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Saturday May 25, 2024

Those behind social media suspension will come to fore: SHC

As X remains inaccessible for over a month, SHC CJ says social media platforms were being managed in Pakistan

By Amin Anwar
March 05, 2024
Logo of X seen on a mobile screen in this representational image. — AFP/File
Logo of X seen on a mobile screen in this representational image. — AFP/File  

KARACHI: Sindh High Court (SHC) Chief Justice (CJ) Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi Tuesday expressed concerns regarding social media management in the country as X, formerly known as Twitter, remained inaccessible to Pakistanis for over a month.

"Prima facie social media platforms were being managed — and the names of people causing the disruption would not remain hidden for too long," the CJ remarked during the hearing of pleas against the suspension of the internet and X.

The inaccessibility of social media platform X — which is an important source of information, started in the country before the February 8 general election, while the country also faced complete internet suspension during the polling.

Since then, netizens have been facing sporadic disruptions and hindrances in accessing the social media platform despite SHC's stay order directing the authorities to ensure uninterrupted internet access.

During the hearing, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) submitted its reply on the matter saying that it had no role in suspending or slowing down social media platforms.

A two-member bench headed by CJ Abbasi and comprising Justice Abdul Mobeen Lakho presided over the hearing.

“The PTA does not have any tool to slow down or suspend the internet,” the authority's lawyer apprised the court.

He said that the Ministry of Interior and other agencies had suspended the cellular and internet services due to security concerns.

"We emailed the mobile companies to suspend the services on February 8 and restore the services on February 9," the PTA lawyer added. At this, the CJ expressed ire, saying that the X is still not accessible.

"What action has been taken against any company that doesn't comply with the PTA's orders," he asked. 

He remarked that the internet is being controlled in different ways.

"You said the internet was suspended in the light of the May 9 events. Some political parties weren't allowed to campaign. You see the internet is not working properly till this day," the justice added.

During the hearing, the petitioner's lawyer expressed objection, asking if X would be suspended if anyone claimed that "all the terrorists have gathered on X".

Meanwhile, Jibran Nasir asked that who had suspended the platform if the PTA had admitted that it was not suspended at their behest. "This makes it an issue of national security," he added.

Later, the court issued notices to the PTA chairman and other authorities concerned about Nasir's contempt plea and sought the interior ministry's reply over internet suspension on February 8, by March 20 on Zarrar Khuhro's plea.

The court also sought responses on the continuous suspension of X and upheld the stay order for uninterrupted internet access.