Pakistan has recently become an active tourist destination. That is hardly surprising, considering the otherworldly landscapes that lie deep in the heart of the country.
Surrounding all that natural beauty, however, is an elephant in the room impacts freedom of expression in the country: heavy online censorship and digital surveillance impinging on the privacy and safety of bloggers, activists, average users.
In this precarious political and social environment, using VPN for Pakistan is more important than ever to attain Internet freedom and exercise your right to free expression without fearing negative consequences for it.
In this article, I will illuminate the online suppression in Pakistan that calls for the need for VPNs to maintain anonymity and privacy on the web.
And while we’re at it, I’ll list some of the best VPN for Pakistan with the features that an average user in the country can benefit from.
Online Censorship and Surveillance in Pakistan
Pakistan is a country with strong cultural and traditional sensibilities. A conservative socio-cultural outlook runs deep in Pakistan, the criticism of which has often led people to trouble.
For instance, blasphemy against Islamic beliefs is a crime punishable by death in the country and the legal process for blasphemy-related doesn’t even require evidence for the act. The testimonies of witnesses is usually enough to pass a sentence.
Blasphemous content on Facebook and YouTube have led to state-wide bans in Pakistan in the past. In fact, YouTube was inaccessible without a VPN in the country for 3 years when a video was posted on YouTube which upset the religious sentiment of Muslims in Pakistan.
The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill gave sweeping powers to the LEAs and the government to curb criticism. In fact, the bill requires all ISPs in the country to retain user traffic data for a minimum of 1 year.
Surveillance and controls on free speech have also led journalists and bloggers to exercise self-censorship in response to harassment and intimidation from state actors.
Over 50% of Pakistani journalists believe that digital surveillance has enabled intimidation and even life threats to their sources.
The reasons, therefore, of seeking a VPN to enhance privacy and anonymity are manifold for citizens, expats, as well as travelers to Pakistan.
The right VPN will mask your IP address, keep no logs of your data, and allow you to unblock censored websites and content with perfect anonymity.
5 Best VPNs for Pakistan
To qualify as a suitable VPN for the problems particular to Pakistan, the following criteria need to be observed:
- A VPN that doesn t keep logs
- IP leak test
- Servers network (to unblock censorship)
While this criteria list is sufficient for the needs of the average user in Pakistan, our article on top-rated VPN services of 2019 takes into account additional factors to single out VPN services for common use cases. Make sure you check it out!
Jurisdiction: ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which is a country well beyond the clutches of surveillance states known as 5/9/14 Eyes.
In BVI, ISPs and VPN providers are not required to store logs of users for any amount of time. This is, in fact, the primary reason why this place is considered a safe jurisdiction, as our research guide on 5 Eyes and online surveillance established.
Logging policy: An excellent precedent in logging policy is evident in the privacy statement of the company.
Since Pakistani ISP have to store records of users by law, using ExpressVPN will allow you to divert your traffic away from your ISP to the VPN’s data centers, where none of your logs will be retained, thus guaranteeing your privacy.
Owing to the no-logging stance of ExpressVPN, it is one of the handful few that passed the criteria in our detailed VPN logging policy guide.
IP leak test: Anonymity is only possible if a VPN successfully hides your IP address, and that is only possible if it isn’t leaking your IP or DNS.
ExpressVPN has no IP, WebRTC, or DNS leak problem, as evidenced in the image above.
You can explore our VPN leak test guide to learn about the various types of leaks and how to test a VPN for these.
Server network: To gain access to censored content in Pakistan, you need to a VPN with servers in offshore locations where internet freedom is supported.
The 3,000+ server size of ExpressVPN in over 94 countries is more than adequate in granting users access to blocked sites, including popular torrent sites which continue to be blocked in Pakistan.
These features are enough to win ExpressVPN the accolade of best VPN for Pakistan.
For a complete evaluation of this service, see our ExpressVPN review.
Jurisdiction: Surfshark is also located in the BVI, presumably because of the fact that service providers are free from any data retention requirements in the country.
For users in Pakistan with laws that go against the basic right to privacy, Surfshark can be quite valuable.
Logging policy: The logging policy of Surfshark is designed with user privacy in mind. Therefore, it doesn’t monitor or store any information that could compromise user privacy.
IP leak test: The security mechanisms built into Surfshark easily prevent problems like leaking IP address.
