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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Sindh High Court Orders Restoration of Social Media Platform X

The Sindh High Court orders the Pakistani government to restore access to social media platform X, formerly Twitter, within one week, following over two months of disruption initiated by the interior ministry, amid allegations of vote manipulation and concerns about democratic freedoms.

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has issued a directive compelling the Pakistani government to reinstate the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, within one week. This decision follows over two months of disruption initiated by the interior ministry, which ordered the shutdown of the platform. The disruption commenced on February 17, coinciding with protests instigated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party over allegations of vote manipulation in February’s election.

Moiz Jaaferi, a lawyer challenging the ban, revealed that the SHC has granted the government a one-week timeframe to retract the shutdown order. Failure to comply would result in the court issuing appropriate orders.

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The interior ministry justified the platform’s blockade on security grounds, citing the federal government’s prerogative to safeguard national security. The government and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) remained silent on the outages, with the interior ministry suggesting intelligence agencies played a role in the shutdown.

Impact and International Response

The intermittent accessibility of X, dependent on internet service providers, has forced users to resort to virtual private networks (VPNs) for access. Additionally, mobile internet services were suspended nationwide on election day, contributing to concerns about democratic freedoms and allegations of rigging.

The extended disruption prompted condemnation from 28 civil society organizations, including Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, highlighting the broader implications for freedom of expression in the country. Federal Information Minister Attaullah Tarar acknowledged the suspension of X, underscoring the platform’s restricted access and the use of VPNs to circumvent the ban.

This legal battle underscores the delicate balance between national security concerns and the protection of democratic freedoms, shaping the discourse on social media regulation and governance in Pakistan.