Pakistan on Friday temporarily banned access to all social media platforms across the country from 11 am to 3 pm after days of unrest in the country due to the arrest of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan party chief, reported Dawn. The party was also banned by the government under its anti-terrorism legislation.
The country’s Ministry of Interior issued an order to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, which later said in a statement that the decision was taken to maintain public order and safety. The social media platforms which have banned include Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Telegram.
Thousands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan supporters had taken to the streets after their chief, Saad Rizvi, was detained on Tuesday following calls for the expulsion of the French ambassador, reported AFP.
Anti-French sentiment had been fomenting for months in Pakistan since France President Emmanuel Macron supported the right of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine, to republish caricatures depicting Prophet Mohammed – deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.
On Thursday, French residents and companies were advised by their embassy to temporarily leave Pakistan in view of the protests. Extra security personnel were also deployed outside the French embassy.
Although a purported note from the detained Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan chief had asked its supporters to remain calm and go back to their homes, some supporters had refused to do so. They said protests will not stop till they see or hear directly from Rizvi.
The Pakistan government has also decided to move the Supreme Court, seeking the dissolution of Rizvi’s banned outfit, reported The Express Tribune.
Meanwhile, rights activists criticised the ban, warning that the blackout could lead to more severe restrictions. “What kind of national emergency we are dealing with that govt banned entire social media temporarily?” Nighat Dad, head of the Digital Rights Foundation, wrote on Twitter, shortly before the site became inaccessible in the country. “These arbitrary decisions of blocking and banning have never done any good instead opened ways to blanket bans.”