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Internet went offline in Pakistan as protestors marched for ousted prime minister

Two hour outage 'consistent with an intentional disruption to service' said NetBlocks

Internet interruption-watcher NetBlocks has reported internet outages across Pakistan on Wednesday, perhaps timed to coincide with large public protests over the ousting of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The watchdog organisation asserted that outages started after 5:00PM and lasted for about two hours. NetBlocks referred to them as “consistent with an intentional disruption to service.”

“The disruption affects service at the network layer and cannot be readily worked around through the use of VPN services. Some service remains available via alternative internet providers,” NetBlocks stated.

Khan was removed from office on 10 April after becoming Pakistan’s first prime minister to lose a vote of no confidence in parliament.

Supporters of the cricketer-turned-politician alleged that the opposition has colluded with the United States, which is not keen on Khan's independent foreign policy choices and friendly relations with Russia and China.

Khan himself called on supporter to stage rallies and protest, which they did.

A planned protest march with Khan at the helm was banned by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah after a police officer was killed during raids at homes of members of Khan's PTI party, the party Khan belongs to, Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, authorities fired teargas, baton-charges supports and blocked roads leading to the capital to prevent the rally.

On Thursday Khan retreated from the protests, stating he would give the new government, led by Shehbaz Sharif, six days to dissolve assemblies and declare fresh elections.

NetBlocks notes that “Pakistan has a history of imposing nationwide internet restrictions at times of unrest.”

This history includes internet shutdowns during protest movements in 2021 - on Khan's watch - and in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where 4.5 million people have had little or no internet access since 2016.

Khan became prime minister in 2018.

NetBlocks said it “recommends against the use of social media platform restrictions to counter protests, given their disproportionate impact to fundamental rights including freedom of expression and freedom assembly.” ®

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