Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says

Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says
A man uses the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, on his phone at a market in Islamabad on April 17, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 17 April 2024
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Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says

Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says
  • Millions of users have reportedly faced problems using X in Pakistan since mid-February
  • Decision to ban X done to maintain public order, preserve nation’s integrity, says ministry

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interior ministry said on Wednesday it had blocked access to social media platform X around the time of February’s election on national security concerns, confirming a long-suspected shutdown.
Users in Pakistan have reported problems using X, formerly known as Twitter, since mid-February, but the government had made no official announcement on the matter until now.
The interior ministry mentioned the shutdown in a written submission to Islamabad High Court on Wednesday. Another court has told the government to reconsider the ban within a week, said Abdul Moiz Jafri, a petitioner and advocate.
“It is very pertinent to mention here that the failure of Twitter/X to adhere to the lawful directives of the government of Pakistan and address concerns regarding the misuse of its platform necessitated the imposition of a ban,” the ministry said in its court submission, which was seen by Reuters.
“The decision to impose a ban on Twitter/X in Pakistan was made in the interest of upholding national security, maintaining public order, and preserving the integrity of our nation,” the ministry report said.
It said X had been reluctant to resolve the issue. X said in a post that it continues to work with Pakistan’s government to understand its concerns.
Access to X has remained limited since the Feb. 8 national election, which the party of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan says was rigged.
KHAN’S PARTY IS BIG USER OF X
Among Pakistan’s political parties, Khan’s party is the most prolific user of social media platforms, particularly after the country’s traditional media began censoring news about the ex-cricket star and his party ahead of the polls. Khan has over 20 million followers on X, making him the most followed Pakistani.
Khan says Pakistan’s military was behind his ouster as prime minister in 2022 and that it helped his opponents form the current government, despite candidates backed by his party winning most seats in February’s election. The military denies this charge.
He remains in jail on a number of convictions, most of which came days before the election.
Many government officials in Pakistan, notably Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, continue to use X — most likely through VPN software that bypasses the blocks.
The decision to temporarily block X was taken after considering confidential reports from Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies, the ministry report said.
It said “hostile elements operating on Twitter/X have nefarious intentions to create an environment of chaos and instability, with the ultimate goal of destabilising the country and plunging it into some form of anarchy.”
Rights groups and marketing advertisers have raised concerns.
Digital rights activist Usama Khilji said the block on X seemed designed to hinder the democratic accountability which he said a platform with instant updates of real-time information enables, especially amid the allegations and evidence of rigging which surfaced following the election.
Marketing consultant Saif Ali said: “It has become nearly impossible to convince Pakistani advertisers to invest in Twitter for brand communications, due to the platform being throttled by governmental authorities.”


Pakistan PM calls for minimizing load shedding amid heatwave, urges steps against power theft

Pakistan PM calls for minimizing load shedding amid heatwave, urges steps against power theft
Updated 32 sec ago
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Pakistan PM calls for minimizing load shedding amid heatwave, urges steps against power theft

Pakistan PM calls for minimizing load shedding amid heatwave, urges steps against power theft
  • Power outages are not uncommon in Pakistan during the summer months when the demand on the national grid spikes sharply
  • Pakistan’s power sector has also been plagued by high rates of power theft and distribution losses, leading to huge debts

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday urged authorities to minimize load shedding in Pakistan amid an ongoing heatwave and to take steps against power theft in the country, his office said.

The directives were issued during a meeting Sharif presided over in Islamabad to review the supply of electricity, load management and measures against power theft in parts of the country.

Power outages are not uncommon in Pakistan during the summer months when the demand on the national grid spikes sharply due to the widespread use of air conditioners and desert coolers.

These seasonal surges often lead to prolonged power outages, which fuel public discontent, particularly during the intense heatwaves that have swept across Pakistan in recent years.

“The situation of [power] load management in extreme heat should be improved, keeping the convenience of the public in view,” Sharif was quoted as saying by his office.

“Provincial governments and law enforcement agencies should fully support the anti-electricity theft campaign.”

The South Asian nation’s power sector has been plagued by high rates of power theft and distribution losses, resulting in accumulating debts across the production chain — a concern also raised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during recent bailout talks.

The government of PM Sharif has recently launched a campaign to curb power theft in the country to avoid huge financial losses.

The prime minister said he would personally review progress on the drive against power theft, urging authorities to ensure that consumers were not charged excessive bills.

“The national interest and the development and prosperity of the country require that all the government institutions perform their responsibilities effectively against electricity theft,” he added.


Climate change caused 26 extra days of extreme heat in last year — report

Climate change caused 26 extra days of extreme heat in last year — report
Updated 53 min 56 sec ago
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Climate change caused 26 extra days of extreme heat in last year — report

Climate change caused 26 extra days of extreme heat in last year — report
  • In total, 76 extreme heatwaves were registered in 90 countries on every continent except Antarctica
  • Already this year, extreme heatwaves have afflicted swathes of the globe from Mexico to Pakistan

PARIS: The world experienced an average of 26 more days of extreme heat over the last 12 months that would probably not have occurred without climate change, a report said on Tuesday.

