Internet monitor Netblocks reported a nationwide disruption in social media platforms on Sunday night amid a “virtual power show” organised by the PTI.

“Live metrics show a nation-scale disruption to social media platforms across #Pakistan, including X, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube,” the internet tracking agency said.

Netblocks noted that the incident came ahead of a major PTI virtual gathering. The online event kicked off at 9pm.

Users reported having difficulty accessing social media platforms in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad shortly after 8pm. Users also complained about internet services being slow.

Former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa finance minister and PTI leader Taimur Jhagra also noted the internet issues coinciding with the online rally.

The party itself termed it an “expected move”.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) did not respond to repeated requests for a comment

Criticising the disruption, lawyer and human rights activist Jibran Nasir said: “They actually messed with the internet affecting millions of subscribers and hundreds of thousands of businesses only to oppose PTI virtual rally. This is beyond madness.”

Activist Usama Khilji also condemned the undermining of “Pakistani citizens’ right to access to information and freedom of association”.

On May 9, the PTA had confirmed that it had suspended mobile broadband across the country on the interior ministry’s instructions. Netblocks had said access to Twitter, Facebook and Youtube was restricted across Pakistan amid PTI chief Imran Khan’s arrest on that day from the Islamabad High Court’s premises in the Al-Qadir Trust case.

In July, Pakistan was ranked third in the world over the imposition of internet restrictions in the first half of 2023.

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.

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