UPDATE 10:36 AM EST: Social media services and broadcasting of all TV news channels have been restored in Pakistan.
As the government in Pakistan effectively closes down the Internet, VPN offers a lifeline to the general public. Massive and dramatic clashes at the Faizabad Interchange in Pakistan have seen at least 135 people injured, with both security personnel and protesters suffering amid chaotic scenes.
Chaotic scenes in Pakistan
Thousands of police officers have been dispatched to the streets of Pakistan in order to deal with the situation. The firing of tear gas and rubber bullets has been deemed necessary by the authorities, with the State attempting to disperse the supporters of an extremist cleric.
Demonstrations in Pakistan have effectively closed off one of the major road networks in the nation, with protests spanning a three-week period. The protests have reportedly been prompted by a new oath to be taken by lawmakers in the nation, which omitted any mention of the Prophet Muhammad.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi, an outspoken Islamist, led scores of protesters who strongly opposed the new legislation. What initially began as a call for the law minister to resign over the new oath has now spread to assertions that the entire government should stand down.
Naturally, the Pakistani government has not responded favourably to this extreme form of political activism, and the situation has now deteriorated into a major stand-off and international incident.
Facebook and social media shut down
News is spreading fast that significant action has been taken to avoid further protest. The Pakistan government has taken the unprecedented step of completely shutting down Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The government of Pakistan ordered all ISPs in the nation to block public access to the common social media sites, in what is probably an attempt to prevent more people joining the process.
According to TV news channels, the Pakistani government has shut down these major social platforms for over four hours, and reports are now also sleeping in that the likes of Dailymotion, Instagram, and and a famous Pakistani news website named ZemTV, have been blocked as well.
While some uses can still seemingly access Facebook, Twitter and YouTube via mobile applications, it is also possible to workaround this issue via VPN. Just to explain briefly, VPN is an acronym for virtual private network; an increasingly commonly utilized approach to the Internet which enables improved privacy and some other benefits for Internet browsers.
The method for accessing the Internet via VPN differs slightly for Android and iPhone users. iPhone users should firstly access on the Apple App Store, before typing “free vpn by free vpn.org”. This should enable Apple users to access the application for the free VPN download, with the software looking something like this on the iPhone platform:
Once the app has been successfully downloaded, it is important to choose a location that differs from Pakistan. Failure to do so will render this entire VPN downloading process completely useless. Instead, selecting either Europe or the United States as a location before clicking “Connect” should work perfectly.
At this stage, Pakistani Internet users should be connected to VPN successfully, and it should then be possible to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even access live news channels.
Android users must take a slightly different approach, but it is no more difficult to implement. Searching for the Turbo VPN program will enable any Android user to download a similar platform. A “VPN for Android” search should also bring up other VPN options, and enable users of Android devices in Pakistan to access a virtual private network rapidly.
Again, the same principles applies for Android…it is essential to use a location other than Pakistan to avoid being blocked out. VPN Master (see image below) is considered one of the best VPN solutions for Android.
The impact of blocking the Internet in Pakistan will undoubtedly be massive, and it is therefore fortunate that there is a VPN workaround. However, although the general public in the Asian subcontinental nation will be less than pleased about this move – regardless of their feelings on the protest – it is worth noting that this isn’t the first time that ISPs haven’t blocked a major website in Pakistan.
Just a few years ago, YouTube was blocked and banned in Pakistan for several months due to a major court order that was passed. Eventually, representatives from YouTube arrived in Pakistan to negotiate over the issue, and the ban on YouTube was ultimately lifted.
Meanwhile, major news channels in Pakistan have also ceased to broadcast, with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority having shut down transmission of news channels including SAMAA TV following the clashes.
The Faizabad Interchange is of geographical and economic significance in Pakistan, as it connects two of the major cities – Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Political instability has been rather rife in Pakistan for several years, with the popular cricket team of the nation unable to play home test matches recently due to previous terrorist atrocities.
Providing its account of the troubles, the authorities in Pakistan have suggested that at least six people have been killed, while some reports suggest that over 200 people have been injured. Crowds protesting against the legislative decision have thrown stones in large numbers, as clashes with police have gone on for several hours.
Clearly there is strong feeling in Pakistan over this issue, as protests have now spread to other major cities in the nation, including Lahore and Karachi. Over 150 arrests have been made by the authorities, as the government struggles to maintain order in the nation.
The military has also been recruited in an attempt to take control of the highway clashes. The Ministry of Interior in Pakistan has described this as a necessary measure in order to “control the law-and-order situation”.
Police and military
8,000 police officers have been dispatched to the streets of Pakistan, with a separate paramilitary force having successfully circled protesters. Water cannons and canisters of tear gas have also been utilised, with dozens of tents in the protest areas seen to be burning. The clashes have resulted in thick smoke plumes rising above the nation, visible from many miles away.
While the situation is undoubtedly alarming, at least Pakistani residents can keep track of what is going on via VPN.