A monthly report on trends relating to digital rights, policies, practices & media

Tracking: Internet and digital policies and regulations

Digitalization in governance and socio-economic domains

Digital rights violations and protections

Digital rights advocacy and defense

Digital media and online free speech

Vol. 5, No. 2 February 2024 Edition

Produced by Freedom Network –

SECTION 1: Internet and digital policies and regulations

  • Federal and provincial governments (ministries and departments)
  • Internet regulators
  • Media regulators
  • Telecom regulators
  • Internet access / connectivity

Government hints at shutting down internet over ‘security’ concerns

Date: February 7, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz said the government would consider suspending internet services in case of ‘security issues’ during electoral process if it receives a formal request from a province or district.

PTA assures uninterrupted internet services during general elections

Date: February 8, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Pakistan Today

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) assured that internet services will not be suspended on Election Day, refuting rumors of receiving ‘instructions’ by the federal government to restrict internet access.

Government suspends cellular services, internet access on Election Day

Date: February 9, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Reuters, Source 3: Time Magazine

The caretaker federal government suspended mobile phone and data services across Pakistan for election day, despite Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) earlier assurances of uninterrupted internet access.

PTI claims it was prepared for mobile phone service, internet suspension

Date: February 9, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leadership claimed that their supporters faced little difficulties due to suspension of internet services on polling day as their election stalls were well-equipped to facilitate voters.

Alarmed by internet restrictions, US condemns poll-related violence in Pakistan

Date: February 9, 2024 – Source: Dawn

The United States State Department (USSD) expressed concern over election-related violence and restrictions on internet and cellular access in Pakistan during general elections.

Suspension of mobile phone services causes loss to data-based businesses in Pakistan

Date: February 9, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Data-based logistics and ride-hailing business in Pakistan reported facing losses due to suspension of internet services, with supply-chain departments of conventional companies also expressed concern at disruptions in their operations.

Unlocking Pakistan’s telecommunication potential

Date: February 18, 2024 – Source: The News

Strengthening the telecommunications infrastructure and implementing measures to enhance affordability can contribute to an overall improvement in Pakistan’s connectivity landscape, increasing accessibility and use of digital services.

5G services to be launched in Pakistan in 2024

Date: February 19, 2024 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Express Tribune

Caretaker Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Dr Umar Saif announced that 5G services would be launched in Pakistan by August 2024, where the government would auction 300 MHz of spectrum.

Sindh High Court takes exception to internet suspension on polling day

Date: February 22, 2024 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

The Sindh High Court (SHC) took exception to suspension of internet and cellular phone service on election day and observed that the entire world had witnessed as to how the elections were conducted in Pakistan.

SECTION 2: Digital rights advocacy and defense

  • Pakistan-based citizens and civil society organizations
  • Independent international digital rights organizations
  • UN and global multilateral organizations
  • Governmental and other sources

CPJ urges unhindered reporting, internet access

Date: February 7, 2024 – Source: Dawn

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called upon Pakistani authorities to allow journalists to work freely and safely in the run-up to general elections and provide nationwide access to the internet, as well as unblock investigative news website FactFocus.

SECTION 3: Digital rights violations and protections

  • Citizens and netizens – including case studies
  • Media, journalists and other information practitioners
  • Online free speech
  • Online access to information
  • Privacy violations
  • Data protection
  • Surveillance
  • Misinformation / disinformation / fake news
  • Cybercrime

Digital oversight

Date: February 2, 2024 – Source: Dawn

The Sindh High Court (SHC) asked the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to enforce the relevant laws to prevent and remove ‘objectionable and illegal’ content on social media platforms on the complaint of some YouTube vloggers.

Disinformation and fact-checking

Date: February 3, 2024 – Source: Dawn

The fight against misinformation necessitates an influx of new players in both pre- and post-bunking strategies. While this may seem to counter the idea of avoiding parallel structures, the reality is that fresh perspectives are needed. This includes individuals who can innovate in digital investigations.

The rise of artificial intelligence

Date: February 3, 2024 – Source: The News

The future is artificial intelligence (AI). The technology will assist humans in almost all fields. However, it has the potential to turn dangerous for human existence in the future if it is not regulated and properly controlled by governments.

Social media: A tool of choice for election campaigning in Pakistan

Date: February 3, 2024 – Source: Express Tribune

In this era of internet, politics and social media are intertwined and inseparable. Political powwow now happens on social media platforms like TikTok, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and X.

Voting in the digital age

Date: February 4, 2024 – Source: Express Tribune

As political fervor intensifies in Pakistan, social media platforms emerge as dynamic arenas where political parties orchestrate their campaigns. Through these platforms, parties strategically disseminate information, foster public discussions, and craft narratives to resonate with their diverse vote bank.

