Starting on 9 May 2023, the government of Pakistan reportedly ordered regional shutdowns of mobile Internet access amidst violent protests following the arrest of Imran Khan, a former Prime Minister and current leader of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party. Reports indicated that mobile coverage was disrupted but wired / fixed coverage continues. Various media stories reported blocking of social media sites such as YouTube and Twitter. We were not able to confirm any specific blocking of services (versus just a complete shutdown of connectivity), however OONI data shown below seems to indicate that such service blockage is happening.
Measurements from IODA and Cloudflare Radar indicate that Internet connectivity through mobile networks was restored on 12 May 2023. However, OONI measurements indicated that some service blocking continued into the following week and was not fully restored until 18 May.
#Pakistan – internet services blocked – restricted access to contact family/loved ones. Mother-in-law visiting Pakistan is stuck indoors without internet. My own parents were stuck on roads in traffic all day yesterday amid protests and clashes. Sad day(s)!#PakistanUnderSiege
— Usama Basit 💙 (@usamabasit) May 10, 2023
We have not yet identified a formal official announcement on any Pakistan government websites or social media channels. However, multiple Pakistani media outlets are reporting direct communication with spokespeople from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. One example from Geo.tv:
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), on the orders of the Interior Ministry, blocked mobile broadband services across the country Tuesday as protests erupted after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest earlier in the day.
Subsequent media reports indicate the shutdown will be extended “indefinitely”:
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Wednesday said that internet services across the country will remain suspended for an indefinite period.
Data from IODA confirms that there was a drop in overall Internet connectivity for Pakistan. Several networks show degraded service, and specifically AS45669 for Mobilink shows a drop by over 50% in BGP connectivity on that mobile network.
IODA shows that Internet connectivity was restored on May 12 to most networks. The IODA chart for AS 45669 clearly shows the outage:
The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) shows issues connecting to popular social media sites from within Pakistan, starting on 9 May:
OONI data showed that the service blocking of some social media sites continued on after the restoration of mobile Internet connectivity on 12 May and were not fully restored until 18 May:
— Cloudflare Radar (@CloudflareRadar) May 10, 2023
Mobile internet services have been shut down; can’t help think of all those remote workers employed and freelancing at companies from around the world who depend on mobile internet services. Just imagine the loss of foreign exchange! #Pakistan #InternetDown
— Abdulrahman Rafiq (@arrafiq) May 9, 2023
Internet service shut down in Pakistan… complete blackout! Phone (voice/text) service is working at some places. Facebook/Twitter/youtube is blocked.
— Ghareer (@ghareer) May 10, 2023
Blocking the internet and all sources of credible information will only aid the flow of skepticism and fake news. If only policy makers realised the downside of their policies .
— Iftikhar Firdous (@IftikharFirdous) May 9, 2023
Article 144 imposed, internet shut down… Violence in Pakistan after Imran’s arrest, know everything https://t.co/WBuxrQRnb0
— YET NEWS (@YETNEWS1) May 10, 2023
The current nationwide internet slowdown in #Pakistan is causing major disruptions to businesses and individuals who rely on stable and consistent internet access. We urgently appeal to the PTA to allow #IT exporting companies immediate access to the Internet so their employees… pic.twitter.com/wCsMe5EwYc
— P@SHA (@PASHAORG) May 10, 2023
Traffic returned on Telenor Pakistan (AS24499), CMPak Limited (AS59257), Mobilink (AS45669), and Ufone (AS56167) around 17:00 UTC (22:00 local time) on May 12.https://t.co/fTdfSHEl66 pic.twitter.com/hM4kxuinmP
— Cloudflare Radar (@CloudflareRadar) May 12, 2023
- Internet shutdown is for ‘indefinite’ period, says regulator – Pakistan Today
- PTI protests: PTA blocks broadband services across country – Geo News
- Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan arrested, stirring nationwide violence – Reuters
- Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Ex-Leader, Is Arrested – New York Times
- When the internet goes dark – The New Statesman