Server network: Having 800+ servers in key locations around the world, Surfshark grants passage to censored pages on the Internet that you can’t normally access from Pakistan.
In addition, it allows access to US Netflix and other streaming platforms. P2P support is also available on all servers for people who need to access blocked torrent sites from Pakistan.
Find out more about this VPN in our Surfshark review.
Jurisdiction: NordVPN is headquartered in Panama, which is probably one of the safest locations in the world if it’s online privacy that you are after.
Service providers in the country are not subject to any data retention laws, so users in Pakistan where privacy is hard to come by can place their trust in service under Panama jurisdiction.
Logging policy: NordVPN strictly follows zero-logging policy like the providers above and doesn’t retain any information that could be used to encroach user privacy.
This is what makes NordVPN a good choice for users seeking to boost their privacy and keep Pakistani surveillance at bay.
IP leak test: The protection features contained by NordVPN keep your IP address from leaking to unknown third parties, ensuring your web security.
Server network: NordVPN has the largest number of servers in the VPN industry, reaching upwards of 5,000. The provider also has specialized servers to bypass censorship (obfuscated servers), which hide the fact that you are using a VPN.
This is especially useful in regions and websites that block VPN usage.
Find out more about obfuscation technology in our article on how obfuscation passes through VPN blocks.
Our guide on how good is NordVPN examines the key features of this provider in greater detail.
Jurisdiction: IPVanish is based in the United States, which isn’t a very safe jurisdiction as our article on 5, 9, and 14 Eyes discusses in detail.
Logging policy: The logging policy of IPVanish doesn’t specifically mention the types of data it keeps logs of. But it clearly states that no usage or traffic logs are stored by the provider.
Although this is good enough if it means that IPVanish isn’t storing IP address, DNS, or any other compromising data, the company should revise its statements to enhance transparency.
Nonetheless, since it keeps no traffic logs, authorities in Pakistan are surely going to have a hard time tracing out a user who is on IPVanish.
IP leak test: IPVanish uses leak protection to prevent your VPN IP or DNS from leaking out of the tunnel.
Server network: The 1,300+ servers spread over 75+ locations bypass all forms of censorship that prevent users in Pakistan from accessing websites and services.
The service also delivers good performance on its US servers to unblock American Netflix with ease.
Take a look at our IPVanish review to uncover the complete details about this VPN.
Jurisdiction: CyberGhost is located in Romania. Although the country falls under the EU, the data retention requirements were deemed unconstitutional by the court on the basis of violating the privacy of citizens.
In fact, the country has almost no enforcement against torrenting and copyright infringement, which is why it is one of the favorites for pirates.
Therefore, CyberGhost is located in a safe jurisdiction that can be beneficial for users in Pakistan when it comes to protecting their privacy.
IP leak test: There is no IP or DNS leaking problem in CyberGhost, which is a testament to its strong security.
Server network: The 3,000+ server network of CyberGhost is present in all key countries of the world that support online freedom. This is great for users in Pakistan that want to go over the web filtering technologies being used by the government to impose censorship.
Check out our CyberGhost review for a thorough analysis of this service.
Free VPN Services
There are a lot of free VPN services that you can find in the market. But the problem with free services is that you can never before be sure that it is legitimate and not surreptitiously harvesting your private data behind your back.
A study found that many free providers of VPNs had serious vulnerabilities, injected malware, and were gathering user data.
For this reason, it is hard to trust free providers, especially when you’re in Pakistan with a dangerous online environment.
Nonetheless, there are still a few good reliable free VPN services that you can take use, albeit these come with a limited set of features.
The legal status of VPNs in Pakistan
The legality of VPNs in Pakistan has remained a gray area for some time now. However, it is important to keep in mind that there is no specific law that prohibits the use of VPNs in the country.
Nonetheless, this didn’t stop Pakistani authorities from banning the use of VPNs back in 2011. In spite of this, most VPN services remain operational in the country and there has never been a legal case against the use or download of VPNs in the country.
Therefore, it is safe to use VPN services in Pakistan and strictly speaking, it is not illegal.
The Internet suffers from significant censorship and threatens the online privacy of users in Pakistan on a regular basis.
This is why the need for using a VPN for Pakistan is high in the country, especially if you happen to be a blogger or journalist.
Don’t let the government restrain your right to speak your mind freely on the web.