Islamabad, Jan 27 (EFE).- Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan’s political party said on Saturday that its website was blocked across the country in an “attempt to confuse” voters ahead of elections in February.
The Tehreek-e-Insaf, arguably the most popular party in the country, was stripped of its iconic ‘bat’ symbol for the upcoming polls for not holding intra-party elections as per its constitution in December last year, forcing its candidates to contest as independents, each with a different election symbol.
The party had launched an online portal on its website, insaf.pk, as well as a back-up site, pticandidates.com to publish election-related data of its candidates with their symbols.
It urged voters to verify which candidates were supported by the PTI before going to vote.
It also introduced a feature for voters to be able to message PTI founder Khan’s official Facebook account to get information about party-backed candidates.
However, the party said that its website was blocked by the authorities in an attempt to confuse its voters in a country, where over 40 percent of the population is illiterate and recognizes the candidates through their symbols.
“The authorities have not only blocked PTI’s website and a portal for voters to look up election symbols of PTI’s nominated candidates but a fake website has been created with similar domain to mislead people,” party spokesperson, Ahmed Janjua, said.
Janjua said that the fake web portal — mimicking one launched by the party — was found to be providing incorrect information to voters.
However, people were still getting information from Imran Khan’s Facebook page, he added.
The websites were accessible when using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Calling on authorities to explain why its websites were blocked, the PTI urged those responsible to resign.
“After Tehreek-e-Insaf’s symbol has been taken away, now it is the responsibility of every worker to become Imran Khan himself and run the campaign of every candidate nominated by Imran Khan,” PTI said on X on Friday.
The south Asian nation has experienced multiple internet disruptions in recent weeks during which social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, X and Instagram were inaccessible.
The most disruptions were recorded on Jan. 20, Jan. 7 and Dec. 17, when the PTI was holding virtual events.
The government has said that the disruptions were due to “technical glitches.”
On Jan. 20, global internet monitor Netblocks said that its live metrics showed a “nation-scale disruption to social media platforms across Pakistan, including X, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.”
“The incident comes as persecuted opposition leader Imran Khan’s political party, PTI, launches its second virtual gathering,” Netblocks said on X.
The internet monitor also confirmed a countrywide disruption of social media platforms during the PTI’s election fundraising telethon on Jan. 7.
The party has called on the country’s Supreme Court to take notice of the internet suspensions, which have raised concerns about the state of freedom in the country ahead of general elections on Feb. 8. EFE