Heat is the leading cause of climate-related death and the report further points to the role of global warming in increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather around the world.

For this study, scientists used the years 1991 to 2020 to determine what temperatures counted as within the top 10 percent for each country over that period.

Next, they looked at the 12 months to May 15, 2024, to establish how many days over that period experienced temperatures within — or beyond — the previous range.

Then, using peer-reviewed methods, they examined the influence of climate change on each of these excessively hot days.

They concluded that “human-caused climate change added — on average, across all places in the world — 26 more days of extreme heat than there would have been without it.”

The report was published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, the World Weather Attribution scientific network and the nonprofit research organization Climate Central.

2023 was the hottest year on record, according to the European Union’s climate monitor, Copernicus.

Already this year, extreme heatwaves have afflicted swathes of the globe from Mexico to Pakistan.

The report said that in the last 12 months some 6.3 billion people — roughly 80 percent of the global population — experienced at least 31 days of what is classed as extreme heat.

In total, 76 extreme heatwaves were registered in 90 different countries on every continent except Antarctica.

Five of the most affected nations were in Latin America.

The report said that without the influence of climate change, Suriname would have recorded an estimated 24 extreme heat days instead of 182; Ecuador 10 not 180; Guyana 33 not 174, El Salvador 15 not 163; and Panama 12 not 149.

“(Extreme heat) is known to have killed tens of thousands of people over the last 12 months but the real number is likely in the hundreds of thousands or even millions,” the Red Cross said in a statement.

“Flooding and hurricanes may capture the headlines but the impacts of extreme heat are equally deadly,” said Jagan Chapagain, secretary general of the International Federation of the Red Cross.


‘Welcome development,’ says Pakistan as Spain, Norway, Ireland to recognize Palestinian state today

‘Welcome development,’ says Pakistan as Spain, Norway, Ireland to recognize Palestinian state today
Updated 28 May 2024
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‘Welcome development,’ says Pakistan as Spain, Norway, Ireland to recognize Palestinian state today

‘Welcome development,’ says Pakistan as Spain, Norway, Ireland to recognize Palestinian state today
  • Three European states have said they will formally recognize Palestinian state from May 28
  • This followed recognitions by Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday congratulated Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez for pushing ahead with a decision to recognize a Palestinian state from today, Tuesday, as the European nation joins Ireland and Norway in implementing last week’s announcement.

The prime ministers of Spain, Ireland and Norway made the announcement on Wednesday, following recent recognitions by Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas. The additions have brought the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to nearly 150.

“The recognition of the reality of Palestine by a country like Spain is a positive and welcome development on the international scene,” Sharif said in a statement released by his office.

“Honorable [Spanish PM] Pedro Sanchez and the people of Spain have rejected the ongoing historical oppression and usurpation ambitions of Israel on innocent Palestinians with this decision.”

By joining more than 140 of the 193 member-states of the United Nations that recognize a Palestinian state, Madrid, Dublin and Oslo have said they sought to accelerate efforts to secure a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

“This is a historic decision that has a single objective: that Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace,” Sanchez said in a televised address before a cabinet meeting that will formally approve the measure.

Spain will recognize a unified Palestinian state, including the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, under the Palestinian National Authority with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said.

The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under Israeli military occupation, has welcomed the decision.

Sanchez said Madrid will not recognize any changes to pre-1967 borders unless agreed to by both parties.

“It’s the only way of advancing toward what everyone recognizes as the only possible solution to achieve a peaceful future, one of a Palestinian state that lives side by side with the Israeli state in peace and security,” he added.

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs said last week it would upgrade its representative office in Ramallah in the West Bank to an embassy and appoint an ambassador and upgrade the status of the Palestinian mission in Ireland to an embassy.

The three countries say they hope their decision will spur other European Union countries to follow suit.

Israel has repeatedly condemned the move, insisting that it bolsters Hamas, which staged the Oct. 7 attack on Israel from its Gaza base.

“Sanchez, when you... recognize a Palestinian state, you are complicit in incitement to genocide against the Jewish people and in war crimes,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote on X on Tuesday.

The Palestinian flag was flying outside the Irish parliament as the government was set to approve the recognition in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning.

“The people of Ireland know that a two-state solution is the only way to bring peace and stability to people in Israel, and to people in Palestine,” Prime Minister Simon Harris told journalists before the cabinet meeting.

