PTI says its websites ‘blocked’ in Pakistan ahead of Feb 8 polls

Published January 26, 2024
This screengrab shows the PTI’s official website when accessed using a VPN at 1:15pm on January 26.
This screengrab shows the PTI’s official website when accessed using a VPN at 1:15pm on January 26.

The PTI on Friday alleged that its websites were “blocked” in Pakistan and demanded an answer from the federal authorities.

The PTI, deprived of its iconic ‘bat’ symbol for the upcoming polls, has fielded its leaders as independent candidates with different electoral symbols.

To combat confusion among voters and to ease access to election-related information, the party launched an online portal on its website insaf.pk, as well as a “back-up site”, pticandidates.com.

It also introduced a feature whereby voters can message on Imran Khan’s official Facebook account to get information about PTI-backed candidates.

Dawn.com staffers tried accessing the PTI’s websites on Friday but were unable to do so through Wi-Fi or mobile data, except when using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

The party’s official X account tagged the official handles of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), interim information minister Murtaza Solangi and interim IT minister Umar Saif.

“Can you explain why PTI’s websites are blocked in Pakistan?” the party asked in the post.

“People are still getting symbol information from Imran Khan’s Facebook page so the question is what purpose is this block serving?” it asked.

Jibran Ilyas, a member of the PTI’s social media team, also tagged Saif in his post, asking, “Can you tell Pakistanis why the websites of [the] country’s most popular political party [are] blocked by you?”

The PTA has not responded to Dawn.com’s request for a comment on the matter.

The issue comes after a fake web portal — mimicking one launched by the party to provide information on PTI-backed candidates — emerged and was found to be providing incorrect information to voters.

It should also be noted that in recent weeks, multiple countrywide internet outages have been witnessed that coincided with the party’s online events. In the most recent occurrence on January 20, internet services were interrupted an hour before the PTI’s “virtual power show”.

Before that, similar disruptions were reported on December 17 and January 7 as well, leading the party to urge the Supreme Court to take notice of the internet suspension.

For their part, the interim government had blamed “technical” issues and system installations for the disruptions. Earlier this week, information minister Solangi had said that there was “no guarantee” that such incidents would not occur in the future.

In the same press conference, PTA Director General Ahmed Shamim Pirzada attributed the outages to “technical glitches” and system upgrades. “You can face this for the next two to three months,” he had warned.

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