Pakistan’s suspension of mobile broadband services following the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a corruption case on May 9 has caused significant financial losses to the IT sector and resulted in thousands of people being unemployed for three days.
According to Pakistan’s Minister of Information Technology, Aminul Haque, the authorities did not consult the IT ministry before implementing the suspension of mobile broadband and blocking social media platforms in an attempt to quell the unrest triggered by Khan’s arrest. The decision was made independently by the Ministry of Interior after Khan was taken into custody at the Islamabad High Court. The arrest sparked violent protests throughout the country, leading to multiple casualties and injuries.
The suspension of mobile broadband lasted for approximately three days, resulting in losses exceeding Rs2 billion for the IT industry. Access to social media platforms and online services remained restricted for an additional three days before being lifted on Monday night.
Minister Haque expressed his dissatisfaction with the ban on internet services and restrictions on social media, stating that such measures are not effective solutions to address any issue. He criticized the lack of consultation with the Ministry of IT and emphasized that imposing such restrictions harms not only the IT industry but also Pakistan’s global reputation. Haque distanced his ministry from the recent curbs, reiterating its policy against any measures that hinder the country’s growth process.
South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) expressed concerns over the Government of Pakistan’s decision to shut down the internet and restrict access to social media in certain regions following the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. SAHR condemned these measures as they curtail freedom of expression, limit access to information, and exacerbate the spread of rumors and disinformation, and urged the government to defuse potential unrest responsibly and protect citizens’ rights while appealing to the people to avoid violence for short-term political gains.
With the internet restored as claimed by PTA, users still are unable to access social media sites including Twitter and YouTube without VPNs. The suspension of mobile Internet services severely impacted businesses across the country, particularly affecting daily wage workers employed in food delivery and ride-hailing services who were left without work for several days.