-With inputs from Reuters


Journalist with Pakistan’s ARY News ‘taken’ by officers, whereabouts unknown — family 

Journalist with Pakistan’s ARY News ‘taken’ by officers, whereabouts unknown — family 
Updated 28 May 2024
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Journalist with Pakistan’s ARY News ‘taken’ by officers, whereabouts unknown — family 

Journalist with Pakistan’s ARY News ‘taken’ by officers, whereabouts unknown — family 
  • Journalist Hafiz Maaz Bin Khalid works as a Digital Media Coordinator for ARY News
  • Video shows police taking Khalid from his house in a police van early Tuesday morning 

KARACHI: The father of a journalist from one of Pakistan’s top television news networks said on Tuesday he was picked up from his home in Karachi city by plain-clothes and uniformed officials and his whereabouts were unknown while the family feared for his safety.

The journalist, Hafiz Maaz Bin Khalid, works as a Digital Media Coordinator for ARY News. A video shared with media by the family showed officers taking Khalid away in a police van from Karachi’s Buffer Zone area early on Tuesday morning. 

“They arrived in three mobile vans and a double cabin, climbed over the wall, and took my son with them, claiming they were taking him for investigation to the Crime Investigation Agency center,” Khalil Ur Rehman, the journalist’s father, told Arab News, adding that officers, who were both in police uniform and plain clothes, did not produce warrants when asked. 

“They took him along with his national identity card and mobile phone. When I went to the CIA center, I was told my son was not brought there. I am unaware of his whereabouts,” the father added.

“They had informed us that they were taking Maaz for questioning for an hour. Almost ten hours have passed, but we are still unaware.”

Senior Superintendent of Police Zeeshan Siddiqui told Arab News police had not arrested the journalist and declined further comment. Neither police nor family commented on why Khalid might have been arrested but two of his colleagues at ARY who declined to be named said they believed it was over recent social media posts critical of the army and police.

Journalists in Pakistan are increasingly reporting on growing media censorship, with many blaming Pakistan’s powerful military for putting pressure on critical voices. The military and the government deny they suppress the press. 

In a report released on May 3 to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, the International Federation of Journalists watchdog said more than 300 people associated with the information industry in Pakistan had faced repressive state tactics designed to quell dissent during the course of about a year.

“Over 300 journalists and bloggers this year were affected by state coercion and targeted, including dozens of journalists arrested for durations between several hours to four weeks and nearly 60 served legal notices or summons for their journalism work or personal dissent online,” the IFJ Pakistan country report for 2023-2024 said. “At least eight were charged for alleged sedition, terrorism and incitement to violence – all serious charges carrying lengthy sentences and even the death penalty.”

The report also said four journalists were killed during the period under review while at least 59 journalists and bloggers were charged with sedition, terrorism, incitement to violence, defamation or contempt.
 


Pakistan aims to turn Gwadar port into logistics hub, increase exports to China

Pakistan aims to turn Gwadar port into logistics hub, increase exports to China
Updated 28 May 2024
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Pakistan aims to turn Gwadar port into logistics hub, increase exports to China

Pakistan aims to turn Gwadar port into logistics hub, increase exports to China
  • Beijing is major ally, investor in Pakistan but militants have attacked Chinese projects over recent years
  • Establishment of Agriculture Demonstration Zones important project in next phase of CPEC, PM says

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Wednesday Pakistan would turn Gwadar port into a logistics hub with Beijing’s cooperation and had made it a priority to increase its exports to China. 
China is a major ally and investor in Pakistan but both separatist and religiously motivated militants have attacked Chinese projects in recent years, killing Chinese personnel. In the last attack on Mar. 26, five Chinese workers were killed in a suicide bombing on their vehicle on their way to a hydropower project funded by Beijing and being built in Dasu in the country’s northwest. 
The assault was the third major attack in little over a week on China’s interests in the South Asian nation, where Beijing has invested more than $65 billion in infrastructure, energy and other projects as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
On Tuesday, PM Sharif held a review meeting on increasing cooperation between Pakistan and China in which various ministries presented their recommendations. 
“Pakistan wants to increase cooperation with China in agriculture, information technology, energy sectors and increase exports of Pakistani products to China on priority basis,” Sharif was quoted as saying in a statement released by his office as he invited Chinese industries, particularly textiles, to set up shop in Pakistan. 
Sharif said the government would provide all possible facilities to Chinese industrialists and investors, while the Chinese-funded deep-sea Gwadar port would be made a logistics hub with Beijing’s cooperation
“Establishment of Agriculture Demonstration Zones will be an important project regarding the next phase of CPEC,” the PM’s office said. “Concerned ministries should prepare for new Pakistan-China cooperation projects and take steps to increase business-to-business ties …China can help Pakistan in setting up a strategy to increase exports.”
Sharif also addressed the issue of the security of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan, saying a “comprehensive” plan had been prepared for their “foolproof security.” 
Last week, Pakistani authorities said they had arrested 11 militants who were involved in the Mar. 26 suicide bombing, adding that evidence showed the insurgents had been taking instructions from Pakistani Taliban leaders in Afghanistan.
Pakistani military had already said the attack was planned in Afghanistan and that the suicide bomber was also an Afghan national, a charge Kabul denies.