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Internet service in Pakistan to remain suspended for indefinite period: PTA

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  • Decision taken on the directives of interior ministry, says PTA.
  • Twitter, Facebook services are also down for many users.
  • Videos of violent protests were shared on social media platforms.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Wednesday said that internet services across the country will remain suspended for an indefinite period.

The telecommunication authority confirmed that the decision to block mobile broadband services was taken on the directives of the Ministry of Interior.

A day earlier, the services were shutdown as protests erupted after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest in Al-Qadir Trust case.

Moreover, major social media sites including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are also reportedly down for many users in Pakistan as they are unable to access these platforms since yesterday.

Videos of violent protests were shared widely on social media platforms after unrest flared up following the former prime minister’s arrest, after which mobile broadband services were blocked.

The PTA spokesperson had said that the regulatory authority was also receiving reports of social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, being down. However, these reports could not be confirmed, she added.

Sources told Geo News that “unwarranted” clips of the protests were shared on social media after which various platforms started experiencing disruptions around 8pm on Tuesday, causing problems for citizens.

“With Pakistan already ranking among the world’s worst countries in terms of Internet access, Tuesday’s outage was nothing short of a shambolic turn of events. It is unfortunate that whenever the political climate in the country heats up, such a measure is viewed to be a necessity, when in truth it robs the people of the fundamental right of access to information that is guaranteed by law,” Sameen Daud Khan, a  researcher who worked on Pakistan’s Internet Landscape 2022 report told Geo.tv.

What had happened?

Khan was arrested from the premises of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) a day earlier by Rangers personnel in connection with a warrant issued by the National Accountability Bureau in the Al-Qadir Trust case.

Following his arrest, the PTI urged supporters all across Pakistan to protest and “block all roads, close all shops”.

Subsequently, PTI workers held protests in several cities, including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Multan, Peshawar, and Mardan.

In Karachi, demonstrators clashed with the police near Nursery. They threw stones at and set fire to police vehicles, tore down street lights, and damaged a bus. There were reports that police fired teargas shells at the protesters.

Protesters also caused damage to public property in other cities, including Rawalpindi and Lahore.

Hours later, many users in Pakistan reported that they were unable to access social media sites in the evening.

According to the outage-tracking website, Downdetector.com, users were unable to log in to their accounts on all three platforms, meaning they also couldn’t post or view anything.

A large number of smartphone users also complained about their WhatsApp which is not working both on desktops and cellphones.

Moreover, as per reports, internet speed is also slow for many users across the country.

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WhatsApp adds a calendar function to make message retrieval simple.

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The “search by date” tool is an inventive innovation that makes it simple for users to access their favourite previous chats.

Users of Android and iPhone may now search for messages or media on a given day by using the app’s calendar interface, which is a new feature of the update. The laborious process of manually reading through chat history is eliminated by this function, which is especially helpful for regular users who have large message archives.

The announcement was also announced by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on his WhatsApp channel, highlighting the company’s dedication to improving user accessibility and ease.

When users click on the calendar icon and choose a desired date, WhatsApp takes them directly to the messages that were sent and received on that specific day. This makes searching easier, which is especially helpful for those looking for certain details or memories that are hidden in their conversation history.

The addition of the calendar function to WhatsApp’s recent version rollout brings more formatting options for text, including strikethrough, bold, italic, and monospace. Additionally, the platform has given security improvements first priority, guaranteeing a secure environment for its large user base.

Nevertheless, in the middle of these developments, Android users of WhatsApp should be aware of a recent modification pertaining to conversation backups. Google Drive backups of conversations are no longer available for free since they now count against the user’s storage allotment.

To utilise this new feature, users can simply access WhatsApp, select a chat, tap on the name of the person or group, and choose the “Search” option. The calendar interface will then facilitate seamless navigation to messages from the selected date.

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VPNs, X, and Slow Internet Services Are Still Blocked in Pakistan

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Users are reporting poor performance on numerous social media sites due to widespread slowdowns in internet access. Furthermore, X (previously Twitter) has been inaccessible for the past six days, despite the Sindh High Court’s directive to allow access. In the meantime, Pakistan is blocking VPN services.

X Remains Unblockable

On February 17, 2024, the Pakistani government first prohibited access to X when it was discovered that Rawalpindi’s Commissioner had rigged election results. The block is still in effect, even though there has been no official announcement or explanation for it. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision to lift the prohibition, the administration has not yet disclosed any plans for reinstatement. Furthermore, officials are giving media outlets conflicting information about the limitations.

Blocked VPN Services

Virtual private network (VPN) services are being widely blocked nationwide, which exacerbates the problem. Apart from limiting accessibility to X, the government has initiated the banning of prominent VPN providers, impeding users’ capacity to establish connections with any server.

sluggish internet access

There is a noticeable slowdown in internet speeds and a decline in performance across Pakistan. The problem hasn’t been acknowledged by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), nevertheless. Even though internet service providers (ISPs) insist there aren’t any outages, consumers on social media sites are nonetheless complaining about poor access.

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Another X, previously Twitter, outage has affected Pakistan.

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Adding to the current difficulties with online connectivity, internet users in Pakistan experienced yet another disturbance when attempting to use the services of social media site X, formerly known as Twitter.

Users from Islamabad and other regions of the nation were unable to use the site for several hours since the service was down.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which is becoming increasingly concerned about the frequent outages, has not made an official remark about the matter.

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