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Monday May 20, 2024

PTA says internet services being restored across Pakistan

Authority had suspended services on May 9 following violent protests after PTI Chairman Imran Khan's arrest

By Afreen Mirza
May 12, 2023
A computer engineer checks equipment at an internet service provider. — Reuters/File
A computer engineer checks equipment at an internet service provider. — Reuters/File

Internet services are being restored across Pakistan, days after being suspended following violent protests after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan was arrested, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) confirmed Friday. 

The telecom regulator blocked mobile broadband services across the country on May 9 on the interior ministry's directives.

Enraged PTI supporters resorted to violence attacking military and government buildings in Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Peshawar.

The step was taken by the authorities to control the spread of chaos, while access to major social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube was also blocked since then. 

A PTA spokesperson confirmed to Thenews.com.pk today that internet services were being restored after directives to this end were received from the interior ministry. 

The spokesperson said, however, that the ministry had not issued any instructions regarding social media platforms. 

The internet suspension has resulted in an approximate revenue loss of Rs820 million for telecom operators, reports have suggested, a huge dent to the sector, as the economy remains in a fragile state.

The decision to restore the internet comes a day after the Supreme Court declared Khan’s arrest from the premises of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) “illegal” and directed the authorities to release him “immediately”.

The top court also asked the PTI chief to approach the IHC for bail. Subsequently, Khan appeared in front of the high court today, which granted him two-weeks protective bail in the Al-Qadir Trust case — in which the PTI chief was arrested — and barred authorities from arresting him in any other case till May 15.

Amnesty International expresses reservations

Earlier today, Amnesty International urged Pakistan authorities to lift restrictions on the internet services.

Rimmel Mohydin, the South Asian campaigner at Amnesty International, said: "There is an urgent need to de-escalate the situation in Pakistan as it threatens further severe violations of rights of the people and risks more fatalities."

While asking officials to restrain from excessive use of force, she added: "The authorities should be aiming to defuse the situation and the use of force by the state must go no further than is necessary and proportionate. Amnesty International strongly urges Pakistani authorities to exercise restraint and use minimum force without resorting to the use of firearms to disperse protesters."

"Alarmingly, the government has announced that the mobile internet shutdown is 'indefinite' which is a clear violation of people’s right to access information and free expression," she maintained.

"The ban on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube also creates a permissive environment for other human rights violations under the darkness of the internet shutdown," Mohydin highlighted, adding that "the restrictions must be lifted immediately."