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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pakistan’s internet disrupted during rally by Imran Khan’s party

In this photograph taken on Nov. 1, 2022, Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks while taking part in an anti-government march in Gujranwala. (Arif Ali/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)  (ARIF ALI/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Kamran Haider Bloomberg News

Pakistan experienced an internet disruption that made social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, X and Instagram inaccessible while jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party held a virtual election rally.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, called the outage a move against free speech. Malaha Obaid, a spokeswoman for Pakistan’s telecom authority, said she was unaware of the incident.

Candidates for Khan’s party are kicking off their campaign for a general election on Feb. 8, where they’re running as independents after a Supreme Court ruling against the party. A similar internet outage happened in early January during a virtual fundraising drive by the PTI.

Internet users in Pakistan started seeing the breakdown Saturday evening. Nayatel, an Islamabad-based internet provider, told customers in an audio message that it was acting on the instructions of Pakistani authorities.

The former cricket star’s party has complained of unfair pre-election treatment by the authorities after he failed to secure a temporary release from prison, where he’s being held because of more than 170 cases against him.

Khan has been barred from contesting elections for five years after a court convicted in a graft case in August. He says the cases are politically motivated.