Pakistan High Court Orders Government To Restore X Within 1 Week

Social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, has been rarely accessible in Pakistan since February 17.

Pakistan High Court Orders Government To Restore X Within 1 Week

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A Pakistan High Court said on Wednesday the government must restore social media platform X within one week, a lawyer said, after more than two months of disruption ordered by the interior ministry.

The platform, formerly known as Twitter, has been rarely accessible since February 17, when jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's party called for protests against a government official's admission of vote manipulation in February's election.

Pakistan's communications authority later acknowledged in court papers that it had been ordered by the Interior Ministry to shut the site down.

"The Sindh High Court has given the government one week to withdraw the letter, failing which, on the next date, they will pass appropriate orders," Moiz Jaaferi, a lawyer challenging the ban, told AFP.

The court's decision is expected to be published in the coming hours.

The Interior Ministry said X was blocked on security grounds, according to a report submitted to Islamabad High Court in a separate challenge to the shutdown and shared with media.

"It is the sole prerogative and domain of the federal government to decide what falls within the preview of terms of 'defence' or 'security' of Pakistan and what steps are necessary to be taken to safeguard National Security," said the report, submitted by Interior Secretary Khurram Agha.

Both the government and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had for weeks refused to comment on the outages.

The interior ministry suggested intelligence agencies were behind the order.

The closure of a social media service "when there is request from any security or intelligence agency" is "well within the scope of provisions of the PTA act", the report said. 

Activists challenging the shutdown said it was designed to quash dissent after February 8 polls that were fraught with claims of rigging.

Access to X has been sporadic, occasionally available for short cycles based on the internet service provider, forcing users to use virtual private networks, said Alp Toker of the NetBlocks internet monitor.

Mobile internet services were cut across Pakistan on election day, with the interior ministry citing security reasons.

It was followed by a long delay in issuing voting results, giving rise to allegations of rigging.

Khan's opposition party had already faced heavy censorship in the weeks before the election,  banned from television channels and from holding rallies, forcing its campaign online.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)