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PTA Reveals Interior Ministry’s Directive Behind Social Media Platform X Ban

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) informed the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday that the nationwide ban on the social media platform X, implemented since February 17, was enacted based on directives issued by the Ministry of Interior following intelligence agency reports.

Since February 17, the X website has been largely inaccessible, with intermittent service restoration, often occurring after former commissioner Rawalpindi Liaquat Ali Chatta made public statements alleging electoral misconduct.

PTA Chairman Hafeezur Rehman declared on Tuesday his intention to address the disruption of X with the interior ministry. In a conversation with Dawn.com, Rehman, a retired major general, emphasized the need for clarification or accountability regarding the matter, noting that decisions to shut down social media platforms typically originate from the interior ministry.

During today’s hearing, a two-member SHC bench, led by Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmad Abbasi and Justice Abdul Mubeen Lakho, consolidated four petitions filed by lawyer Jibran Nasir, journalist Zarrar Khurho, and others regarding internet disruptions at various times.

In court, the PTA submitted a copy of a February 17 letter from the Ministry of Interior to the telecommunications authority, instructing the immediate blocking of social media platform X “until further orders,” without specifying the rationale behind the directive.

The PTA’s response also indicated that the interior ministry’s orders were prompted by intelligence agency reports.

At the onset of the hearing, the court expressed dissatisfaction with the interior ministry’s failure to provide a written reply. Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Khaleeq Ahmed, representing the interior ministry, requested additional time to submit the response.

Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmad Abbasi admonished DAG Ahmed, urging a more substantive response. Subsequently, the DAG submitted a written response on behalf of the interior ministry, stating that services were only disrupted on May 9 based on orders from all provincial governments.

The response clarified that the Ministry of Interior issues directives for the suspension of 3G/4G services only in cases jeopardizing the security of the state and citizens, without addressing other aspects of the matter.

After incorporating the ministry’s response into the case record, the bench adjourned the hearing until April 17.

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