Home Latest News PTA Informs SHC X Blocked on Instructions of Interior Ministry

PTA Informs SHC X Blocked on Instructions of Interior Ministry

In report, regulator says restricted access is for ‘security reasons’ and based on reports of intelligence agencies

by Staff Report

File photo. Banaras Khan—AFP

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Wednesday informed the Sindh High Court (SHC) that access to social media platform X, formerly Twitter, was blocked on instructions from the federal interior ministry.

In a report submitted in response to petitions filed against the shutdown of internet cellular phone services on Feb. 8 and the ongoing blockage of X, the regulator claimed the Interior Ministry’s orders had cited reports received from intelligence agencies. Defending the ban, the PTA said it was not in violation of Article 19A of the Constitution (right to information), and was rather in accordance with relevant laws.

The regulator’s statement further defended the suspension of mobile cellular services for public safety reasons or in public emergency or for security reasons as a policy matter that the court should not interfere with. It said the suspension of cellular phone services was only conducted in extreme situations on the recommendations of law enforcement agencies, provincial governments and intelligence agencies that were first scrutinized by the interior ministry.

According to the PTA, it was bound to adhere to any directives issued by the Information Technology Ministry, adding telecommunication services were suspended due to security reasons.

On the petitions against the ban on X, the PTA said the petitioners had no locus standi in the matter. It said the petitioners’ contention they were denied access to news or information through the ban was unfounded, as such platforms are not in control of the PTA and are at higher probability of circulating fake news against the national interest and harmful to the country’s image. It said the legislature mandated the federal government to issue policy directives on national security, internal aggression, defense or security in accordance with exigency and need of time.

In its response, the Interior Ministry said it had directed a ban on X on Feb. 17—till further orders—after receiving reports from intelligence agencies. This directive was issued under Section 5(7)(ii) of the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules 2021, it said, adding all action on part of the respondents were taken within the applicable legal framework.

During the hearing, the court directed the counsel to copies of the submission to the petitioners’ counsel to file a rejoinder, if any. It also directed the interior secretary to file comments on the petition and adjourned the hearing until April 17.

Earlier, the SHC had directed the PTA to restore access to X “if there was no lawful justification or reasonable grounds to deny the internet access to X.”

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