PTA assures uninterrupted internet services on election day

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PTA assures uninterrupted internet services on election day

In light of the country’s upcoming elections on February 8, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) promised on Wednesday that internet connections will not be disconnected nationwide.

On election day, users can anticipate continuous and barrier-free access to internet facilities, as per a PTA official statement. Crucially, there are no official orders from the government to stop internet access on election day.

The news comes the day after the government did not release any rules about the cessation of internet and mobile phone services during the elections, according to Information Minister Murtaza Solangi.

I was pointing out that the local government will assess the situation and take necessary steps if there is a decline in the maintenance of law and order in a particular region.

It was two days ago that Amnesty International (AI) and several other human rights organizations called on Pakistani authorities to ensure that all of the country’s citizens would have unrestricted access to the Internet and digital communication platforms during the national elections.

The request followed a remark earlier on February 6 from Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz, who acknowledged the likelihood of internet outages and problems on Thursday during the voting.

Dispelling rumors about the elections on February 8, Ejaz addressed a news conference in the federal capital, stating that up to this point, the authorities had not received any orders to stop internet services on that day.

He added by saying that any such action would only be conducted in response to a district or province request.

“A decision to discontinue internet or mobile services has not yet been taken. Internet and mobile service would be interrupted, he said, but if required, considerations are made based on security requests from particular districts or provinces.

AI emphasized the significance of protecting the right to freedom of expression and making sure that people can freely exchange and access information online, expressing concern over the possible restrictions on internet access.

In the last two months, there have been three disruptions to internet services. The dates of the first three instances were December 17, January 7, and January 20. The PTI’s virtual events and the suspensions fell on the same day.

While admitting that there was no assurance that such instances would never occur again, the interim administration blamed “technical issues” for the nationwide internet disruptions.

The Sindh High Court (SHC) issued a decree on January 24th, preventing the appropriate authorities from halting internet services until after the general elections.

The PTA and the interim federal government were directed by the SHC to guarantee continuous internet access until election day.

The order was made as a reaction to a petition against the recent spate of “unconstitutional” internet outages throughout the nation submitted by human rights advocate and attorney Jibran Nasir, who is running as an independent for PS-110.

The Supreme Court was recently asked to take notice of the disruption of well-known social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and X, by the PTI.

Rights groups notably requested that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and Prime Minister Anwarrul Haq Kakar take aggressive steps to ensure unrestricted internet access and social media usage throughout the election season in light of these events.

In addition to undermining the democratic process, AI and its allies stressed that any disruptions to internet access during an election would make it more difficult for voters to obtain important information and openly voice their views.

For citizens to engage in informed discourse, exercise their fundamental rights, and participate in democratic processes, they must be able to access the internet and use social media platforms.

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