(Bloomberg) — Pakistan’s communications regulator blocked social media sites for at least four hours on Friday without prior warning, in an unprecedented move aimed at countering fallout from protests by a radical Islamic group.
“In order to maintain public order and safety, access to certain social media applications has been restricted temporarily,” Khurram Mehran, a spokesman for Pakistan Telecom Authority, said in a text message. The services of Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Youtube, Instagram and other such sites have been blocked from 11am local time to 3pm, according to a notification.
The measures, implemented without warning, are seen as a government move to counter the right-wing religious group, Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan or TLP, which was banned yesterday by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration after deadly protests this week, the local media reported. Two policemen were killed and hundreds wounded in clashes as the supporters of the group demanded the expulsion of the French envoy in Islamabad over remarks by President Emmanuel Macron regarding the publication of cartoons ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.
The group had called off a similar protest in November after a pact with the government, which agreed to take steps to expel the envoy in four months. France has called upon its citizens living in Pakistan to leave the country temporarily, citing “serious threats,” Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday.