PTI’s manifesto launch was impacted by internet outages

An attempt by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to unveil its manifesto for the 2024 general elections and conduct a telethon for fundraising faced a setback on Sunday as a complete blackout of social media sites was reported nationwide.

This marks the second instance in recent months where internet services were disrupted during an online event planned by PTI. On December 17, the party’s virtual power show also experienced interruptions in internet services.

During Sunday’s online event, many social media users were unable to participate through their accounts.

“Live metrics show a nation-scale disruption to social media platforms across Pakistan, including X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube,” reported internet tracking agency Netblocks on Sunday evening. Netblocks Director Alp Toker told AFP that the disruptions were affecting network providers across the country.

Such widespread social media targeting of political activities is almost unprecedented at this scale, with Venezuela being another country that has employed similar measures to limit opposition speeches and rallies, Toker noted.

Despite creating anticipation for its manifesto in the preceding days, PTI spokesperson Raoof Hasan informed that the party would now unveil its manifesto “after a couple of days.”

In the lead-up to the event, Hasan had mentioned that several individuals were contributing to the manifesto document, with the launch scheduled before the elections. Notably, former finance minister Shaukat Tarin, a key member of the PTI’s manifesto committees, parted ways with the party in December 2023.

The PTI, anticipating social media restrictions, had encouraged supporters to attend the telethon via social media sites. However, following online disruptions, supporters were urged to join the transmission via VPN. Unfortunately, the PTI-recommended VPN required a subscription fee of Rs1,999 per month.

Despite the challenges, a portion of the transmission was viewable on YouTube, with an audience of over 7,000 people at one point. By 10:20 pm, the party announced that it had collected $44,000 and Rs30 million during the virtual event.

Former PTI chairman Barrister Gohar Khan, speaking on behalf of the incarcerated Imran Khan, emphasized the party’s commitment to democracy and the protection of citizens’ rights. Senator Sania Nishtar highlighted 16 social welfare programs introduced during the PTI government, and Laiba Dar, daughter of Usman Dar, expressed support for Imran Khan’s vision for the youth despite her father’s departure from the party.

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