Pakistan Temporarily Blocks Social Media Platforms Amid Protests
Platforms that will be blocked from 11 am to 3 pm are Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Instagram.
Pakistan on Friday, 16 April, ordered a temporary shutdown of social media after days of violent anti-France protests in the country, reported AFP. The temporary ban will be in place from 11 am to 3 pm on Friday.
A notice from the country’s Telecommunication Authority said that platforms that will be unavailable include Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Instagram.
The suspension comes ahead of more expected protests amid the crackdown against the extremist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s supporters protesting the ban against the group.
THE ARREST OF RIZVI
On Monday, Saad Rizvi, the chief of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), was arrested in Lahore to "maintain law and order", said Ghulam Mohammad Dogar, chief of Lahore police.
Rizvi had called on the Imran Khan government to honour what he said was a commitment it made to TLP in February to expel the French envoy before 20 April over the publication in France of depictions of the Prophet.
Rizvi reportedly threatened the government with mass protests if it did not expel French envoy Marc Baréty.
According to interior minister Sheikh RashidAhmed, Rizvi’s demand could not be accepted as the expulsion of the French ambassador and ban on French products could harm the country’s national interest, he added that the supporters of Rizvi will be sternly dealt with.
PROTESTS AND THE BAN
Rizvi’s arrest sparked violent protests by his followers, who staged sit-ins on highways and later blocked roads in major cities. For at least three days, TLP protesters choked Pakistan. Angry mobs clashed with security forces, resulting in the death of two policemen and leaving 580 others wounded. Three protesters also died in the clashes with police, reported AP.
On Wednesday, the Pakistan government decided to impose a ban on the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan under the anti-terrorism law.
Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed announced on Wednesday that the file will be taken to the Federal Cabinet for approval, adding that the decision was taken on the request of the Punjab government.
On Thursday evening, Islamabad formally issued a notification to outlaw the radical party which has been holding anti-France protests since last year.
THE INCIDENTS IN 2020
In November last year, TLP had staged a sit-in in Rawalpindi demanding expulsion of the French Ambassador over publication of blasphemous caricatures.
Tehreek-e-Labiak had denounced French President Emmanuel Macron, saying he tried to defend caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad as freedom of expression. This came in the wake of Macron’s comments late 2020 after the beheading of a school teacher in France by a young Muslim.
The protest brought the capital Islamabad and other major cities to a complete standstill as highways were choked by the protestors and violent confrontations with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons were used by security forces to disperse the mob.
However, the group ended the protest after reaching an agreement with the government, claiming that all of its four demands had been accepted.
The government had agreed to involve the parliament to decide the matter of expulsion of French Ambassador within three months. As the deadline ended on 16 February and the government failed to meet the agreement terms, TLP decided to take to the streets again with the same demand, reported IANS.
HOW DID FRANCE REACT TO THE PROTESTS NOW?
The French Embassy in Pakistan has advised all its nationals and French companies to temporarily leave the country.
"Due to serious threats to French interests in Pakistan, French nationals and French companies are advised to temporarily leave the country," the Embassy said, according to IANS.
"We can confirm that we have sent a precautionary note to all our citizens in Pakistan, advising them to temporarily leave the country if possible due to the recent protests that have graver security threats and put its citizens at risk," said French Embassy's press attache Veronique Wagner.
"The departures will be carried out by the existing commercial airlines," she added.
(With inputs from IANS, AP and AFP)
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