The Pakistan government on Wednesday told a high court that the popular microblogging site X has been banned in the country due to national security issues after the social media platform failed to address concerns on its misuse.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) heard a petition by journalist Ehtisham Abbasi against the disruption in the access to X since February 17, when former Rawalpindi commissioner Liaquat Chattha accused the chief election commissioner and chief justice of being involved in rigging the February 8 general elections.

Interior Secretary Khurram Agha, on behalf of his ministry, submitted a report on the IHC highlighting the “failure of Twitter/X to adhere to the lawful directives of the government of Pakistan and address concerns regarding the misuse of its platform necessitated the imposition of a ban”.

The report said the interior ministry had on February 17 “asked for blocking of X (Twitter) immediately till further orders” on the reports of intelligence agencies.

“The decision to impose a ban on Twitter/X in Pakistan was made in the interest of upholding national security, maintaining public order, and preserving the integrity of our nation,” it contended, adding that the decision was taken after considering “various confidential reports received from intelligence and security agencies of Pakistan”.

It stressed that “hostile elements operating on Twitter/X have nefarious intentions to create an environment of chaos and instability, with the ultimate goal of destabilising the country and plunging it into some form of anarchy”.

“The ban on Twitter serves as a necessary step to disrupt the activities of these elements and prevent them from achieving their destructive objectives,” according to the report.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq presided over the hearing, while Advocate Amna Ali appeared as the petitioner’s counsel. Additional Attorney General (AAG) Munawar Iqbal Duggal was present on the state’s behalf.

During the hearing, the AAG informed the court that the interior ministry had filed a report on the matter.

Justice Farooq then stated that another petition had been filed on the disruption, on which he was issuing notices to the respondents and sought a reply on the new plea.

Subsequently, the hearing was adjourned till May 2.

Earlier, the petitioner in his plea had urged the high court to issue directives to the respondents to “immediately lift the ban on X (Twitter) access in the interest of justice” as the ban was in violation of the Article 19 of the Constitution (freedom of speech).

Separately, the Sindh High Court in a similar hearing summoned a response from the interior ministry on the ban on X by May 9 and ordered it to rescind its February 17 letter within a week, which had disrupted the service.

A two-judge bench headed by Sindh Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi and comprising Justice Abdul Mubeen Lakho resumed the hearing on a set of petitions filed against the suspension of mobile and internet services during general elections as well as the outage of social media platforms across the country.

Advocate Abdul Moiz Jaferii and activist Jibran Nasir, lawyers for the petitioners, informed the court that the interior ministry had admitted to writing a letter to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to shut down X without any valid reasons.

Various rights bodies and journalists’ groups have condemned the ban while internet service providers have also lamented losses due to disruptions.