Pakistani authorities have restored access to several social networks and instant messaging platforms after blocking them for several hours after days of violent protests by supporters of a radical Islamist party.
On April 16, the Home Office ordered the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to block Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Telegram from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. local time.
After this date, the PTA issued a declaration saying “access to social media applications has been restored.” This decision was confirmed by users of social networks and instant messaging.
Internet service provider Nayatel said in a message to its customers that platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, TikTok and Telegram have been blocked on the instructions of the PTA, according to the Dawn newspaper.
Thousands of followers of the Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party clashed with police earlier this week during protests against the arrest of their leader who had called for the expulsion of the French ambassador over the publication last year of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad – deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.
At least five people, including two police officers, were killed during anti-French rallies, which on April 15 prompted the French embassy in Islamabad to urge French nationals to leave the South Asian country.
The day before, the Pakistani government had promised to ban the TLP under the country’s anti-terrorism laws.
TLP leader Saad Rizvi was arrested on April 12 in the eastern city of Lahore for “maintaining public order”, bringing crowds of his supporters into the streets of Pakistani cities.
Police said Rizvi had been charged under anti-terrorism laws.
In November, thousands of TLP supporters clashed with police and captured a major intersection leading to Islamabad, blocking access to the capital.
Anti-France protests have erupted in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan, after French President Emmanuel Macron defended the right to publish cartoons, including those deemed offensive by some Muslims.
Macron’s comments came after a French teacher was killed by an Islamist for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, originally published in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, during a free speech class in September 2020 .
With reports from Reuters, AFP and Dawn