According to media reports, Pakistani netizens are concerned about state monitoring following the announcement by the country’s telecom authority that it will crack down on digital private networks (VPNs), a method through which private information is concealed or encrypted. According to a press release posted on the website of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), using any means of communication in conjunction with a VPN is a breach of PTA regulations.
Following the revelation of the VPN crackdown, internet users are shaken. Private and non-private sector organizations, foreign missions, and freelancers who wish to use a VPN for professional purposes must now register it via an internet-based application by October 31, 2022 to avoid disruption.
PTA’s Decision to Register VPNs Intimidates Pakistani Netizens
It was stated that an application for VPN registration would only be accepted via the aforementioned online site, and that applications submitted by other means would not be accepted.
Waqas Ghani Kukaswadia, a data communication technology analyst, claimed in response to the VPN crackdown, “The news of blocking VPNs has sparked dismay among netizens and is being viewed as a tactic to restrict the freedom of internet users.”
It is worth noting that many internet users utilize VPN services when accessing WiFi in public places to ensure privacy and security. Etizaz Mohsin, a cyber safety professional and researcher, stated, “VPNs are available on Google Play Store and are typically used to access restricted websites or the dark web.”
Human rights groups are speaking out against the move, questioning why the government would take actions that could infringe upon the fundamental rights of the people, such as freedom of thinking, freedom of expression, etc.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has previously raised concern over efforts to stifle freedom of expression and thought in the country. In Pakistan, religious and sectarian minorities also face systematic discrimination and violence. An increase in attacks on the media in Pakistan has underlined the impending threat to the nation’s fundamental liberties. According to the World Press Freedom Index 2022 study, Pakistan’s ranking has decreased by 12 points, from 145th in 2021 to 157th in 2022.