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Business News/ News / World/  US calls on Pakistan to lift internet shutdowns, social media restrictions
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US calls on Pakistan to lift internet shutdowns, social media restrictions

Pakistan Elections: US said it is concerned by reports of restrictions on the exercise of the freedom of expression in Pakistan

Supporters of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), an alliance of political parties, carry flags as they gather for a sit-in protest against, what they call election rigging and are demanding free and fair results of the general elections along the main Highway in Jamshoro, Pakistan (REUTERS)Premium
Supporters of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), an alliance of political parties, carry flags as they gather for a sit-in protest against, what they call election rigging and are demanding free and fair results of the general elections along the main Highway in Jamshoro, Pakistan (REUTERS)

The United States on Wednesday condemned the internet shutdowns in Pakistan, including the restrictions on social media platforms, and has urged the Pakistani government to lift them.

Internet outages, and restrictions on social media applications like X (formerly Twitter) were imposed in Pakistan on Saturday after a senior government official made a public admission of vote manipulation in the February 8 election.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Wednesday said that the US is concerned by reports of restrictions on the exercise of the freedom of expression and association in Pakistan, "including the partial or complete government-imposed internet shutdowns, which includes, of course, on social media platforms." 

He added that Washington continues to call on Pakistan to respect freedom of expression and "restore access to any social media that has been restricted, including Twitter, now known as X." Miller said the US concerns had been communicated to Pakistan through official channels.

"We have and we will continue to emphasize the importance of respecting these fundamental freedoms during our engagements with Pakistani officials," he added.

The global internet monitor, Netblocks, has cited instances of restrictions related to election fraud. "Metrics show that X/Twitter remains largely restricted in Pakistan past the four-day mark; imposed on Saturday as disclosures relating to election fraud circulated on the platform," Netblocks said.

Pakistanis went to the polls earlier this month. Accusations of vote rigging have arisen due to unusually delayed results in an election marked by a mobile internet shutdown on polling day. 

United States, Britain and the European Union have separately expressed concerns about Pakistan's electoral process in the wake of the elections.

The United States has called for an investigation of fraud claims but declined to comment on the makeup of the coalition, which will need to be formally approved by the National Assembly.

"As is the case whenever you see coalition politics taking place inside any given country, that's a decision for that country itself, not something that we would weigh in on," Miller said.

Pakistan was a Cold War ally of the United States and offered logistical support for the war in Afghanistan, but relations soured over US charges that covert Pakistani support helped the Taliban return to power and the more recent US embrace of Pakistan's rival India.

The two main dynastic parties, the army-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), late Tuesday announced a coalition with smaller parties to govern the world's fifth most populous nation.

(With agency inputs)

 

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Published: 22 Feb 2024, 10:36 AM IST
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