Pakistan Elections 2024: Reports of Internet and Mobile Services Disrupted

Robbie Mitchell
Senior Communication and Technology Advisor, Internet Society
Categories:
Shutdown
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February 8, 2024

Pakistan is holding provincial, national, and presidential elections today, Thursday, 8 February 2024. These make up the 106 elections that are happening globally this year and which we are tracking for Internet shutdown activity (see table below).

Read: 2024, Year of Elections (and Hopefully Not Internet Shutdowns)

Per Aljazeera (see below), Pakistan authorities have ordered mobile Internet and phone services to be suspended nationwide to “maintain law and order”.

Screenshot of a news update citing the Interior Ministry's decision to suspend mobile phone services nationwide.
Figure — Screenshot of a news update citing the Interior Ministry’s decision to suspend mobile phone services nationwide. Source: Aljazeera

While the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) publicly stated that it will not shut down the Internet in the lead-up to and during the day, there have been reports of mobile Internet and mobile service disruptions and website censorship.

On 7 February, the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) reported results from its web connectivity test that show PTI political party websites (one of Pakistan’s largest political parties), and investigative news platform Fact Focus have been blocked.

Cloudflare Radar reported today that several local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are showing signs of outages, including CMPak Limited (6.14M users), Jazz (5.16M users), and Telenor Pakistan (3.07M users). All of these outages happened between 1:45 and 2:30 UTC (6:45 and 7:30 local time).

Time series graph showing Internet traffic for CMPAK Limited as measured by Cloudflare Radar.
Figure — Internet traffic trends for CMPAK Limited (AS59257) from 7 to 8 February. The highlighted section to the right shows a significant drop in Internet traffic beginning on 8 February 2024 at 1:45 UTC. Source: Cloudflare Radar.
Time series graph showing Internet traffic for Jazz as measured by Cloudflare Radar.
Figure — Internet traffic trends for Jazz (AS45669) from 7 to 8 February. The highlighted section to the right shows a significant drop in Internet traffic beginning on 8 February 2024 at 2:30 UTC. Source: Cloudflare Radar.
Time series graph showing Internet traffic for Telenor Pakistan as measured by Cloudflare Radar.
Figure — Internet traffic trends for Telenor Pakistan (AS24499) for 7 to 8 February 2024. The highlighted section to the right shows a significant drop in Internet traffic beginning on 8 February 2024 at 1:45 UTC. Source: Cloudflare Radar.

Reports from X/Twitter users are also noting mobile connectivity being down but landline Internet and phone connectivity still being available.

Pakistan’s History of Internet Shutdowns

Since 2019, Pulse has recorded nine Internet Shutdown events, including two in 2023, both related to ongoing political tensions. One recent report notes online transactions processed through Pakistan’s primary digital payment systems experienced around a 50% decline during the Internet shutdown following Imran Khan’s arrest.

The majority of these shutdown events have been regionally focused, although on 16 April 2021, Pakistan’s government ordered the country’s telecoms agency to shut down social media and instant messaging platforms for four hours amid fears that a radical group could use social media to perpetuate violent protests that were occurring at the time.

Report: Tracking Internet Shutdowns in 2023

During a High Court hearing into the unauthorized shutdown of Internet service in the country reported last month, PTA’s counsel said that interest in the upcoming elections would increase Internet traffic and slow down services. “PTI is the most popular political party in the country, and followers from all over the world search for it. That is why there are problems,” the lawyer claimed.

More to come.


Photo by Hamid Roshaan on Unsplash