The Innovation for Change South Asia Secretariat urges the government of Pakistan to take notice of the suspension of internet, social media in Pakistan in the wake of violent protests throughout major cities in the country.
Access to major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube have been suspended, the Innovation for Change – South Asia urges the government to restore internet connectivity and ensure the protection of citizens’ fundamental freedoms.
The suspension of the internet comes after the arrest of former Prime Minister, Imran Khan in Islamabad on 9th May, 2023 which started a wave of violent protests across the country. The move comes in a bit to quell protests and stop people from mobilizing both in online and offline spaces. Speaking to the media, the official spokesperson of the Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA), Malahat Obaid, said that the regulatory authority has taken these measures after direct orders from the government. This internet shutdown has also disrupted daily life as people are unable to find information about safer and open routes through their cities, access health and education services, and continue their work; especially those employed in the services sector. This has further deepened social unrest and economic disparity in a country undergoing an economic crisis. The I4C South Asia Hub recommends against the use of network disruptions and social media restrictions to limit political speech, given their disproportionate impact to fundamental rights including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
Without internet access, people are unable to mobilize online and communicate with local stakeholders to register their protest against the arrest of former PM Imran Khan. Internet shutdown and suspension of social media apps has been a common practice by most governments in South Asia, especially Pakistan, as a tool of suppressing dissent and controlling public narrative. Taking notice of the brutal crackdown on Pakistanis’ freedoms of association, speech, and assembly, the Innovation for Change – South Asia is monitoring the situation closely and calls on all local as well as international advocacy groups to urge the authorities for the upkeep of rule of law and protection of fundamental freedoms of citizens in Pakistan.