Social Media services suspended in Pakistan, Ministry of Interior citing reasons

Islamabad, Pakistan, April 16: Social media platforms Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Instagram have been suspended in Pakistan from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Interior Ministry said on Friday.

The ministry told Geo News that the Pakistan Telecom Authority had suspended social media platforms on its directive. The immediate reason for the suspension of services was not yet clear.

The action was taken after the interior ministry sent a letter to the PTA chairman. The ministry, in the letter, requested the PTA to take “immediate” action on the issue.

Abdul Razak, section officer of the ministry, wrote, “I have been referred to the above topic and it has been said that from 11 am to 3 pm on 16 April 2021 the entire access to social media platforms across the country may be blocked.”

He requested that immediate action can be taken on the subject matter under intimation to this Ministry. A PTA official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Geo News, “In order to maintain public order and security, access to some social media applications has been temporarily restricted.”

However, according to various media reports, social media sites in Lahore were shut down as law enforcement agencies expected the TLP rioters to hit the streets after Friday prayers.

The TLP is protesting the arrest of their leader Saad Hussain Rizvi, who was detained earlier this week, and the blasphemy published in France. The protests have turned violent and many have been casualties.

According to Geo News, at least three people – including two policemen – have been killed in the protests.

The protesters have demanded that the French ambassador be sent home and that the import of goods from that country be banned.

According to media reports, the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government signed an agreement with TLP in November, agreeing to expel the French ambassador.

The TLP launched mass protests against the cartoons in November last year but were dispersed in February following an agreement with the government to expel the ambassador. The deal was extended until 20 April.