Pakistan faces Internet disruptions ahead of ex-PM Khan party’s ‘virtual rally’

Pakistan faces Internet disruptions ahead of ex-PM Khan party’s ‘virtual rally’
This undated file illustration shows social media media applications, X and Facebook, logo. (Reuters/File)
Short Url
Updated 17 February 2024
Follow

Pakistan faces Internet disruptions ahead of ex-PM Khan party’s ‘virtual rally’

Pakistan faces Internet disruptions ahead of ex-PM Khan party’s ‘virtual rally’
  • London-based NetBlocks says its metrics suggest countrywide shutdown of all social media platforms in Pakistan
  • Ex-PM Imran Khan’s party said the central leadership was scheduled to address the rally to mobilize public for polls

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan experienced nationwide Internet and social media disruptions ahead of a “virtual rally” organized on Saturday by former prime minister Imran Khan’s party, an independent Internet watchdog confirmed, weeks before the upcoming national elections.

The outage of Facebook, X, Instagram and YouTube is the second in two weeks coinciding with online campaign events organized by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

The event by Khan’s party was due to broadcast PTI speeches by livestream but Internet disruptions began in the early evening, before it began.

“Live metrics show a nation-scale disruption to social media platforms across Pakistan, including X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube,” NetBlocks, a London-based Internet watchdog, said on X.

“The incident comes as persecuted opposition leader Imran Khan’s political party, PTI, launches its second virtual gathering.”

The PTI criticized the caretaker government for the outage on Saturday.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), which regulates internet in the country, said the disruption was caused by a “technical fault.”

“The recent disruption in internet services was caused by a technical fault, which has been promptly rectified,” the PTA said on X. “Internet services have been fully restored nationwide.”

Elections scheduled for February 8 have been marred by allegations of pre-poll rigging, with Khan and his party accusing the caretaker government and the military of trying to prevent the PTI from winning a considerable number of seats. The government and the military deny it.

Khan is facing a number of court cases against him and is currently incarcerated in a high-security prison in Rawalpindi after being convicted in a graft case in August. His party has been striving to launch its election campaign in his absence and announced Saturday’s virtual public gathering on X.

Earlier this month, similar Internet disruptions marred the PTI’s online campaign launch event.


Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’

Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’
Updated 20 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’

Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’
  • Army says adversaries are using Afghanistan to target security forces and civilians inside Pakistan
  • In veiled reference to ex-PM Khan and his party, army says will defeat “politically motivated digital terrorism” 

ISLAMABAD: The top commanders of the Pakistan army met on Thursday and discussed ‘serious concerns’ about cross-border attacks they said were orchestrated by militants using safe havens in neighboring Afghanistan, as well as the use of social media by “politically motivated” internal actors to sow discord between the military and the public.
The views were expressed at the 83rd Formation Commanders Conference held at the military’s GHQ headquarters in Rawalpindi and attended by Army Chief General Asim Munir, all corps commanders, principal staff officers and formation commanders of the Pakistan army.
In a press conference held earlier this month, Pakistan’s military had said a suicide bombing in March that killed five Chinese engineers was planned in neighboring Afghanistan, and that the bomber was an Afghan national. Previously also, the government and army have blamed militants harboring in Afghanistan for a surge in attacks in Pakistan.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have soured in recent months as Islamabad says Kabul is not doing enough to tackle militant groups targeting Pakistan. In March, Pakistan also carried out airstrikes targeting militants on Afghan territory. The Taliban have rejected Islamabad’s accusations, saying Pakistan is responsible for its own security challenges.
Since late last year, Pakistan has expelled almost half a million undocumented Afghan nationals, saying the majority of suicide attacks against its security forces were carried out by Afghans, a charge Kabul rejects.
“The forum expressed serious concerns over continued cross-border violations from Afghanistan and terrorism being orchestrated using Afghan soil, noting that Pakistan’s adversaries were using Afghanistan to target Security Forces and innocent civilians inside Pakistan,” a statement from the army said after the corp commanders’ meeting on Thursday.
Talking about internal challenges, the statement, in a veiled reference to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, said “politically motivated and vested digital terrorism” had been unleashed by “conspirators duly abetted by their foreign cohorts against state institutions.”
“[It] is clearly meant to try to induce despondency in the Pakistani nation, to sow discord among national institutions, especially the Armed Forces, and the people of Pakistan by peddling blatant lies, fake news, and propaganda,” the statement said. 
“However, the nation is fully cognizant of their ugly and ulterior motives and surely the designs of these nefarious forces will be comprehensively defeated.”
The military remains the country’s most powerful institution and has for decades had a huge role in making and breaking governments. Khan accuses the military of a crackdown on him and his party, which the army denies.
Although Khan is widely believed to have been brought to power in 2018 with the backing of the army, he fell out with top generals and by April 2022 was ousted from the PM’s office in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. He has since led a defiant campaign against the army, which he accuses of working with his political rivals to unseat him. 
Tensions between Khan and the army reached a crescendo on May 9 last year when alleged supporters of the PTI attacked and damaged government and military installations. Hundreds of PTI supporters and leaders were arrested following the riots and some continue to remain behind bars as they await trial. The army has also initiated military court trials of at least 103 people accused of involvement in the violence. Many close Khan aides have since deserted him, due to what is widely believed to be pressure from the army, which denies interfering in politics.
“The planners, perpetrators, abettors, and facilitators of 9th May need to be brought to justice for the collective good of the country, and that without swift and transparent dispensation of justice to the culprits and establishing the rule of law, stability in the country will ever remain hostage to the machinations of such elements,” the army statement concluded. 
Khan and the PTI say the May riots have been used as a ruse by political rivals and the military to crack down on the party, which is arguably the most popular in Pakistan. Khan has also been indicted under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism law in connection with the violence. A section of Pakistan’s 1997 anti-terrorism act prescribes the death penalty as maximum punishment. Khan has denied the charges, saying he was in detention when the violence took place.
Khan was also handed four court convictions ahead of Feb. 8 general elections, which ruled him out of the polls as convicted individuals cannot run for public office under Pakistani law. Khan says all the cases are motivated to keep him away from politics.


