Senior Pakistani Politician Urges PM Shehbaz Sharif to Lift Ban on Social Media Platform X

Senior Pakistani Politician Urges PM Shehbaz Sharif to Lift Ban on Social Media Platform X

A key supporter of Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Farhatullah Babar, has called for an end to the two-month-old ban on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, citing it as a violation of free speech. Babar, a senior leader from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which played a crucial role in Sharif’s March government formation, voiced his concerns on Friday.

Senior Pakistani Politician Urges PM Shehbaz Sharif to Lift Ban on Social Media Platform X

“We demand that the ban on X, which is known as Twitter, should immediately be lifted by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to stop any further violation of human rights,” Babar expressed. Known for his advocacy for human rights and civil liberties over his three decades in politics, Babar’s plea highlights the tension between national security concerns cited by the government and the public’s right to free expression.

The Sharif administration had initially justified the ban by stating it was necessary for “upholding national security, maintaining public order and preserving the integrity of the nation,” a stance presented to an Islamabad court. However, this explanation has faced challenges, including from another court in Karachi, which on Wednesday requested the government to reverse the ban following petitions by human rights advocates.

X is widely used in Pakistan, particularly by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which has argued that the ban aims to silence its social media presence. As the ban persists, many Pakistanis have resorted to using VPNs to access X, and though there have been intermittent restorations, human rights activists are pushing for a complete lifting of the restrictions.

Adding to the controversy, X announced that it was in discussions with Pakistan to address the government’s concerns, which reportedly include the use of social media to defame national institutions—a term often referring to the military and judiciary, both criticized by the ousted Khan.

“There are certain powerful forces in Pakistan, and you know there is a perception here that these forces are sitting in the driving seat and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is in the back seat, and we request the prime minister to dispel this impression by lifting the ban on X with whatever power he has now,” Babar stated, emphasizing the need for Sharif to assert his authority.

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