TikTok shares measures to uphold poll integrity in Pakistan

Date: February 6, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Daily Times

TikTok shared its efforts to combat misinformation on its platform, demonstrating its commitment to maintaining a safe, authentic, and reliable information environment during Pakistan’s general elections.

Social media election: Digital platforms take center stage

Date: February 7, 2024 – Source: Arab News

Members of the social media teams of Pakistan’s major political parties said digital platforms were extensively utilized in the lead-up to the general elections to influence young voters, as experts pointed out that politics and social media had become inseparable in today’s internet age.

Digital campaigns

Date: February 7, 2024 – Source: The News

The disparity in digital advertisement spending highlights the necessity for comprehensive guidelines aimed at mitigating undue influence and ensuring electoral fairness in the digital realm. Such guidelines will strengthen the effectiveness of regulations in curbing excessive digital expenditures.

Social media blackouts

Date: February 7, 2024 – Source: The News

Pakistan’s reputation as a desirable destination for technology-focused investment would be diminished by unannounced social media blackouts, reversing the benefits that have come from various information technology-related reforms the government has undertaken over the past three years.

Pakistan’s first truly digital elections

Date: February 8, 2024 – Source: The Nation

Through the utilization of digital media in electioneering, Pakistan’s political parties have broken down barriers to communication, expanding their reach to new demographics and influencing public opinion in unprecedented ways.

ECC approves additional grant of Rs10 billion for government’s cybersecurity

Date: February 8, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: The Nation

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the federal cabinet approved the technical supplementary grant of Rs10 billion for the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication for the ‘Digital Information Infrastructure Initiative’.

Videos of polling ‘malpractice’ flood social media in Pakistan

Date: February 9, 2024 – Source: Dawn

The expected recriminations of rigging by political parties started within the initial hours of voting, with multiple videos of ‘malpractice’ also flooding social media platforms in Pakistan.

‘Post-poll rigging’ videos or a damp squib?

Date: February 20, 2024 – Source: Dawn

A video filmed by a couple of television journalists at a printing press in Lahore – touted by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) as being ‘proof’ of post-poll rigging – created waves on social media, only to be debunked hours later.

Access to X restricted in Pakistan

Date: February 20, 2024 – Source: The News

Services of social media platform X, formerly Twitter, remained intermittently down in Pakistan after it was restored earlier after an over 36-hour blockade since February 17.

Axing X

Date: February 20, 2024 – Source: The News

For a country that keeps saying it is actively seeking to grab digitization opportunities, Pakistan’s aversion to certain networking sites is puzzling. Services of X, formerly Twitter, have been restricted nine times in 2024 already.

Pakistan sees 17 percent rise in cyberattacks in 2023

Date: February 20, 2024 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Business Recorder

According to global cybersecurity company Kaspersky, Pakistan faced a 17 percent increase in 2023, compared with the previous year. Data showed that nearly a quarter of Pakistani internet users were affected by online threats in 2023.

Fourth day of ‘official silence’ as X remains disrupted in Pakistan

Date: February 21, 2024 – Source: Dawn

For a fourth straight day, services of social media platform X remained disrupted in many areas of Pakistan, with officials still reluctant to offer any clarity on the situation.

Silencing the public

Date: February 21, 2024 – Source: Dawn

The stench of desperation hangs heavy over Islamabad. The powerful have had a lot of trouble lately keeping the public under their thumb. Short of ideas, they have decided to block Pakistan’s access to X, one of the most popular digital mediums for self-expression.

Can PTA remove ‘immoral content’ from social media websites?

Date: February 21, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News

Digital experts and transparency reports of social networking websites suggest it is not possible for the government to take down the content itself. The government has to file a request to obtain or access to data or content takedown which violates the local laws or community guidelines.

Investigation team to probe online trolling of officials over ‘rigging’

Date: February 22, 2024 – Source: Dawn

The caretaker federal government constituted a joint investigation team (JIT) to ‘identify and prosecute the culprits of a social media campaign launched against government officials and functionaries of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the back of rigging allegations.

Sindh High Court orders restoration of social media

Date: February 22, 2024 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

The Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered the restoration of all social media websites, including X, and sought explanation from relevant authorities regarding internet outages on election day.

Government, legal community concerned at digital media campaign against Supreme Court

Date: February 23, 2024 – Source: Dawn

The federal government and the legal community came out against a ‘malicious and slanderous campaign against the chief justice of Pakistan’ on the basis of a decision of the Supreme Court (SC), saying that certain elements had falsified and forged information to incite violence and hatred.

Access to X remains restricted for 6th day despite court orders

Date: February 23, 2024 – Source: Dawn

After six days of intermittent disruptions, the Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered authorities to restore social media platform X across Pakistan. However, access was not fully restored in most cities hours after the order was passed.

Virtual politics

Date: February 25, 2024 – Source: The News

When rhetoric, not policy development agendas, becomes the only currency in the political domain, then it is no surprise that such a country remains in turmoil. But this unrest is complemented by good catchy bets on social media.