Azerbaijan’s foreign minister meets deputy PM amid Pakistan’s push for increased trade, investment

Azerbaijan’s foreign minister meets deputy PM amid Pakistan’s push for increased trade, investment
Updated 30 May 2024
Follow

Azerbaijan’s foreign minister meets deputy PM amid Pakistan’s push for increased trade, investment

Azerbaijan’s foreign minister meets deputy PM amid Pakistan’s push for increased trade, investment
  • Pakistan is interested in LNG supplies from Azerbaijan, views the relationship as significant for its energy security
  • The two countries have also grown stronger ties in recent years in other areas including defense, trade and culture

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov held a meeting with Pakistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday amid a flurry of diplomatic activity between the South Asian state and the Central Asian region, as Pakistani authorities strive for greater trade and investment to boost their ailing economy.
The relations between Pakistan and Azerbaijan have been growing stronger in recent years, particularly in the areas of defense, energy and trade. Last year, the two countries signed an agreement related to the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Azerbaijan to Pakistan at discounted rates to bolster Pakistan’s energy reserves and help address its energy challenges.
On the defense front, military cooperation also deepened with joint military exercises and Azerbaijan’s interest in purchasing JF-17 Thunder fighter jets from Pakistan, reflecting a robust partnership aimed at enhancing their strategic and security capabilities.
Politically as well, the two nations continue to support each other’s key territorial and diplomatic stances on international platforms, reinforcing their political collaboration and mutual geopolitical interests.
“Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov @Bayramov_Jeyhun has arrived at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad,” the foreign office said in a social media post. “He was received by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar @MIshaqDar50.”
“They will hold comprehensive talks on bilateral and regional issues,” it added.

 
The visiting dignitary arrived in Islamabad on a two-day visit on Wednesday night and is expected to meet Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during his stay in the country.
Pakistan, which has witnessed a prolonged economic crisis, has sought financial assistance from international lenders and friendly nations. More recently, its officials have shown a greater interest in generating trade with other nations and are seeking foreign investment to reform the economy over the long term.
This month, Pakistani officials announced the United Arab Emirates would invest $10 billion in various sectors, with hopes of securing additional funds from other parts of the Gulf region.
Relations with Azerbaijan are viewed as important for the country’s energy security, as Pakistani officials seek to generate more economic activity in the country in the foreseeable future.


