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Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif to decide fate of social media platforms during Muharram

To disrupt communication among the militants, governments in Pakistan traditionally undertake elaborate security measures during Muharram, including suspension of internet.
Last Updated : 06 July 2024, 09:26 IST

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Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would decide the fate of social media platforms such as YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok during the Muharram festival as the Punjab government sought a ban on them, citing the need to control “hate material”.

Shiite Muslims hold large gatherings during the festival to observe the martyrdom of the grandson of the prophet of Islam.

The Muslims generally observe his martyrdom as a symbol of resistance to tyranny, and the Shiite Muslims take out rallies during the first ten days of Muharram which culminate into huge processions on the 9th and 10th of the month.

The Sunni Muslims have a historic theological rivalry with the Shiites, and extremist Sunni groups brand them as heretics and target them through bombings, with Pakistan witnessing numerous such attacks in the past.

To disrupt communication among the militants, governments in Pakistan traditionally undertake elaborate security measures during Muharram, including suspension of internet, cell phone and social media services to avoid acts of terrorism.

The Punjab government had asked the federal government to suspend access to social media from July 6 to 11 to control the spread of misinformation and hate material to prevent sectarian violence.

This week, the provincial home department, through a letter to the Interior Ministry, recommended suspending “Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, X, TikTok, etc. across the province”.

The Ministry of Interior after a meeting held on Friday deferred a decision on the Punjab government’s request, according to an overnight statement.

It stated that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would make the final decision on the matter, adding that the requests of the provinces had “neither been rejected nor accepted”.

The statement did not reveal which provinces other than Punjab had made such requests but indicated that Punjab was not the only one to have sought this.

Muharram is expected to begin on Sunday or Monday on the condition of the sighting of the moon.

Separately, a body of clerics tasked to sight the moon is meeting this evening to decide the beginning of Muharram.

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Published 06 July 2024, 09:26 IST

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