X disrupted in Pakistan for a full week

Date: February 25, 2024 – Source: Express Tribune

Nationwide disruption to social media platform X passed the one-week mark in Pakistan with digital rights monitors warning outages were quashing dissent after an election marred by rigging claims.

The brave new digital world of Pakistani politics

Date: February 25, 2024 – Source: Express Tribune

Traditional politicians and powerbrokers in Pakistan have had a love-hate relationship with social media. Where they were quick to board the online hype train to amplify their communications, they are also quick to restrict access to social media when things go south.

How is X being throttled in Pakistan?

Date: February 26, 2024 – Source: Dawn

While Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and government officials deny blocking micro-blogging platform X, experts opine that authorities have multi-faceted tools to disrupt the flow of information online.

Silence strategy

Date: February 26, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Digital censorship is occurring with alarming frequency in Pakistan. Access to microblogging platform X has been restricted since February 17 – ostensibly to stymie political debate and agitation – and with it nearly 128 million Pakistani users have been affected.

Media workers demand arrest of journalist’s killers

Date: February 27, 2024 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Media workers held a protest in Khairpur, pledging to escalate their efforts in seeking justice for Jan Muhammad Mahar, a journalist who was murdered by unknown persons in 2023.

Silenced voices

Date: February 29, 2024 – Source: Dawn

The arrest of Islamabad-based journalist Asad Ali Toor by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on the charge of running a ‘malicious campaign’ against the superior judiciary has disturbed media practioners across Pakistan.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

  • Digitalization in governance sectors / e-governance
  • Digitalization in social and development sectors
  • Digitalization in business and commercial sectors

Minister for AI-supported sustainable growth in Pakistan’s agriculture sector

Date: February 2, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Dr Kausar Malik emphasized the need for focusing on technological needs of small-scale farmers and stated that artificial intelligence (AI) has a huge contribution to the cause of a sustainable agriculture sector in Pakistan.

It’s a tech-powered world

Date: February 14, 2024 – Source: The News

Pakistan’s incoming federal government needs to give the highest priority to the manufacture and export of high-tech products. That is the only way forward. The new prime minister should appoint technologically competent ministers so we can migrate to a technology-driven knowledge economy.

Artificial intelligence training crucial for Pakistan’s youth

Date: February 14, 2024 – Source: Express Tribune

Artificial intelligence (AI) training is emerging as a lucrative avenue for Pakistan’s graduates, content writing, and technology enthusiasts to augment their income, outpacing traditional computer-related work, according to AI strategists and consultants.

Pakistan’s information technology exports expected to exceed $3 billion

Date: February 17, 2024 – Source: Express Tribune

Government-supported facilitation and incentives for Pakistan’s information technology (IT) sector could boost exports to more than $3 billion by the end of the financial year 2023-2024.

Software body for continuation of IT sector reforms

Date: February 25, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Pakistan Software Houses Association (PASHA) chairman Muhammad Zohaib Khan proposed that the ongoing plans, policies and initiatives should continue to enable information technology (IT) exporters to stay on course with the sector’s growth momentum.


OBJECTIVES: This series of monthly report aims to:

  • Track developments revolving around the framework of digitalization in Pakistan including policy and advocacy on digital rights, policy enforcements and digital rights violations, covering viewpoints of government, civil society, human rights community including digital rights campaigners, media, citizen journalists and other information practitioners, and regulators of electronic media, internet and telecom sectors, and netizens.
  • Monitor the interface between digital rights and Pakistan’s overall legal framework and how developments around them impact freedom of expression and access to information online as well as diversity and pluralism in Pakistan’s digital landscape, cyberspace and internet domains.
  • Follow developments around the themes of digital rights, freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, surveillance, data protection, access to internet services, telecom policies, etc.

INFORMATION SOURCES: This report monitors, among others, the following sources of information: 

  • Government: Federal and provincial cabinets
  • Ministries: Related ministries, including Information and Broadcasting, Information Technology (IT) and Telecom, Human Rights, Science and Technology, Commerce and Industry, etc.
  • Legislatures: Senate, National Assembly, provincial assemblies, relevant standing committees 
  • Regulators: Pakistan telecommunications Authority (PTA), Pakistan Electronic Media regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Press Council of Pakistan (PPC), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), etc.
  • Global organizations: UN/Unesco, International Media Support (IMS), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), etc.
  • National organizations: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), BoloBhi, Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD), Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), etc.
  • Media: Dawn, The News, Express Tribune, The Nation, Pakistan Today, The Friday Times, etc.
  • Social Media:Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Local networks: Journalists Safety Hubs Network, Alliance on Diversity & Pluralism in Media, etc.
  • Research groups: Gallup Pakistan, IPSOS Pakistan, etc.

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