Cybersecurity group reports new national-scale social media disruption in Pakistan amid ongoing protests over allegations of election fraud News
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Cybersecurity group reports new national-scale social media disruption in Pakistan amid ongoing protests over allegations of election fraud

Cybersecurity and digital governance organization NetBlocks reported a new national-scale disruption to X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday in Pakistan, as protests erupted following allegations of election fraud. Netblocks first published evidence of a disruption to the platform on February 10, two days after the parliamentary vote, which was marked by violent protests and controversies.

The nationwide protests started following the vote on February 8, which saw former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) winning 97 seats and Nawaz Sharif from Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN) winning 76 seats, with both failing to secure a majority. The delay in the announcement of the results, along with a national-scale internet and mobile network blackout, sparked outrage across the country as people alleged the vote count was being rigged by authorities.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Pakistani authorities to ensure a peaceful transition of power and said the elections were “marred by the authorities’ widespread clampdown on freedom of expression and association,” stressing the “mass detention and harassment” of supporters of the PTI. HRW further expressed concerns over the Election Commission’s delay in announcing the election results. Additionally, the US State Department joined international and local election observers in their assessment that the elections were characterized by restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly and called for a full investigation of claims of interference or fraud.

The election controversy intensified when Commissioner of Rawalpindi Division, Liaquat Ali Chattha, confessed to having manipulated the election results so Nawaz Sharif’s party would win 13 National Assembly seats and announced his resignation. In response to Chattha’s confession, Imran Khan said that “[Chattha’s] statement serves as a stark revelation of the countrywide systematic manipulation of election results where PTI’s significant leads were deceitfully tampered into losses, depriving the people of their rightful mandate, not only in the National Assembly but also in Provincial Assemblies.”

As the election results lack clarity, the PMLN party announced it reached an agreement with the Pakistan People’s Party, to form a coalition government, which the PTI will not be joining, following an announcement from Imran Khan.

An investigation into election fraud claims was launched by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) following Chattha’s resignation and will be carried out by a newly formed committee, which is expected to submit a report within three days.