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Pakistan bans WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter amid ongoing Islamist protests

Pakistan put a temporary ban on messaging app WhatsApp and social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter with immediate effect from 11 AM to 3 PM on 16 April.

Pakistanis will not be able to access these social media platforms through mobile data, broadband, or Wi-Fi on any device for a few hours.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority imposed the ban on the direction of the Ministry of Interior to contain the ongoing Islamist protests by a banned religious outfit that have rocked the nation.

The Pakistan government is taking these steps in anticipation of violent outbursts across the country following the Friday prayers, as right-wing Islamist hardliners are scheduled to protest the arrest of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan leader Saad Rizvi.

Imran Khan’s government is of the opinion that TLP members and supporters will not be able to disrupt peace if they do not have access to social media, which could have otherwise helped them organise coordinated protests more effectively. Islamist protests have rocked Pakistan for quite some time now, bringing day-to-day activities to a halt in cities like Karachi, Lahore, and Rawalpindi.

Thousands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan supporters spilled onto the streets after their leader was detained Tuesday following his calls for the expulsion of the French ambassador.

Anti-French sentiment has been festering for months in Pakistan since President Emmanuel Macron threw his support behind a satirical magazine’s right to republish cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed — deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has struggled to bring Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan to heel over the years, but this week announced an outright ban against the group, effectively labelling it a terrorist outfit.

Extra security personnel have been deployed to the French embassy — inside a guarded diplomatic enclave closed to the public — and additional shipping containers placed as fortifications around its outer wall.

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