Pakistan’s internet freedom leaves much to be desired. The 2016 Freedom on the Net study harshly condemns the South Asian country’s regulatory structure, labeling it “not free” and highlighting concerning trends like blogger arrests and widespread content bans. Simultaneously, the Pakistani state has bought advanced surveillance technology from French and Chinese corporations to monitor online and phone conversations.
This flagrant violation of human rights provides adequate justification for utilizing a VPN. A VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network, encrypts all internet traffic to and from your device and routes it via a distant server located outside of your location. VPNs are a good solution for safeguarding your privacy and anonymity since they make it hard for government authorities, internet service providers, or hackers to track your browsing history.
Simultaneously, a VPN may provide access to geo-restricted content such as Netflix and Hulu, as well as freemium pornographic websites like Xhamster and Pornhub. It’s a solid alternative for visitors to the nation, since it allows them to access content from their home country, as well as for Pakistanis going abroad and wishing to unlock content such as PTV Sports.
Our suggestion for the top VPN for Pakistan takes the following things into account:
- Excellent value for money.
- Strong encryption parameters.
- Rapidity and stability.
- There are no use logs.
- Android and iOS applications.
- Unblocking Netflix and other geo-restricted content is possible.
Alternatives to free VPN
It’s not difficult to locate a free VPN service—a quick search on Google, DuckDuckGo, or Reddit should be enough.
However, we urge you to only utilize these services as a last option.
VPN providers are not charitable organizations. They need funding to operate their servers, employ programmers to fine-tune their code, and maintain their offices.
Therefore, if a VPN service promotes itself as free, it is almost certainly employing unethical methods to make revenue on the side. At the very least, you’ll be bombarded with spammy referral links and an endless stream of intrusive commercials. There is a distinct potential that you may get a malware infection, which will result in data damage and loss.
Additionally, there are countless examples of free VPN providers collecting and selling user data to third-party corporations. Not only is this blatantly immoral, but it also challenges the concept of safely and secretly using the web.
Is it legal to use a VPN in Pakistan?
In 2011, when the local telecoms authority attempted to prohibit the usage of VPNs, there was a frenzy of activity. This occurred approximately concurrently with the YouTube prohibition—as VPN use increased, authorities became aware that the program could be used to view a slew of other restricted content as well.
However, the prohibition has been implemented half-heartedly since then. While certain services, such as Private Internet Access, remain prohibited, our suggestion is accessible to consumers in Pakistan.
There is also no explicit legal phrase in Pakistan’s current legislation that expressly forbids the usage of VPNs. While this is undoubtedly a gray area, no one has been arrested for installing and using a VPN. Please keep in mind that this is not legal advice and that you should always do your own research.
What does the future hold for Pakistan’s internet freedom?
Around a million individuals in Pakistan are already using their phones to access the internet for the first time, making it one of Asia’s fastest growing internet marketplaces. The nation has around 45 million internet users, or 22.5 percent of the population. The enormous offline market shows an abundance of untapped potential—a number that is certain to grow as broadband providers increase their geographical coverage across the nation.
However, if history is any guide, it is improbable that we would see more independence and liberty for Pakistan’s netizens. Things are almost certain to deteriorate.
Security concerns have also compelled officials to repeatedly shut down the country’s cellphone networks. These events resulted in national 3G and 4G outages, with access available only through fixed-line broadband networks.
In April 2016, Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the contentious Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, which significantly restricts individual liberties and vests regulatory organizations with broad authority to control digital content.
The law is poorly written and includes ambiguous language, which critics fear might be manipulated to allow anyone to be imprisoned arbitrarily. For instance, the legislation contains provisions that permit individuals to be prosecuted if they “attempt to create panic, fear, or insecurity,” engage in “wrongful gain,” or do activities “likely to cause damage and harm.”
Similar terminology is used to describe rules that allow for the blocking of content by authorities. The bill effectively requires the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA)—which regulates internet service providers—to block access to any media that disparages “the glory of Islam or the integrity, security, or defense of Pakistan […] public order, decency, or morality, or in relation to contempt of court or the commission of or incitement to an offense under this Act.”
A Pakistani court condemned a man to death earlier this month for allegedly uttering obscene comments on Facebook. Although blasphemy is punishable by death in the devout Islamic nation, this was the first time someone was jailed over an internet statement. Anti-terrorism courts have already sentenced people to 13 years in jail after finding them guilty of spreading racial and sectarian hate online in two different incidents.
Liberal opinion is specifically targeted on Pakistani blogs and publishing platforms. Topics involving criticism of the army or state are scorned. Other topics such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender concerns, as well as ethnic and religious conflicts, or societal criticism, are likewise frowned upon and subject to censorship.
In January, Pakistan’s mysterious Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)—or the military’s intelligence agency—imprisoned five secular bloggers. They were not permitted to contact friends or relatives for three weeks and were only heard from after being mysteriously freed.
One of them subsequently told Voice of America that he endured days of torture and was threatened with terrible repercussions if he continued to criticize the “establishment.” In Pakistan, his blog is still inaccessible.
Pakistan’s obsession with censoring popular websites such as YouTube and Facebook remains unabated. While access is currently open, all it takes for authorities to shut it down is to submit one erroneous message or video.
After a three-year absence, YouTube was eventually unblocked in 2016. The uproar was sparked by an obscure film thought to be blasphemous and disrespectful of Muslims. It took months of agonizing discussions between the world’s biggest video streaming network and the Pakistani government to reach an agreement. Finally, YouTube agreed to restrict access to the video within the nation. More information on using a VPN to unblock YouTube in countries where it is still prohibited can be found here.
To ensure your security, privacy, and anonymity when using the web in Pakistan, we suggest using a VPN.