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Tuesday May 21, 2024

X closure in Pakistan: Interior ministry ordered to revoke directives within week

SHC adjourns case till May 9, directs interior ministry to explain reasons behind platform's suspension

By Amin Anwar
April 17, 2024
X logo displayed on a laptop screen and X logo displayed on a phone screen. — AFP/File
X logo displayed on a laptop screen and X logo displayed on a phone screen. — AFP/File

KARACHI: With people in Pakistan still facing difficulties in accessing social media platform X, the Sindh High Court (SHC) Wednesday directed the Ministry of Interior to revoke its letter regarding suspension of social media within one week.

"What are you [interior ministry] achieving via shutting down trivial things [...] The world must laugh at us," SHC Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi said while hearing multiple petitions filed by Zarrar Khuhro, Jibran Nasir and others.

The SHC chief justice's remarks come as X, which is used by millions of Pakistanis, has been suspended since February owing to the government's decision to curb access to the social media platform citing national security threats.

Last month, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) told the court that it blocked the social media platform after receiving directions from the Ministry of Interior and intelligence agencies.

The PTA said that the directions for temporary suspension of mobile internet data service, social media websites and applications are only issued by the said ministry after careful consideration of all the relevant reports and circumstances.

Following the regulatory body's remarks, the interior ministry, in a separate case, informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that "content uploaded on the internet" is a "threat" to the country's national security.

During the hearing today, SHC CJ highlighted that the "law does not empower the interior ministry to act on reports forwarded by intelligence agencies".

Lamenting the suspension, the petitioner's lawyer said using X and other social media platforms does not lead to "blasts".

"In hindsight [it seems that] no justification was given to suspend X," the SHC chief justice said, adding that the court will issue its orders if the interior ministry does not withdraw the directives issued on February 17.

The court then adjourned the hearing till May 9, directing the Ministry of Interior to present its reasons behind the blocking of the social media platform on the said date.