The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Friday alleged its official website was being blocked from access in Pakistan and sought an explanation why it was facing this discrimination.
Standard attempted to gain access to the website through various internet service providers, receiving an error message on each. However, the website was still accessible with VPNs.
Since losing its electoral symbol, the PTI has sought to recover ground with voters by identifying the separate symbols granted to each of its candidates through its website, as well as various social media portals. Losing access to the website could prove a setback, as the party leadership has made clear it is now primarily relying on social media to communicate with the public its official candidates, who are all contesting the polls as independents.
“Hello [information minister Murtaza Solangi], [I.T. minister Umar Saif] and [PTA], can you explain why PTI’s websites are blocked in Pakistan?” the party asked from its official account on X, formerly Twitter. “People are still getting symbol information from Imran Khan’s Facebook page so the question is what purpose is this block serving?” it added, referring to a ChatBot feature implemented on both X and Facebook.
The feature allows voters to message PTI founder Imran Khan’s official account with their constituency and get a response with information identifying PTI-backed candidates and their electoral symbols. This appears to rely on Facebook’s Automated Responses feature.
Earlier, the PTI had criticized the appearance of a fake web portal that was providing incorrect information to voters when they submitted their constituencies.
Apart from the inaccessible website, the PTI has also faced “convenient” nationwide internet blockages whenever it hosts a “virtual” rally, hampering its ability to communicate with its supporters amidst an ongoing crackdown that has made campaigning ahead of the polls difficult. The interim government has blamed this on “technical issues,” adding that there is “no guarantee” that such incidents would not continue to occur over the next two or three months while “system upgrades” are underway.