Pakistan has temporarily suspended the services of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp in order to stop using it to organize demonstrations after a violent protest by a radical religious group, which has now been banned by the government.
After three days of violent protests, the government banned Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) on Thursday in order to force the government to expel the French ambassador for the blasphemous cartoons published in France last year.
After its leader Saad Hussain Rizvi was arrested, TLP launched a nationwide protest on Monday. TLP supporters clashed with law enforcement agencies in several towns earlier this week, resulting in 7 deaths and more than 300 police injuries.
In order to stop the protests after Friday prayers, the Ministry of Interior instructed the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to suspend social media services for four hours from 11 am to 3 pm Pacific Standard Time (GST+5).
The PTA stated in the notice that “full access to social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Telegram) may be blocked”.
The PTA did not specify the reasons for the suspension of services, but official sources said that they were worried that protesters would use social media to organize demonstrations.
The suspension of Internet and mobile phone services is a common practice in Pakistan to prevent protests and terrorist acts.
But this time, only social media has become a special target, as TLP reportedly used it effectively to counter government actions. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed (Sheikh Rashid Ahmed) warned TLP on Thursday not to use YouTube to upload promotional videos.
TLP became famous in November 2017, when it took a sit-in at the Faizabad interchange near Islamabad and cut off the capital from the old international airport.
At that time, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) took office, and the current Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Pakistani Tehreek-i-Insaf party also supported the protests.