‘Misuse’ prompted ban on X

Govt report informs IHC security concerns necessitated decision

Our Correspondent April 17, 2024


The interior ministry on Wednesday informed the Islamabad High Court that the ban on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, was necessary following its failure to address concerns regarding its “misuse”.

Interior Secretary Khurram Agha, on behalf of the ministry, submitted a report to the court in response to a petition challenging the ban on the social media platform.

The report also requested the court to dismiss the petition stating that “no right of the petitioner has been deprived”.

“[The] failure of Twitter/X to adhere to the lawful directives of the government of Pakistan and address concerns regarding the misuse of its platform necessitated the imposition of a ban,” it read.

It added that the petition against the closure of X was contrary to law and facts.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Cybercrime Wing had requested X to ban accounts that were propagating against the chief justice, the report stated.

It noted that X officials ignored the requests of the FIA Cybercrime Wing and did not respond, following which the decision to temporarily block the platform was made.

The report read that on the intelligence agencies’ request, the interior ministry issued orders for the closure of X on February 17, 2024, aimed at safeguarding the national security as well as the law and order situation.

“The decision to impose a ban on Twitter/X in Pakistan was made in the interest of upholding national security, maintaining public order, and preserving the integrity of our nation," it continued.

“Social media platforms are being used indiscriminately to spread extremist ideas and false information. X is being used as a tool by some nefarious elements to undermine law and order and promote instability.”

The ministry stated in the report that the closure of X was not against Article 19 of the Constitution and it was blocked in response to the rising security concerns that led to a ban on many social media platforms, even around the world.

The report added that X's closure was not intended to curtail freedom of expression or access to information, but aimed at the responsible use of social media platforms in accordance with the law.

“The Ministry of Interior is the protector of the citizens of Pakistan and responsible for national stability.”

The ministry's report highlighted that social media platform TikTok was also banned by the government earlier and it was unblocked only after it signed an agreement to abide by the Pakistani law.

Access to the social media giant has been blocked since February 17 this year after allegations of rigging during the general elections surfaced.

Read SHC orders restoration of social media apps

The prolonged disruption of X raised widespread concerns about democratic freedoms in the country.

A total of 28 civil society organisations, including Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, issued a joint statement of condemnation.

At the last hearing, the IHC dismissed a report on the closure of X and summoned the interior secretary to provide documentary evidence to justify the ban of the platform.

On Wednesday, Advocate Amna Ali and Additional Attorney General (AAG) Munawar Iqbal Duggal appeared before the court on the behalf of the petitioner and the State respectively.

The AAG informed the IHC that the interior ministry had filed a report on the matter.

The IHC CJ observed that another petition had been filed on the blockade.

He added that he was issuing notices to the respondents on the fresh petition plea and sought a reply on it.

Later, the hearing was adjourned till May 2.

In a related development, the Sindh High Court ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to submit a fresh response with appropriate reasons to the petitions related to the closure of X.

A two-member bench led by Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmad Abbasi heard the petitions. During the hearing, Advocate Abdul Moiz Jaferii, the counsel for the petitioners told the court that the PTA had submitted a reply in which it had admitted that access to X had been locked since March 18.

Jaferii added that the PTA in its reply had stated that the access to X was blocked on the instructions of the interior ministry, but the regulator did not give any reasons for the move.

Appearing before the court, the AAG stated that his X account was running fine and that he had accessed and used the platform a day earlier.

The SHC CJ asked the AAG to file an affidavit that his X account and the internet were working perfectly.

Justice Abbasi remarked that the interior ministry and other institutions should respond to the petitions so that the decision could be made regarding X. He expressed his annoyance that the court orders had not been implemented.

The SHC CJ directed the AAG to review the reply submitted to the court earlier and resubmit it within a week.

The court ordered the PTA to give valid reasons for shutting down X and adjourned the hearing till May 9. It also ordered the interior ministry to rescind within a week its February 17 letter instructing the PTA to block X.


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