high-ranking military officer in Lahore.

Panic gripped several parts of Islamabad and Rawalpindi in the evening as data services were suspended and many areas witnessed power shutdown too at the same time.

While fixed-line broadband was functioning and no directives were issued by the regulator in this regard, the authorities had slowed Twitter and YouTube platforms to considerable levels.

An internet service provider said that service disruption was not only witnessed in major cities but also in smaller cities like D.I. Khan and Mardan.

The international monitor NetBlocks, which tracks internet disruptions, confirmed that the services of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were affected on multiple ISPs in Pakistan on Tuesday.

“Additionally, total internet shutdowns have been observed in some regions,” NetBlocks anno­u­nced on its Twitter account.

It added that in addition to social media restrictions, real-time network data show total internet shutdowns in some regions accross the country.

However, other websites, including those of news media, could be acce­ssed on fixed line internet networks, it added.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2023

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