Islamabad, capital city of Pakistan, made headlines at early morning when authorities started an operation against the participants of a sit-in protest at Faizabad area of Islamabad. Following the operation, a series of agitation started in different parts of country paralyzing daily life and causing injuries due to clashes among protestors and law enforcement agencies.
The protest was being staged by a religious party for the last 20 days demanding resignation and action against the federal law minister Zahid Hamid. The controversy started with an alleged amendment incorporated by the law makers in an oath that every parliamentarian has to swear in as a Muslim.
The after effects of the law and order situation in capital and other major cities of the country were managed in a way that government decided to block news channels along with social media platforms in the country. This is a one of its kind move by the authorities as across-the-board ban on TV channels and social media has never been put in place in history of Pakistan.
Private News Channels Went Off Air in Pakistan
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued an unprecedented directive asking TV channels to block live coverage of Faizabad operation. The PEMRA issued a letter to all media houses and cable operators, under the instructions of Prime Minister Abbasi, stating that since coverage of any live operation is prohibited, therefore all satellite TV channels are directed to exhibit utmost sensitivity on the matter.
Following the instructions of the media regulator, cable operators and other TV service providers like PTCL Smart and NayaTel immediately put all the private news channels to a blackout. However, live streaming of TV channels on internet is still working and accessible in Pakistan.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Blocked in Pakistan
After putting off-air the News channels, the government of Pakistan has apparently ordered ISPs to block Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in Pakistan. ARY News is claiming that Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are ordered to be blocked in Pakistan.
Although there is no official announcement made in this regard but we have checked social media websites are not accessible on desktop, mobile browsers and smartphone apps.
Update 1 – Daily Motion & Instagram Blocked
Following the shutdown of social media giants, it seems that government has further extended its crackdown on other websites like Daily Motion, Instagram and some other social networking websites as well.
Likewise, a popular website ZemTV.com has also been blocked. Not to mention the website shares important news based on video clipping from local TV channels.
Update 2 – Army Deployed in Islamabad
The interior ministry on Saturday evening issued a notification regarding the deployment of Pakistan Army in the federal capital after fierce clashes between security forces and Tehreek-e-Labaik activists turned violent.
The federal government has summoned the troops exercising its authority under Article 245 of the Constitution that reads: “The Armed Forces shall, under the directions of the Federal Government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so.”
Further, some new powers have been given to Pakistan Army under article 245, and according to new order, army can shoot anyone after one warning. Similarly, the troops can arrest, search anyone without any warrants. All the power rests with the commander of 111 brigade of the Pakistan military.
Update 3 – PEMRA Orders to Restore News Channels and Social Media
A meeting between Prime Minister Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa concluded in a way that army would be deployed only to safeguard national assets and important buildings of the capital. Moreover, the COAS advised the PM to restore private news channels and social media platforms in order to conspiracy theories and false news propagating therein.
Following the meeting, Ministry of Information asked PEMRA to revise its yesterday’s decision. As a result a notification issued by PEMRA lifts ban from current affairs channels and social networking websites and apps.