ISLAMABAD: The Awami Workers Party (AWP) Tuesday submitted an application to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to urgently order the removal of what it said to be a “government-imposed block” on its official website in Pakistan. “The blocking of the website just weeks ahead of the general elections has put the party at an unfair disadvantage, and left open the possibility of taking the matter to the courts if necessary,” said AWP. On Sunday, AWP’s official website (http://awamiworkersparty.org) became inaccessible to many users in Pakistan, on various networks. Visitors to the website now see a message stating that the “website is not accessible” as “it contains content that is prohibited for viewership from within Pakistan”. The website remains accessible to users outside the country. The AWP submitted an application to the ECP asking it to “exercise its powers to direct the caretaker government of Pakistan and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to immediately unblock the official website of Awami Workers Party”. The application cited Section 8 of the Elections Act of 2017, which gives the ECP power to issue instructions to the executive authorities “for ensuring that an election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly”. The application pointed out that the blocking of the website of a legally registered political party was a violation of the fundamental rights to association and expression, as protected by the constitution of Pakistan. A similar complaint about the “arbitrary blocking” of the website was also sent to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on Tuesday. The party claimed that it had not been provided any explanation by the PTA – or any other governmental authority – for the “apparent blocking of its website”. AWP, which claims to be the largest left-wing party in Pakistan, is preparing to contest in the upcoming general elections on a platform of radical wealth redistribution to the working people of Pakistan, secularism, and democratic rights. In Islamabad, AWP will contest two National Assembly seats and will reveal its candidates and manifesto at an open meeting in the capital today (Wednesday). AWP leader Ammar Rashid said: “The blocking of the AWP’s website at such a critical juncture is disturbing as the content on our site only contains political information about our events and statements in support of all oppressed people in Pakistan and our vision for a truly democratic and progressive Pakistan. In recent weeks, several other website reflecting democratic and secular values have also been blocked, and AWP vows to continue its struggle for free expression in Pakistan.” AWP deputy Secretary General Ismat Shahjahan said: “The Internet, and technology in general, should be a tool to empower the oppressed and end social inequality. However, what we are seeing in Pakistan, and the world, is that the Internet is being as a used by capitalists and the ruling class to strengthen their monopoly over power. AWP rejects this vision of the world and will bring about real change in which technology serves the working people, not the powerful.” Published in Daily Times, June 6th 2018.