Pakistan Punjab ministry recommends social media ban, citing security concerns during religious processions News
Pakistan Punjab ministry recommends social media ban, citing security concerns during religious processions

Pakistan’s Punjab government proposed a ban on all social media platforms for six days, citing security concerns during thousands of religious processions starting next week from July 13-18, according to a Thursday notice from the Ministry of Interior.

The ban proposal concerns the religious parade taken out by the minority Shi’ite Muslims of the country on account of Ashura, the days of mourning for the martyrdom of Prophet Imam Hussain. The 10th day of Muharram-ul-Haram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, is considered the holiest event by Shi’ite Muslims, where they annually commemorate the death of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad in the battle of Karbala. 

The ministry recommended the proposal on grounds of potential violence and “security concerns.” The recommendations by the ministry also stated that the standing committee on law and order has in its meeting affirmed that:

[S]ocial media platforms i.e., Facebook, Watsapp, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok etc. be suspended across the Province of Punjab from 06th to 11th of Muharram, 2024 in order to control hate material/misinformation and to avoid sectarian violence.

The ruling government of Pakistan has imposed ban on X (formerly, Twitter) since February 17, 2024 due to “national security concerns.” The ban was criticized as a curtailment on the freedom of speech and expression, especially during the country’s national elections in February. Civil and rights groups have described the ban as an infringement of individual’s rights of speech amid allegations of election fraud against the ruling government while the main opposition leader and the ex-prime minister of the country, Imran Khan, remains behind prison.

The Sindh High Court previously ruled against the ban on X by the government. In its reply to the court, the government cited X’s non-adherence of Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules 2021 (RBUOC Rules) along with national security concerns. The ruling Nawaz Sharif government has refused to comment on the allegations so far and the ban on X continues across the country.