X disrupted in Pakistan for third day

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - ISLAMABAD, Feb 20 — Social media platform X was disrupted across Pakistan for a third day today, after a general election marred by allegations of rigging.

The platform was downed on Saturday night when a senior government official made a public admission of vote manipulation in the February 8 polls.

“X has been inaccessible in Pakistan (since Saturday), because it is used by the public to protest,” Usama Khilji, a digital rights activist told AFP.

AFP staff reported that the app remained disrupted in the capital Islamabad as well as the mega cities of Lahore and Karachi on Tuesday.

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Pakistan’s telecommunications and interior ministries did not respond to requests for comment.

Jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party called for nationwide protests after the admission of vote rigging on Saturday, with a small number of supporters taking to the streets in urban areas.

PTI defied a months-long crackdown that restricted its campaigning and forced candidates to run as independents, with PTI-backed candidates gaining more seats than any other party.

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But it has been unwilling to enter a coalition with its opponents, paving the way for the PML-N party to form the next government.

Mobile internet services were cut across the country on polling day, with the interior ministry citing security reasons.

The blackout, coupled with a long delay in issuing results, gave rise to allegations of rigging.

PTI also faced online censorship in the build up to the election.

Pakistani internet freedom watchdog Bytes For All recorded four separate hours-long social media shutdowns in January — cutting off access to TikTok, , Instagram and YouTube while Khan’s PTI live-streamed to its supporters.

Blackouts were blamed on “technical difficulties” by the government.

The party’s main website was also blocked in January and, within hours, a seemingly perfect duplicate appeared — except that it contained disinformation meant to confuse voters. — AFP

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