Pakistan Suspends Social Media Platforms Following Violent Protests

Following violent protests by a radical religious party that has now been outlawed by the government, Pakistan has temporarily suspended the services of social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp to prevent them from being used to organize demonstrations.

Following three days of violent protests to compel the government to expel the French ambassador over a blasphemous caricature published in France last year, the government outlawed Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) on Thursday.

Following the arrest of its leader, Saad Hussain Rizvi, the TLP organized a nationwide protest on Monday. Earlier this week, TLP supporters clashed with law enforcement officers in many towns and cities, killing seven people and injuring over 300 cops.

The Interior Ministry ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to suspend social media services for four hours on April 16th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. PST (GMT+5) to prevent protests after Friday prayers.

The PTA did not provide a reason for the suspension, but official sources said it was suspected that demonstrators would use social media to organize demonstrations. In Pakistan, suspending internet and cell phone services is a common practice to prevent demonstrations and terrorist attacks.

However, only social media has been targeted this time since the TLP was allegedly using it successfully to counteract government action. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the Interior Minister, cautioned the TLP on Thursday not to use YouTube to distribute propaganda images.