476 Pakistani Hajj assistants arrive in Saudi Arabia to facilitate pilgrims

476 Pakistani Hajj assistants arrive in Saudi Arabia to facilitate pilgrims
Updated 30 May 2024
Follow

476 Pakistani Hajj assistants arrive in Saudi Arabia to facilitate pilgrims

476 Pakistani Hajj assistants arrive in Saudi Arabia to facilitate pilgrims
  • This year Pakistan chose 550 individuals to assist local pilgrims during Hajj pilgrimage
  • Four hundred and fifty-seven assistants are in Makkah, 19 in Madinah, says official

ISLAMABAD: Four hundred and seventy-six Hajj assistants or “Moavineen” have arrived in Saudi Arabia to assist pilgrims in the cities of Makkah and Madinah weeks before the annual Islamic pilgrimage begins, a Pakistan Hajj Mission official confirmed on Wednesday.
Pakistan selects hundreds of doctors and assistants each year to facilitate local pilgrims in Saudi Arabia during Hajj. These assistants provide Pakistani pilgrims with guidance regarding the pilgrimage, the holy sites in Makkah and Madinah as well as logistical support and medical aid if necessary.
Pakistan chose 550 individuals this year as volunteers to assist pilgrims during Hajj. In a first, candidates had to pass the National Testing Service (NTS) exam to qualify for the service.
“Five hundred and fifty support staff have been selected this year through the third-party NTS after conducting written and physical tests,” Pakistan’s director-general of Hajj, Abdul Wahab Soomro, told Arab News.
“Total 476 support staff have reached Saudi Arabia till date and out of these, 457 are performing duties in Makkah and the remaining 19 are presently posted in Madinah,” he added.
Soomro said 297 individuals have been assigned building management duties while 101 are responsible for transportation.
“Forty-five have been assigned food responsibilities, seven are in the mission’s control office, four are in the inspection cell, two are in the departure cell and one is in the lost and found cell in Makkah,” he said.
Soomro said the assistants’ deployment would be changed as per the requirements.
More than 41,000 Pakistani pilgrims have arrived in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah since May 9, Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs has confirmed.
The month-long pre-flight Hajj operation is expected to last till June 9.
Around 179,210 Pakistanis will perform Hajj under both the government and private schemes, with this year’s pilgrimage expected to run from June 14-19.


Four Pakistanis killed by Iranian border guards in remote southwestern region — officials

Four Pakistanis killed by Iranian border guards in remote southwestern region — officials
Updated 30 May 2024
Follow

Four Pakistanis killed by Iranian border guards in remote southwestern region — officials

Four Pakistanis killed by Iranian border guards in remote southwestern region — officials
  • The incident happened in Balochistan after a vehicle carrying a group of Pakistanis was targeted
  • Pakistani officials say it is unclear why the Iranian border security guards decided to open fire

QUETTA: Iranian border guards opened fire at a vehicle carrying a group of Pakistanis, killing four people and wounding two others in a remote area in the southwest, Pakistani officials said Thursday.
The incident happened near the border village of Mashkel in Balochistan province on Wednesday, local police said. Government administrator Sahibzada Asfand said it was unclear why the Iranian forces opened fire.
Local police say the bodies of the four men had been handed over to their families.
There was no immediate comment from Tehran or Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.
Security forces on both sides often arrest smugglers and insurgents who operate in the region. Pakistan in tit-for-tat strikes in January targeted alleged militant hideouts inside Iran, killing at least nine people in retaliation for a similar attack by Iran.


Over 41,000 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia via 170 flights

Over 41,000 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia via 170 flights
Updated 30 May 2024
Follow

Over 41,000 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia via 170 flights

Over 41,000 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia via 170 flights
  • Pakistan is using a mobile app, toll-free helplines and WhatsApp numbers to address pilgrims’ complaints
  • Nearly 280 doctors, medical staff are helping pilgrims at two central hospitals and a dozen dispensaries

ISLAMABAD: More than 41,000 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia on 170 flights since the government started transporting people aspiring to perform the annual pilgrimage earlier this month, said a statement released by the religious affairs ministry on Thursday.
This year, the Pakistani Hajj Mission in the kingdom expects to host 70,105 people under the government scheme and more than 80,000 facilitated by private companies
“As of today, 41,477 government Hajj pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia on 170 flights,” the ministry said in its statement. “In the next ten days, an additional 28,628 government Hajj pilgrims will reach Makkah.”
It informed that more than 10,500 pilgrims had already arrived in the kingdom under the private Hajj scheme, adding that all pilgrims that first went to Madinah would reach Makkah by June 1.
“The Pak Hajj mobile app, two toll-free helplines, and four WhatsApp numbers are being used to address the complaints of Hajj pilgrims,” the ministry said.
“282 doctors and medical staff are providing medical facilities through two central hospitals and a dozen dispensaries,” it added.
It also said 454 food-related, 1,123 residential and 264 transport complaints had been resolved by the mission in the last 20 days.
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and requires every adult Muslim to undertake the journey to the holy Islamic sites in Makkah at least once in their lifetime, if they are financially and physically able.
Pakistan began its Hajj flight operation on May 9, which will continue till June 9.
This year’s pilgrimage is expected to run from June 14 till June 19.