The Govt May Block The Internet Due To A “Security” Concern On Election Day
February 7, 2024 / By Zunair Tahir / Pakistan News
While Amnesty International urged for continuous internet access nationwide during the voting process, acting interior minister Gohar Ejaz warned on Tuesday that internet connectivity may be suspended in the event of security concerns in any location on election day (tomorrow).
According to the minister, given the security situation, the government would only think about blocking internet access on February 8 if a district or province requested it.
Mr. Ejaz asserted that the caretaker administration has not yet decided whether to halt internet access on election day and that any such move would only happen in response to a request from a district or province in question.
Caretaker Minister for Information Murtaza Solangi Addressing a News Conference | 06 02 2024https://t.co/qIrz6Zj7OT
He said, “The government would look into the nature of the threat before taking any such decision for a specific area as it is necessary to block the online communication of terrorists.”
The day before, Mr. Solangi had ruled out the prospect of an internet outage on election day, citing the ability of local administrations to take such a choice given the state of law and order and the fact that no such crisis had been recorded up to that point.
On election day, the province’s key voting places would have temporary internet connection restrictions, according to interim Balochistan Information Minister Jan Achakzai.
🇵🇰PAKISTAN: Amnesty International, along with several other human rights organizations, call on Pakistani authorities to guarantee uninterrupted access to the internet and digital communication platforms for everyone across the country.
In light of the statement by caretaker…
— Amnesty International South Asia, Regional Office (@amnestysasia) February 6, 2024
It asked in an open letter to the authorities to ensure that everyone in Pakistan had “uninterrupted access” to digital communication platforms and the internet during the voting process.
“Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, we, the undersigned organizations and members of the #KeepItOn coalition — a global network of over 300 organizations from 105 countries working to end internet shutdowns — appeal to you, to publicly commit to ensuring that the people of Pakistan have unfettered access to the internet, social media platforms, and all other communication channels throughout the upcoming general election on February 8, 2024,” the statement read.
It stated that the government must prioritize and enact steps that promote human rights by providing unimpeded access to information and channels for offline and online freedom of speech, assembly, and association, as the people of Pakistan get ready to cast their ballots.
The group stated, “This will also contribute to an inclusive, free, and fair election process.”
In a similar event, the federal authorities in question were once again instructed by the Sindh High Court (SCH) on Tuesday to guarantee the seamless and continuous supply of internet service and access to social media platforms, excluding the application of applicable laws until February 21.
Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi’s two-judge panel took up three petitions challenging suspension of internet services, although the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) attorney was not present.
The high court decided to uphold its prior interim ruling until the next hearing and postponed the hearing until February 21.
The interior, information technology, and communication ministries, as well as a federal law officer, requested an extension of time on January 29 to submit remarks. In response, the court postponed the hearing until February 6 and prolonged the temporary injunction.
Attorneys Jibran Nasir and Hyder Raza, along with the Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan, filed petitions against the ministries and PTA for interfering with the use of social media platforms, disrupting broadband and mobile internet service without a valid reason, and attempting to prevent political parties and independent candidates from using social media to campaign ahead of the February 8 election.