Pakistan bans Elon Musk's X as internet crackdown continues

X Twitter Pakistan Musk

Pakistan has restricted access to Elon Musk’s X for local users “in the interest of upholding national security, maintaining public order, and preserving the integrity of the nation.”

According to representations made on behalf of Pakistan's interior ministry before the Islamabad High Court where it had acknowledged the ban on X, the ‘threat’ to Pakistan’s national security from X was flagged by intelligence agencies in a ‘confidential’ report following which the interior ministry cut off the country’s access to X, without even bothering to fulfil all procedural requirements.

The government has made some ‘justifications’ for this ‘punitive action’, and one of them is- X refused to localise its operations in Pakistan.

The government also alleged that X “does not obey Pakistani laws”.

Though the country’s interior ministry recently confirmed the ban on X, users of the social media site in Pakistan had been reporting problems using the platform since mid-February, around the time of elections, when jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) called for protests against a government official’s admission of vote manipulation.

According to an editorial titled “X post facto”, published in Pakistan’s leading English daily, the Dawn, on Friday (Apr 19), “As has become its modus operandi, the state is using smoke and mirrors to try to justify its decision to ban X, formerly Twitter.”

“In the current political climate, where there is widespread public dissatisfaction with the state’s policies, it is rather difficult to take any claim regarding some unspecified ‘threat’ from social media at face value,” the editorial read.

The editorial’s writer opined that the country’s government should realise that global tech companies are very wary of markets where regulations are opaque and subject to official whims.

According to the editorial, “No company will want to move to a country where the state can quietly shut down a major global service without justification or due process. Our decision-makers should realise the harm they are causing.”

Amid the South Asian nation’s growing internet curbs, the Sindh High Court in Pakistan has reportedly given the government one week to withdraw the restriction and restore the platform.

Viewed through the history of Pakistani governments, the country has a shabby record of freedom of expression, journalism, and the right to access the Internet. The crackdown is growing at an alarming rate.

Experts have described it as a fight between the status quo, the negative morality espoused by the state as a force of unification rooted in tradition, and the positive alternative, which is inherently present in the status quo.

In recent days, the Pakistani government has imposed stricter restrictions on social media and conventional media.

The recent curb on social media platform X highlights the tension between the country’s national security concerns and the right to access information in an increasingly digital world.

This particular ban is alarming as journalists, activists, and the general public mainly use X to express their opinions freely and to practice their freedom of speech and right to the internet.

The internet and social media blackouts in Pakistan are not only threatening the freedom of the press and speech but are also hurting the businesses in the country, which has been facing a major financial crisis.

During the internet and social media restrictions, small and medium online businesses suffered irremediable losses due to the lack of internet or social media connectivity.

Besides, this social media blackout strategy sends a negative message to domestic and international investors, who feel reluctant to invest in Pakistan's information technology sector, which is one of Asia’s fastest-growing internet markets, as they are not sure about government policies and implementation mechanisms.

Pakistani consumers are losing millions due to regular internet and social media blackouts for “security reasons”, and the lack of cyber laws and implementing mechanisms destabilises the economic environment.

It also has serious implications for the country’s economic growth and, consequently, its stability.

Pakistan’s practice of imposing bans or restrictions on social media platforms and accounts or the entire internet is not new; the country has been practising it since 2005.

The Pakistani government mostly implements the ban around national occasions like Eid, Muharram, and other political or religious events for “security measurements.”

Pakistan’s opposition parties claim that the country's governments also use internet and social media shut downs to achieve political goals, which makes this whole phenomenon unpredictable and damaging.

READ MORE: Taiwan Declares TikTok A National Security Threat.

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